YUMMY the last days of a southside shorty by Neri. Duburke

Robert “Yummy” Sandifer was a real person.  He was born in 1983 and lived in the Roseland area of Chicago.  He received his nickname “yummy” because he loved his sweets.

Yummy, at just eleven years old, became a poster child for youth gang related violence.  A series of tragic events led to his appearance of the cover of TIME magazine in September 1994.


this same series of events…

also led to his death.



I am not a big reader of graphic novels, but occasionally one will catch my eye, much like this one did.  Based on the true story of Robert “Yummy’s” life, this story is told with a fictional character Roger, who tells the story through his eyes of how Yummy became initiated into a gang called the Black Disciples, how we killed a girl, and how eventually he was killed as well.

When I think of a story like this – I do not think of it as a graphic novel.  But it is.  And in this case, it works.  Following Yummy’s story through the pictures was much like there and illustrator Randy DeBurke creates emotion and feeling through his illustrations of Yummy as well as the extended family and the gang members. Author G. Neri writes with great feeling as well and together – this book won in the Cybils.

Yummy’s dad was in prison for drug possession.  Yummy’s mom was in and out of jail – 42 times on convictions for drug use and prostitution.  Yummy was left in the care of his grandmother who at times had up to twenty of her grandchildren staying with her.   It was easy for Yummy to sneak out to the troubled streets of Chicago for days at a time and not even be noticed as missing.

What is frightening about what I have just described is that this is a common occurrence in many areas of our world.  Kids looking for a play – for a way – to belong.  I have seen this when I have traveled to Honduras – the gangs are even greater and more dangerous now then when I went for the first time in 2004.  Currently they have 14 murders a day in the main city of Tegucigalpa.  But I am not taking only of a third world country problem…. no… this is all too common in the Unites States as well.  New York, California, Florida, and of course Chicago – Yummy’s area, just to name a few.

What I did not know is that the laws at the time of this book were that young criminals would go to Juvenile Facilities and then be out once they turned 21… this is why gangs liked to recruit young kids to do the crime, as if they were caught – it was not a life sentence.  The fact that the gangs found this “loop-hole” in the system floors me… who thinks this way?

What is apparent in this book is that Yummy is a kid that wants to belong.  Unfortunately he finds that acceptance through the gangs.  As you read through this book you will see Yummy as this tough mean-spirited kid trying to make an impression…. and at other times you can find him in front of the tv with his teddy bear.

Who was the real Yummy?  In and out of trouble for years, he was desensitized from authority.  What can be done about these gang crimes and especially saving the young ones like Yummy?

Photo out of Time Magazine

While this book was an emotional read, I am so glad I did read it.  I finished this book on Friday and have not been able to stop thinking about it.  When you look at all the circumstances that played into Yummy’s life… all the pieces that were missing in his life (love, family stability, a safe home, a positive adult influence, security…) Honestly?  It makes me want to hug my kids and tell them how much I love them.

Amazon Rating

The 2011 WHERE Are You reading map has been updated to include YUMMY


I borrowed this book from my library

23 Comments on “YUMMY the last days of a southside shorty by Neri. Duburke

  1. Sounds like such a sad story and unfortunately it is based on reality – it does make you realise the dangers that were and are still out there even with all the laws and rules about.

    Much like you said it makes you want to look at your family and just hug them so tight as to never let go.

    Very emotional and thanks for sharing 😀

  2. I read this book recently and think it’s very powerful. A good follow up book is Geoffrey Canada’s Fist Stick Knife Gun, also a graphic novel. His has a happier ending since Canada is now making a difference as the founder of an amazing school in Harlem

  3. I just read and reviewed this last week, and was really shocked by the “loophole” too! I really loved this one a lot. I agree with Helen – you should give Fist Stick Knife Gun a try! It’s just as informative, if not more. I read even that one last week

  4. Your review captivated me.. You expressed your emotions beautifully in your review and kindled mine.

    Great great great, absolutely fantabulous review. It makes this book a must read for me!

    • Thanks Kavyen – I did not feel I did the book justice, I could not wrap my mind around the words I wanted to say…. I can say it was like trying to write grief.

  5. I’ve never really been into graphic novels either, but this does sound decent! Fab review!

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