Olsen, Sylvia. Yellow Line. Orca, 2005. ISBN 978-1551434629 128 pp. $9.95
This disturbing novel explores racism in a village abutting an Indian reservation. Divided physically by the yellow line on the road, native peoples and whites avoid one another, segregating themselves on the bus, in the community, in school. Then Sherry falls for a boy from the reservation, and folks get upset when the lines so carefully maintained begin to disintegrate.
The narration, from the point of view of Sherry’s cousin Vince, allows a slightly objective viewpoint. Vince is torn between many things: the prejudice of his father against native peoples, the defection of Sherry to Steve, the catcalls about his hairy white skinny legs during a basketball game. When his two best friends brag about assaulting the native girl Vince can’t stop thinking about, the one with the luscious lips and pretty eyes, the time comes for him to make some choices about right and wrong.
Too many characters and an abrupt introduction to the problem make it hard to keep the large cast sorted out, but a 100 page limit doesn’t leave a lot of room for physical descriptions and character development. The author effectively writes scenes that leave the reader squirming for a positive resolution, and shine a light on intolerance and stereotypes. Kudos for addressing tough issues in a accessible manner,