Carmen: A Staff Book Review

Today’s staff book review comes to us from Ann, over at the Egleston Branch of the Boston Public Library:

Carmen, an urban adaption of the opera by Walter Dean Myers

I love the opera Carmen and I love Walter Dean Myers and I wanted to love this but I could not. It is set up exactly as a play– the settings, the stage instructions, the music. Set in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) the characters are modern reincarnations of the original novela, pre-Bizet, infact– modeled after West Side Story. Factory workers, cops instead of soldiers, a Hip Hop Star instead of a Toreador, but the story remains basically the same. I still love the idea, but I thought the dialog was stilted and unnatural (“We’ll do the caper…”?) and many of the characters and settings were dangerously close to stereotyping. Please– I still love Walter Dean Myers and he added an author’s note explaining why he wanted to work with Carmen, he spoke about the very public music in the Harlem of his youth, about the stereotyping he had encountered in different versions of the novella– in fact I enjoyed the author’s note very much– much more than the novela.

Unfortunately, I can see adults liking this a lot, but i do not see it speaking to kids– only to an adult idea of what speaks to kids. Myers does not usually write about Latinos, and Carmen, unfortunately, is not what he does best. Sorry. It was very well reviewed but I was so disappointed.