Sunday, May 10, 2009

Response by Paul Volponi

The author is well acquainted with young people in less than idyllic settings. He has worked with troubled youth. Thus when he writes, the reader feels very much a part of what is happening. Mr. Volponi does not waste words, he simply writes it like it is. He does not embellish or is over descriptive of either characters or the settings.

Noah Jackson is a black high school student, who already has young daughter and is working at McDonalds to help with expenses in raising his daughter. His girlfriend makes him feel guilty for not providing enough money, so Noah decides he needs to get the money anyway he can. Unfortunately, that means going into a white neighborhood and steal a car. Noah and his buddies almost get caught so they start back to their own neighborhood. As they are leaving, three white boys spot them and start chasing them.

It looks like they might get away safely with only epithets being hurled at them, but Noah winds up tripping and gets a trip to the emergency as a result of the severe beating he incurs. One of the other boy uses an aluminium bat on Noah. Miraculously he survives and a trial ensues.

The beating, the media coverage and trial causes tensions to rise even higher. Volponi, during this time, lets the reader experience the emotions, attitudes, perceptions and prejudices of the the black and white communities. We also see how Noah begins thinking about what has happened to him and we see how he begins to change his outlook on his life and the world in which he lives. His family's expectations of him and the values his grandmother, who is an exceptional woman, has tried to instill in him begin to make sense to Noah.

It is hard to read, knowing that although people have changed, there are still those who have not. As a person of color, I want a better world for everyone, but I know that there are still battles to be fought. Noah realizes that and he also knows that in order to both honor his grandmother and to make a better world for his daughter he will have to work hard.

I ended the book rooting for Noah and hope that he realizes his hopes to become an engineer. I would certainly not mind finding out what happens to this young man. Perhaps Mr. Volponi might write another book and let us know what happens to Noah Jackson.

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