A DISTANT ENEMY by Deb Vanasse


Age Range: 10 - 14
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 To Joseph, 14, a Yup'ik Eskimo living in remote southwestern Alaska, the coming of the kass'aqs (whites) is threatening his people's way of life, and he is angry. The salmon the villagers depend on for winter sustenance are in short supply, so when the Fish and Game authorities ban fishing (to restore the salmon population), Joseph's rage leads him to slash the tires of the troopers' plane. That act of vandalism is witnessed by his new teacher, Mr. Townsend, whom Joseph hates as a matter of principle because he is kass'aq. When Joseph's first solo hunt for birds to supplement his family's food supply is inadvertently ruined by Mr. Townsend, Joseph retaliates by telling the villagers lies about the man--serious enough, Joseph hopes, to drive him away. Mr. Townsend confronts Joseph about his earlier vandalism and forces the boy to agree to make restitution to the authorities, which he does grudgingly. Only a brush with death induces Joseph to remedy all the damage he has done. Joseph's emotional turbulence in the face of assaults from the outside world makes for a gripping story; Vanasse provides powerful commentary on the conflict of cultures as well as an inspiring story of a turning point in a young boy's life. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-525-67549-3
Page count: 180pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1996