Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member
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It was on the day of June 15th, 1975 that the world of eleven year old boy named Kody Scott would change completely. A month prior to this day, Kody was suspended from school for flashing a gang sign during the school’s panorama picture; from here it was evident where Kody was heading in life. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Kody was always surrounded by gangs and constantly witnessed the warfare created by rival gangs. Upon his return home from his sixth grade graduation Kody dashed out of the window in his room and ran to meet up with Tray Ball, a gang member of the Eight Tray Gangster Crips who had agreed to sponsor Kody into the gang. That night Kody was beaten senseless by the members of the set as a part of his initiation. Then, Tray Ball came and approached Kody with a pump shotgun that contained eight shells and said: “Kody, you got eight shots, you don’t come back to the car unless they are all gone.” The gang drove north into their enemy territory and eventually found and ambushed their target, a group of Bloods (the main enemy of the Crips). It was instant, gun shots rained from all directions, Kody shot six times before chasing an enemy blood who was then shot in the back by Kody. Kody’s future in the gang was set in stone. He was accepted by all members immediately, especially Tray Ball, who encouraged him to pursue barbaric acts that made Kody’s name soar in the streets. Two years later, at the age of thirteen, Kody was attempting robbery and proceeded to stomp on the man for about twenty minutes until the man was put into a coma at the hands of Kody. The police stated to bystanders that whoever did such an act was a monster, that name stuck to Kody and eventually became more prominent than his actual birth name. Needless to say, school was never Kody’s main focus. Over the course of the next two years, Kody made it his only ambition to fight for the gang and promote the superiority of the Eight Tray Gangsters. Kody’s end goal was to ultimately achieve the status of “Ghetto Star”, a title given to a individual who is known throughout gang because of the barbaric acts they have committed in the name of their own gang set.
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December 31st, 1980 was another day that would change the course of Kody’s life. On that night he was picked up by three girls to ride around town with them. The girls drove Kody right into an ambush where he was shot six times (Once in the stomach, once in his left hand, once in the back, and thrice in his left thigh). This put Kody in an I.C.U. for about week where he tried to plot his revenge, while also trying to cope with what had seem to be the impossible. It was this and another event that made Kody question who is really there for him and if the motive behind him joining a gang existed anymore. The other event took place February of 1981 when Kody got thrown into a juvenile tank. The night of his arrival he had received death threats from other inmates. It was the following morning where Kody found all these people to be familiar faces and ultimately made Kody realize that at times he shouldn’t represent his set especially when he was un armed and did not want to be killed. In jail he bonded with all these people and they essentially forgot that their sets had killed one another. Four months later on the bus ride home, where he was un armed, he was approached by a rival gang member and asked what set he represented to which he responded with “I don’t bang.” for his own protection. The following day he put together a group of people with which he tried to rob a man of his car. The mission didn’t end well in Kody’s favour; he was shot once again in the back. His mother rushed him to the hospital where he was taken care of and questioned by two police officers; upon his dismissal from the hospital rumours spread that the LAPD were looking for Kody to convinct him for a robbery he had not committed. The out come was inevitable, Monster Kody Scott was sentenced to four years in prison.
To this day South Central Los Angeles is recognized as one of the capitals of gang affiliations. Being the birth place of the Bloods and the Crips, gang presence and gang violence don’t go un noticed nor are they affected by police and other law enforcement activities. All those living in South Central are aware of gang activities and not one person has ever denied being in someway affected by a gang set. In the book Monster: The Autobiography of and L.A Gang Member Kody Scott reflects and retells the story of his life as a member of the Eight Tray Gangster Crips. He starts the book at his grade six graduation where a month prior he flashed a gang sign during the school panorama, immediately as the reader I knew that the life path of young Kody Scott was inevitable. This early judgement came about because of my past knowledge on gang involvement in Los Angeles, especially of that in the notorious Compton (South Central) area. All the stories that are publicized about famous gangsters and successful rappers lead back to some small act committed at an early age that relates to gang affiliations.
