by William Bell


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"But I don't look like a Jewish Negro or a black Jew. I look like a black. I am of average height, of average build, with wavy hair that I wear very short, and very dark skin. Talk about an identity crisis."

Ten years after Crabbe, Bell returns to the theme of a young man wrestling with his identity. Zack Lane is uncomfortable with his mixed racial origins. He knows much about his father's side, the descendants of Romanian Jews, but his mother broke all ties with her family before Zack was born. Why she did so is the "family mystery."

Zack has recently been uprooted when his parents moved from the largest city in Canada to the outskirts of a small town. Friendless, unsuccessful at school and at the lowest point in his life, he undertakes a research project into the life of Richard Pierpoint, former African slave, soldier in the War of 1812, and the pioneer farmer who cleared the land on which Zack's house now stands. Pierpoint's story inspires Zack to go to Mississippi to look for his maternal grandfather. What he discovers shakes the foundations of all he has believed in.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385257114
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Publication date: 02/16/1998
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
Age Range: 10 Years

About the Author

William Bell, author, editor and educator, holds Masters degrees in both Education and Literature. Currently the Head of English at Orillia Collegiate, Bell has also taught in Harbin and Beijing. His other novels include Crabbe, No Signature, Speak to the Earth and Forbidden City, which has been translated into more than ten languages.

From the Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"You can never place your foot into the same river twice," my dad often reminded me, quoting some ancient Greek philosopher with an unpronounceable name. I wondered as I scraped the sole of my high-top on the spade's edge if the same wisdom applied to stepping in dog droppings. Between our new house and the row of cedars that fringed the river, the dry brown grass was littered with revolting little piles of fossilized puppy poop that had magically appeared as the snow thawed.

Scooping dog doo-doo pretty much summed up the way I felt about moving to that place. The house itself was all right. Under torture I would have admitted that it was better than our cramped two-bedroom apartment in the city. I had a decent room on the second floor with a big window looking over the yard, but that wasn't much consolation. I was used to going to school through the rumble and snarl of traffic, sidewalks teeming with people rushing past restaurants, pool halls, video arcades and head shops. I had travelled on a city bus jammed with faces of every colour and humming with languages from around the world. Now each morning I stood like a stump at the end of our unpaved driveway waiting for the big yellow monster to swallow me up and transport me to Boredom High School. I had been dragged from a major street in the biggest city in the country to the edge of the known universe, a rural route in Garafraxa Township--the name sounded like an incurable skin disease--with a chicken farm at the dead end, on the outskirts of a no-place village called Fergus where, as near as I could tell, the locals' idea of a good time was trying on gloves at the department store or watching the blue lightrevolve on the top of the snow plow.

There was nothing funny about being the only child of two stubborn parents who had decided to leave the city and do the pioneer thing among the trees. I had visions of alfalfa sprouts and seeds for lunch, Mom weaving her own cloth, Dad dressed in a tartan bush shirt and faded jeans, chopping kindling and spitting black tobacco juice.

"It's a great opportunity for your dad," my mother had told me a year ago, after she dropped the bomb. "He'll be chair of the department."

"Your mom has never liked the city," Dad had said in a different conversation. "She can set up a recording studio in the house, like she's always wanted. And have a garden."

Two against one. What the kid wanted didn't count. For months I ranted, sulked and threw things around my room. On purpose I flunked two courses. I ran away for three days. We moved anyway. And now, here I was in the back yard, Zack Lane, Canine Feces Remover.

Chapter 2

I knew from the sour smell that Jenkins had sneaked up behind me just as the download was completed, and that he had seen me eject the diskette and slip it into my shirt pocket.

"Let's have it, Zack," he commanded, his voice betraying a hint of triumph.

I clicked the mouse and blanked the screen. "Um, what's wrong, sir?"

"You know what."

"It's just my own personal disk," I said. "It's, you know, confidential."

"Nice try."

"I can explain."

"I'm not interested. Let's have it."

I took the diskette out of my pocket and passed it back over my shoulder.

"Stick around at the end of the period."

Outside the dirty window of the computer lab on the second floor of the school a fine rain fell out of a low grey sky. Our geography class had spent the last hour pulling down weather maps from some satellite or other so we could watch bright green meteorological patterns flowing amoeba-like across the blue map on our screens. That is, most of us had. On one side of me a skinny guy who had just returned from a three-day suspension was painting hearts with initials in them on his binder with white correction fluid. On the other, a girl sporting purple hyper-extended false fingernails urgently explained to her friend why she "absolutely hated" her own hair.

I already knew it was raining so I connected to the Internet and surfed for certain information I was after. It had taken me most of the period to find some good stuff, almost oblivious to the clickety click of keyboards and mice and the hum of conversation.

Going "off task" hadn't been difficult because Jenkins had spent most of the period with his sleeves rolled up, hunched over his cluttered desk marking tests and pumping out the b.o. Short, rotund and an early victim of pattern baldness, he was best known for the stale body odour that enveloped him like a damp fog.

As my classmates filed out of the room, some casting curious glances my way, Jenkins tightened the tie he had worn for five days running and slipped on an old tweed jacket.

"Meet me in Ms. O'Neil's office after last class, Zack. And bring your computer-use contract with you."

An hour and a half later I plowed through the noisy chaos of the halls to the principal's office, more irritated than worried. O'Neil would probably give me a reprimand and revoke my computer privileges. Unauthorized downloads were treated seriously by the school. I didn't blame them. There was all sorts of disgusting crap available on the Net and the school didn't want us finding, seeing or downloading it and corrupting ourselves. If you got caught, you'd lose your login and could only use computers for word-processing and spreadsheets and stuff--unless you had a friend who would let you use his login, which I didn't. The truth was that the school had about as much success controlling Net access as it did preventing the drug trade.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Northwest Territory

Black Pathfinders and Native Americans

War, Race, and Slavery in the Ohio Valley

Pioneer Farmers of the Ohio Valley

The Determination of Sarah Jane Woodson

Peter H. Clark's Cincinnati

A Railroad's "Fierce Passions"

The Malvins of Cleveland

The Fight for Liberty in Indiana

"Warfare and Strife" in Illinois

The "Order of the Men of Oppression"

The Iowa of Alexander Clark

Wisconsin Battles "The Heel of Oppression"

The Greys of Minnesota

From Missouri to Kansas: The Odyssey of Henry Clay Bruce

From "Alien and Stranger" to U.S. Army Officer




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Zack 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Trippy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great teen lit...I use it for a novel study in Grade 10.