“Black and White” Paul Volponi

Penguin Group, 2005

Black and White are seniors on their Queens, N.Y. high school basketball team who have been best friends for years. Marcus (Black) and Eddie (White) don’t care about their skin colors and, together, have been accepted in the neighborhood because of their great basketball skills. Marcus lives with his single mom and sister in the projects while Eddie lives with his parents and sister in a private house nearby.

Eddie comes up with the idea of using his grandfather’s gun to rob people so he and Marcus can get money for their senior dues. Not content with that, they continue their stickups until Eddie shoots someone during a robbery. Marcus is identified as being at the scene, and keeps the neighborhood code of silence by not turning in Eddie. While Marcus takes the heat and pleads guilty, Eddie lets him take the fall. The chasm that seems to have always existed between Black and White widens with each passing day, and causes racial unrest at their school and among their teammates.

Volponi takes on the inequalities in the justice system when it comes to the skin color of those accused, and makes readers take a hard look at what being arrested means to someone who is poor and Black and have a bad lawyer versus someone who is White, has money and can pay for a good lawyer.

As the book drew closer and closer to its inevitable conclusion, I felt Volponi accurately portrayed the racial divide, and showed the pain of more than one person’s life being changed forever because of the inability to look beyond skin color. Good read for grades 9-12.

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