As Kody grew older, he only became even more so attached and accustom to the life style provided by the set and essentially made it his only concern in life. There was one event in specific that really amplified this statement, Kody described it as follows: “Before he could mount a response I blasted him thrice in the chest, started the car, and drove home to watch ‘Benny Hill’. Bangin’ was my life. That was my decision” (46). At first glance this quote might seem irrelevant, but an out of text connection needs to be made. After killing the victim he did not glorify his life nor did he go out to party with fellow gang members. Rather, he went back to his mom’s house to watch tv. He didn’t dwell upon his actions and feel guilt or hatred, he literally felt no ways, killing someone had become a day to day activity for Kody. All these activities that would be considered sinful and corrupt to a non gang member became normal to him, as if it was all in a days work. The transformation in Kody is evident, after his first murder back when he was eleven years old he couldn’t sleep that night because of the guilt and shame that took over his mind as he tried to search for an alibi to justify his actions. In the matter of three years he was able to kill someone and act like nothing out of the ordinary had happened and he carried on with his day. He made it clear all throughout out the book that there was no one to blame for his actions other than the area that he grew up in. He put it all into perspective for the reader, “A weapon in South Central is part of your attire, a dress code […] For a youth with no hope in a system that excludes them, the gang becomes their corporation, college, religion, and life” (89-118). Here Kody wanted the reader to be fully aware of how relative gang activities were and still to this day are in the community that he grew up in. He compared gangs to college and religion, two huge aspects of society. From the day a human being is born they are exposed to either one of these; most families preach related topics their children to ensure that they chose the right path to take for their life. In Kody’s case however, children in South Central are exposed to gang violence and gang capital when they are born. Their parents could either be gang members themselves or are abused by gangs, either way the child is constantly pressured and thinking about joining a gang for their own protection. In Whitby today no one carries around a gun on them, everyone is encouraged and offered support to pursue their education, religion, and any life goal they may have.
There are no gangs in Whitby that have affected a majority of the population nor have there been many incidences that have been broadcasted on the news that relate to gang affiliations. Because of this teenagers are able to go on about their lives without having to think about resorting to gang activities to help them get by. In the ghetto’s spread across North America in areas such as: Jane and Finch, the city of Chicago, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Compton, and Detroit to name a few, people turn to gangs because they figure that they will be protected by these gangs rather than killed. The same misconception fell upon Kody, at first he thought that after being beaten into the gang he would be safe and would only have to shoot at someone to protect himself. He was almost immediately introduced to the harsh reality and had no choice but to accept it and work his way up the chain of command.
Throughout the first part of the book a prominent theme is that of, the effect of negative environments on an individual. Kody is constantly letting the reader know that there is no one to blame for his actions other than the area in which he grew up in. He retells how the Crips were born when he was about six years old meaning that at a very young age he was exposed to the inhumane acts of violence and rebellion through his own two eyes and with the help of radio coverage. Instead of seeing athletes and successful entrepreneurs being celebrated on public media he sees gangsters who essentially become his heroes and role models. He pleads to the reader that the outcome of his teenage years were inevitable as the gang activity around him made him feel safe and protected. Meanwhile while in the juvenile tank he was no longer being threatened as everyone looked up to him and he had essentially become the king of the hill. He abused this power, he would pick random inmates and beat them to a pulp whenever he wanted to. As soon as someone committed a more ruthless and inhumane act to another he had to do the same or something worse. For example, in the juvenile tank upon seeing a fellow Crip make a Blood drink his urine, Kody sent someone to grab him a cup so he could do the same to someone who he had just physically obliterated.
His surrounding environment always made him act differently, wether it be the South Central area in general or the people confined in the same building as him they all influence his actions. For example, when he’s around his mom and his female lovers he always feels that he must be a hero. This applies to the way he carries himself when his little brother and other young gangster proteges are around him, he feels a need to impress these kids so he does irrational things to be a hero in these children's eye instead of giving them proper insight on what it’s like to be in a gang.
Monster Kody Scott is, without a doubt, the opposite of a cliche hero; in fact, he was hated by many groups of people because of what he supported. This being said, many civil heroes are hated for what they choose to support. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were both loathed by the white population and assassinated for encouraging equal civil rights amongst all. These two are perfect examples of a martyr. They put their life efforts into supporting a cause and their lives were put on the line to help support the cause; the outcome was inevitable, as they were both assassinated. Kody’s character better suits the role of anti-heroes opposed to a martyr. Although Kody did put his life on the line day in and day out by sporting the Crip attire and getting E.T.G (Eight Tray Gangster) tattooed on his neck, he was never killed for this cause. The title of anti-hero is more fitting for many reasons. He was known all through out South Central Los Angeles for killing people because they were a part of another gang set. This aspect of Kody’s life made it evident that he was going to be an anti hero from the first pages of the book. After reading that he stomped a man for twenty minutes I had developed a certain degree of hatred and rage towards him for performing such inhumane acts. He most certainly made it difficult to like him but the way that the book was written made the reader develop a certain extent of empathy towards this young gangster. The reader is always going to hope that the protagonist finds a way to change his life and start living for a more respectable and civilized cause.
