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Black and White (Speak)


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About the Author

Paul Volponi is the author of the critically acclaimed young adult novel Black & White. From 1992 to 1998, he taught adolescents on Rikers Island in New York City to read and write. Mr. Volponi worked at a day treatment center like Daytop teaching students and helping them prepare for the GED. Mr. Volponi lives in New York City.


Volponi's (Rikers) excellent novel has it all: authentic characters, a thought-provoking plot and heartbreaking drama. Marcus Brown and Eddie Russo are best friends and basketball stars at a Queens, N.Y., high school, well-known not only for their athletic prowess but also because Marcus is black and Eddie white ("Kids who are different colors don't get to be that tight in my neighborhood"). As Marcus says, they've gotten "past all that racial crap," but the novel makes it clear that the rest of society hasn't. Short on cash, the boys stick up a few strangers using Eddie's grandfather's gun, which accidentally discharges during their third robbery, grazing an African-American man's head. In alternating first-person narratives, the two describe the aftermath of the events. Marcus is arrested first because the victim recognizes him as a passenger on the public bus he drives. The cops soon connect the dots and figure out Eddie is "the shooter," but the evidence against him is only circumstantial. Grand plans of scholarships and pro careers begin to unravel, more dramatically for Marcus, whose family does not have the means to hire an attorney. The two teens wrestle with guilt and obligation-to their parents, to their victims and to each other. The mess in which they find themselves raises questions about the burdens of friendship and the role race plays in criminal justice. The fast-paced action, vivid on-court scenes and gritty, natural dialogue make this a pageturner of a tale. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Gr 9 Up-A taut tale of friendship, racial tension, and sacrifice. Long Island City High School basketball stars Marcus Brown and Eddie Russo, aka "Black and White," turn to robbery to get easy money for shoes and senior fees. When Eddie produces his dead grandfather's gun, the teens feel powerful and fearless until just another stickup goes wrong, and Eddie fires the weapon. The wounded victim identifies Marcus, who is arrested and who resolutely refuses to identify his gun-wielding accomplice. He is sentenced to 19 months in prison while Eddie denies his criminal involvement and claims a college basketball scholarship at St. John's. In alternating chapters, the young men reveal their shame and guilt as they slip into the archetypal pattern of the black man bearing the white man's burden. Marcus becomes the tragic, forgiving, but inspiring hero while Eddie opts for deceit and a tainted future. Confronted by his father's anger, his mother's hysteria, and the possible loss of his college prospects, Eddie is willing to abandon his African-American friend. Resigned but spiritually strong, Marcus accepts his fate while his mother deplores Eddie's cowardice. These complex characters share a mutual respect and struggle with issues of loyalty, honesty, and courage. Social conflicts, basketball fervor, and tough personal choices make this title a gripping story. Teens will anxiously follow Marcus and Eddie to the last page and then ponder the choices they made and the pervasive significance of race in American society.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Using authentic voices that will draw in both strong and reluctant readers, Volponi writes a taut novel, avoiding didactism and deftly balancing the drama and passion on the basketball court with each boy's private terror and anguish." -Booklist, starred review

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