Thursday, May 05, 2011

Reader's Diary #710- Sylvia Olsen: Yellow Line

I have a comic strip in my head that I can't place. I believe it's set in the desert or some such place and there's a guy with a can marked repellent. One guy comes up to him and asks "what's that?" To which the first guy responds, "shark repellent." "Does it work?" "Well, you don't see any sharks around here do you?" Ba-dump-bump. At least that's the gist. In any case, it's in my head as I consider racism in Newfoundland.

As I've said a few times here on my blog, I grew up in one of the whitest places in Canada: outport Newfoundland. With a near 0% immigrant population, racism was an almost non-issue in my childhood. It put into perspective most of the punchlines on the Jeffersons and when I got older, the context of The Diary of Anne Frank, but it's hard to truly understand racism when you're surrounded by just one race.

I've since lived in many places where this has not been the case. I prefer living amongst other cultures, for the record, but I've also seen the ugliness of racism. Yet, nowhere have I seen it as bad, or at least as blatant, as in Sylvia Olsen's Yellow Line. That's not to say I don't believe the events in Yellow Line couldn't happen in many towns in Canada.

From her website:
The lines that divide are not always solid.
Vince lives in a small town—a town that is divided right down the middle. Indians on one side, Whites on the other. The unspoken rule has been there as long as Vince remembers and no one challenges it. But when Vince’s friend Sherry starts seeing an Indian boy, Vince is outraged and determined to fight back—until he notices Raedawn, a girl from the reserve. Trying to balance his community’s prejudices with his shifting alliances, Vince is forced to take a stand, and see where his heart will lead him.
Yellow Line is a simple read, perhaps too simple at times; sorely lacking in description and the parents lack in psychological depth to make them feel more than one-dimensional. However, it's a story/theme driven story and certainly better than most high interest/low reading level books I've come across. The teenagers felt authentic and the end is hopeful without being unrealistically wrapped up in a happy ending.

1 comment:

Wanda said...

The subject matter sounds interesting enough and I'm glad it leaves one with a sense of hope. I'd like to know what my 17-y.o. son would think about the authenticity of teenage charcters in The Yellow Line.

When my oldest daughter was in Sr.High, The First Stone by Don aker was popular with teachers but not so much with students. The problem (as my own daughter so effusively complained) was that the main characters, the teenagers just didn't seem real; their actions and reactions felt forced and the lingo was a little off.

I'm wondering John, if this is one you picked up on your own or if The Yellow Line was one you were curious about because students are reading it (what are their reactions)?