I BE SOMEBODY by Hadley Irwin


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At the start of this somewhat dutiful novel about the impetus for black home-steading in Canada, ten-year-old Rap Davis knows little about his parents and thinks Grandfather Clause is a relative of Santa. By the end in Athabasca, he's had first-hand encounters with prejudice, survived his beloved aunt's death, and discovered his father's identity. In between are typical schoolboy antics--a match-box of fleas under the teacher's seat--along with more serious matters: a quest for personal identity and the town's debate over its future. Living with Aunt Spicy in turn-of-the-century Oklahoma, Rap has a sheltered but happy enough life. Although his aunt won't tell much about Rap's mother, who died when he was born, or his father, who left soon after, good readers will pick up the clues. While the adults argue over their prospects (security vs. true freedom), the kids compare notes on what they overhear, a technique which satisfactorily combines history with human interest. But while most of the action, especially the train ride north, seems thoughtfully constructed for dramatic appeal, Rap himself is a bland cardboard figure. The joint authors (Bring To a Boil and Separate, Moon and Me) have turned the research of an ethnic-studies professor into a story that attempts too much. Nonetheless, this is an interesting small chapter in black history, and readers can't help but wonder what happened once the community established its new roots.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1984
Publisher: Atheneum