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Sylvia Gunnery.
Richmond Hill, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1991.
154pp., paper, $4.50.
ISBN 0-590-73655-8. CIP.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up

Reviewed by Anne Louise Mahoney.

Volume 19 Number 4
1991 September

Canada is a nation of many different races, colours, cultures and creeds. While multiculturalism brings with it new perspectives on the world, interesting customs and foods, and numerous other good things, it also has a darker underside: racism. In her fourth book, Taking Sides, Halifax author Sylvia Gunnery looks at this pervasive and disturbing issue.

Lea Ellis experiences racial prejudice first hand when she starts junior high school. She has never really been a victim of racism by one of her peers until Monica Fremont - grade 9 student, basketball star and sister of Lea's new friend Jesse - calls her a "nigger." Before she knows it, Lea is risking her spot on the basketball team, her good reputation and her friendship with Jesse in order to teach Monica a lesson.

This is not classic literature, but it is a good read. The plot moves quickly, and the action that occurs at school and at home is believable. The characters are not given much room to develop, but one gets the feeling that this is less important to the author than the moral of the story, anyway.

Taking Sides looks honestly at the issue of racism: it identifies the victim's bitterness and pain, the social repercussions, the no-win situations. That Gunnery provides no miraculous solutions for Lea's situation lends credibility to the novel.

Anne Louise Mahoney, Ottawa, ON.
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