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Zack [Hardcover]

William Bell , Joseph Daniel Fiedler
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 1, 1999

Zack Lane knows about his father's side of the family -- they are descendants of Romanian Jews -- but his black mother broke all ties with her family before Zack was born. Why she did so is the "Family Mystery."

Uprooted by his parents' move to the outskirts of a small town, Zack is friendless and at the lowest point in his life. He undertakes a research project into the life of Richard Pierpoint, former African slave, soldier in the War of 1812, and the pioneer farmer who cleared the land on which Zack's house now stands. Pierpoint's story inspires Zack to go to Mississippi to look for his maternal grandfather. What he discovers shakes the foundations of all he has believed in.

Editorial Reviews Review

In this intriguing story that will appeal to younger teens, a boy goes on a journey in search of his roots. Zack is the son of an unlikely but happy marriage: his mother is a black blues singer and his father is a white Jewish college professor. Zack is resentful and bitter toward his parents for moving--in his last year of high school--from Toronto to a small college town in the country. He misses the excitement of the city, and things are rough at school, where he meets racial rejection for the first time in his life. Zack is comfortable with his Jewish heritage through his paternal grandparents, but his mother has without explanation cut off all contact with her relatives in Mississippi, so he knows nothing about his own black history. When he finds an old chest buried in the back yard and discovers that it belonged to a freed slave, his interest in exploring his African American background is piqued. While his parents are on a trip, he commandeers the family truck and drives to Mississippi to meet his grandfather. There Zack discovers a part of himself that he never knew, but he also must face the bitter understanding that racism can be a double-edged sword. (Ages 10 to 14) --Patty Campbell

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian author Bell (Crabbe's Journey) offers a unique and sometimes discomfiting perspective on racism in an issue-driven story narrated by a mixed-race teen. Zack Lane, the son of a Mississippi-born black woman and a Canadian man of Romanian Jewish descent, has managed more or less to fit in, until his family moves from Toronto to semirural, all-white Fergus, Ont. Zack misses big-city life and does poorly at his new high school, jeopardizing his chances of going to college. Worse, the girl he likes stands by when her cousin hurls a racial slur. But things change when he unearths an 18th-century dispatch case and, in the course of an extra-credit history project, discovers that it belonged to a former African slave who fought in the Revolution. Zack then decides to dig into his own history and drives to Natchez to meet his estranged grandfather. On his journey south, Zack comes face-to-face with bigotry, not least his grandfather's all-consuming hatred of whites. Readers will likely forgive the contrivances in the plot and the not especially nuanced social commentary. Zack may be the only character who rises above typing, but he narrates energetically and with a charismatic insight, and teens will like his smart, independent voice. Ages 12-up. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing; First Edition edition (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689822480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689822483
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Susan
Zack is a teen who feels connected to his Father's Romanian Jewish heritage, but confused about "the family mystery." That is, his black mother never discusses her family background or why Zack has never met or learned about her side of the family. He searches out his black roots after tracing the history of an African slave whose personal items he dug up on their Canadian property. The book touches upon issues of racial identity, prejudice, family secrets and the damage that unresolved issues can cause. Zach is comfortable with himself and his parents which was refreshing to me, as many biracial kids are represented as being bitter and confused. I bought this book as part of my own research into what it will be like raising a biracial daughter. I gained some insight into what I could do to encourage her self-esteem and pride. I was also impressed with the literary quality of Bell's work. I believe this is a must-read for not only biracial teens, but their parents, teachers and classmates.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars history, family conflict, and racism September 10, 2001
By A Customer
William Bell has written an excellent book that is a good introduction to racism and family conflict. His ability to weave historical events into his stories is sure to pique the interest of young teens. Bell's message is that history is about people, rather than just dates and facts. It doesn't have to be boring.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Persoanl Connection January 29, 2000
I have a personal connection to the story of Richard Pierpoint, having grown up where Zack's fictional farm is located. I was very interested to read William Bell's book. I found the story to be well constructed with regards to Zack's new life in rural Ontario, his discovery of Pierpoint's story and his family connection to Mississippi. The story flows well and the use of language is very natural. The description of small Ontario definitely rings true. I think that many people (especially teenagers) would find it of interest. My personal interest in Pierpoint has led to a book that will be beneficial to those readers who want to know more about this remarkable man. It is called "A Stolen Life: Searching for Richard Pierpoint" and is published by Natural Heritage.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Exploring Biracial Identity June 13, 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Zack is desperately trying to get a passing grade in his high school history class. Despite his bad test scores, his teacher has given him another chance. If he writes a research paper on some subject of local history, she will grade it and count it toward his final mark in her class. Zack is at a loss about what to research until he finds a leather box and a neck iron buried in his garden. As Zack's mother is black, the artifacts, obviously belonging to a former slave, have some meaning for him. Zack is able to research and write the entire story of the artifacts and their owner, who was a slave who migrated to Canada in order to live as a free man.

After writing his paper and passing his class, Zack starts thinking about his own family. He knows his father's white Jewish parents and their background, but he has never even met his mother's father or other family members, who all live in Mississippi. When Zack's parents take a trip without him, Zack takes the opportunity to drive to Mississippi to meet his grandfather and find out what happened to cause such a rift in their family. What he finds, though, ends up surprising him and helping him to understand his family better.

I liked the idea of a high school student taking this journey in order to find out something about himself and his family's identity. I also liked the ending of this book; it seemed realistic and not as easy as it could have been.

The relationship between Zack and Jen was far too easy, though. There seemed to be no basis for the two of them to start going out, especially after how Jen's cousin had treated Zack.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting August 9, 2001
Zack is the story of a biracial guy by the name of Zack, For a school project he decide to go to the south to find his black grandfather, who his mother hasen't been in touch with since her marriage of Zach's white Jewish father. When Zach find's his grandfather he realize why he and his mother hasn't been in contact. I felt there was something missing, and that more research should have been done.
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