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Marlene Nourbese Philip
Performed by Ahdri Zina Mandiela and Alison Sealy-Smith; produced by Lillian Allan
Toronto, Women's Press, 1991. Audiocassette 120:00 min, $16.00
ISBN 0-88961-154-8

Grades 6 to10/Ages 11 to l5

Reviewed by Patricia Fry

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

I read and enjoyed the award-winning adolescent novel Harriet's Daughter when it was published in 1988, but this audiocassette version brought the story to life in a way I could not have imagined! The West Indian accents and dialects were the ingredi­ents I was unable to duplicate as a reader, but I could sure appreciate them as a listener.

The novel centres on Margaret, a fourteen-year-old black girl living in Toronto, and her friendship with Zulma, who has recently arrived from Tobago and who desperately misses her former life there. Margaret's hero is freedom-fighter Harriet Tubman, and she has much of the spunk and determi­nation that remarkable woman must have had. When Margaret realizes that Zulma's happiness depends on her returning to her grandmother's care in Tobago, she decides to get enough money for her friend's ticket home.

Black men do not fare well in this novel: Margaret's father is autocratic and Zulma's stepfather is abusive. Margaret's father has the largest male role and his relationship with his daughter is fraught with tension. His solution to what he perceives as her rebellious nature is to decree that she be sent to Barbados in the care of his mother for some good old-fashioned West Indian discipline. The women secretly laugh at their men and openly defy them at the story's end. It is definitely the women who hold the families together.

Most school library collections include audiocassettes only for those novels that are studied as part of the curriculum. However, librarians might want to make an exception for this title because of the accents and dialects that could have broader application to other studies of black literature. It would provide an interesting centrepiece to a unit on black heritage, which is usually a topic during the month of February.

Patricia Fry, Port Credit, Ont.
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