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Nourbese, Philip. Marlene.

Toronto, Women's Press, 1988. 160pp. paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-88961-134-3. CIP

Grades 6 and up/Ages 11 and up
Reviewed by Patricia Fry

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

"Harriet Tubman was brave and strong, and she was black like me. I think it was the first time I thought of wanting to be called Harriet—I wanted to be Harriet."

In this novel aimed at teen-age readers, fourteen-year-old Margaret is inspired by the story of Harriet Tubman and identifies strongly with her courage. She convinces her friends to call her "Harriet" and invents the "freedom game" based on Harriet's life work of leading American slaves north to their freedom in Canada.

The freedom game mirrors Margaret's real fight for her friend's freedom: Zulma wants to return to Tobago and to the grandmother who raised her. Zulma is living with her mother and her mother's boy-friend in Toronto. She is unhappy not only because she misses her island life but also because her mother's boy-friend is abusive.

Men don't fare too well in this picture of life among blacks in Toronto. They are macho in the extreme—from the domineering attitude of Margaret's father to the more serious brutality of Zulma's would-be stepfather. In this novel, it's the women who hold the family and the community together. These women display sensitivity toward their children and patient tolerance of their men, unless the men's stunted emotional responses threaten the safety of their children. Harriet's Daughter, the author's first novel, will appeal to many teenagers, particularly those who live in a multiracial society and face problems such as exile and language barriers. It's advisable to have a good biography of Harriet Tubman available before putting this hook on display.

Patricia Fry, Toronto, Ont.
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