Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Black & White - booktalk

by Paul Volponi

(Note: This book is recommended for mature eighth graders and high school, due to the topic and language.)

On the basketball court, Black and White are an unbeatable team. Off the court, they’re best friends. It doesn’t matter that Marcus is black and Eddie is white. They always have each other’s back. They’re inseparable. They even plan to accept scholarships to the same college, either St. Johns or UConn. Another thing they have in common is that neither has much cash to spare. And that’s a problem, because they need to come up with money for the senior class trip. Their parents can’t pay for it. The boys can’t get jobs, because they have practice every day. And drugs aren’t their thing, so they’re not about to deal. They decide the only thing they can do is pull a couple of stickups. They don’t plan to make a career of it. They’ll stop when they get enough cash.

Of course, nobody’s going to just hand over their cash, so Eddie takes his grandfather’s gun with him. He doesn’t intend to use it, but it’ll certainly help to make them more convincing. And they’re terrified, so anything that makes them look fierce is welcome. Their first victim is a white lady with $92 and a Walkman. Sweet. That’s half the cash they need and a little bonus. Their next victim is an old white man with $129 in bills. Now they’ve got enough for the class trip, so it’s their last stickup. But no…the guys on the team want everyone to wear the latest sneakers, which neither Black nor White own. They’ll have to pull one more job. This time their victim is a middle-aged black man, and this time, everything falls apart. This time, Marcus realizes, too late, that he knows this man from somewhere. This time, White fires the gun. They can see the blood on the back of the man’s head. Panicked, they run as far and as fast as they can. Did they kill the man?

A couple of days later, it’s the Black and White show on the basketball court. By halftime, the team is up 43-18. They’re the stars of the game and everyone is slapping them on the back. Fifteen minutes later, the police are slapping handcuffs on Marcus. Black is under arrest. What about White? At the end of the game, Eddie accepts a basketball scholarship to St. John’s.

When it comes down to friendship, guilt, and innocence, is everything really black and white?

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