Upon reading about Kody’s realization that the less he identifies himself with his gang, the lower the possibility of him getting killed, I almost felt happy. He realized that if he continued promoting the Eight Tray Gangster Crips at the rate that he was going at, gang activity would kill him sooner than he would want. Then, after reading that he attempted robbery the following day, frustration flowed all throughout my body as it seemed that Kody was ready to change his life immediately.
In terms of archetypal pattern presented in Kody’s life, it’s evident that Kody is on a form of quest. Although it is never said in the text, Kody is essentially in search of something really worth living and dying for. Near the end of the first part of the book he realizes that the meaning of life is not to kill others for capital, nor is sixteen years of life on this planet enough time to find the meaning of his existence. Some readers may proclaim that it is impossible for Kody to change his life, mind-state, ambitions, and future life-path; in the text Kody even states that his mother had even given up on trying to raise him because of his relentless and consistent contributions to the Eight Tray Gangsters. In the eyes of many, Kody had thrown away his life and there was no way for him to get it back. Kody had also sacrificed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears just to get to the point where he started questioning his very being.
Kody’s character is in someway similar to that of Walter White in the well known television series “Breaking Bad”. Walter White was a chemistry teacher in the United States of America who was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of fifty. Being a US resident he had medical bills that needed to be paid in order for his treatment to take place. Being a high school teacher, the cost of all these bills would cripple his family financially; this lead Walter to the world of drug manufacturing. This itself is similar to how Kody was lead to the gang lifestyle, they both felt like they were in desperation and needed to seek a resolution quickly. Kody felt that without a gang he and family would both be killed while Walter knew his family would live a very uncomfortable life after his death. Walter eventually became known across the country for his production of methamphetamine and eventually the meth industry became his life. Both Kody and Walter originally went down questionable paths for their own protection and wellbeing.
In terms of literature my main strengths are, making out of text connections while reading. It helps me better understand the content as there is something to relate it too; the reason why I am able to do this is because I refuse to be ignorant and in turn I keep myself updated and informed regarding as many subjects as possible. Also, while reading, if I do not understand a certain section I will not continue until it is perfectly clear in my mind.
Areas of Improvement:
One main problem I have is not jotting down the important things I come across during literature along with the ideas and points I come up with to use for assignments. Since I don’t practice this, I spend a lot more time than necessary on completing assignments because I have to go back and find the important quotes or sit down and try to remember an idea I came across. Another big point is that I don't read books very often anymore thus making it difficult to read over a strenuous period of time and enjoy the process.
Before I started actually reading the book I examined the front and back cover of the book so that I have an idea as to what it is I am going to be reading. The fact that it was an autobiography of a former gang member in South Central Los Angeles had me interested right away because of all the stories and facts I have heard and read about regarding gang activity in that area. I also searched the author online and came across a ton of videos and interviews that focus on him to reference back to later on.
While reading the text my brain was able to visualize everything as if it was being played as a movie because of the way the book was written. Kody includes all his thoughts, actions, and emotions without any censorship which made the text very clear and answered any questions I had at one point while reading the book. I separated the first half into sections in which those individual sections would be read as a whole so that the story line is cut up from one reading session to another; essentially, I kept a flow going in order to help my comprehension of the text.
Upon finishing each section I would return tot he beginning of the section and skim through everything I had just read and make mental notes regarding the most important parts of each section. Then, any questions I may have that were unanswered I would look for an answer in the previous sections. After finishing the entire first half of the book I refereed to the interviews of Kody Scott where he was asked about his life in chronological order and I was able to follow along and fill any gaps I had regarding his life story.
Shakur, Sanyika. Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member. New York: Grove, 1993. Print.
Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member3.95 · Rating details · 4,349 Ratings · 382 Reviews
"After pumping eight blasts from a sawed-off shotgun at a group of rival gang members, twelve-year-old Kody Scott was initiated into the L.A. gang the Crips. He quickly matured into one of the most formidable Crip combat soldiers, earning the name “Monster” for committing acts of brutality and violence that repulsed even his fellow gang members. When the inevitable jail te"After pumping eight blasts from a sawed-off shotgun at a group of rival gang members, twelve-year-old Kody Scott was initiated into the L.A. gang the Crips. He quickly matured into one of the most formidable Crip combat soldiers, earning the name “Monster” for committing acts of brutality and violence that repulsed even his fellow gang members. When the inevitable jail term confined him to a maximum-security cell, a complete political and personal transformation followed: from Monster to Sanyika Shakur, black nationalist, member of the New Afrikan Independence Movement, and crusader against the causes of gangsterism. In a document that has been compared to The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, Shakur makes palpable the despair and decay of America’s inner cities and gives eloquent voice to one aspect of the black ghetto experience today."...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 29th 2004 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 1993)