Cover image for Zack
Title:
Zack
Author:
Bell, William, 1945-2016.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, 1999.

©1998
Physical Description:
192 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
The son of a Jewish father and black mother, high school senior Zack has never been allowed to meet his mother's family, but after doing a research project on a former slave, he travels from his home in Canada to Natchez, Mississippi to find his grandfather.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
970 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.8 7.0 28590.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.8 10 Quiz: 17717 Guided reading level: NR.
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780689822483
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

Zack Lane knows about his father's side of the family -- they are descendants of Romanian Jews -- but his black mother broke all ties with her family before Zack was born. Why she did so is the "Family Mystery."

Uprooted by his parents' move to the outskirts of a small town, Zack is friendless and at the lowest point in his life. He undertakes a research project into the life of Richard Pierpoint, former African slave, soldier in the War of 1812, and the pioneer farmer who cleared the land on which Zack's house now stands. Pierpoint's story inspires Zack to go to Mississippi to look for his maternal grandfather. What he discovers shakes the foundations of all he has believed in.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. This candid, disturbing novel is about the coming-of-age of a biracial teenager who goes in search of his roots. Zack Lane, a high-school senior in Ontario, Canada, has always been close to his white father's side of the family. His Jewish grandparents adore him. He has a loving white girlfriend. But dark-skinned Zack resents the fact that his black mother never talks of home. He drives south secretly to rural Mississippi to find his African American grandfather and uncover the family secret that has kept them apart. Zack's search for identity is also a journey through bigotry and hatred ("I felt the full weight of my black skin"). Bell writes with taut drama, building scene upon scene to the climactic revelation. A line of dialogue can be like a blow, or a caress. Beyond simplistic problem novel, Zack's contemporary story is set in an interesting historical context, though sometimes the connections are decidedly contrived (Zack digs up a box in his garden, which leads him to explore the true-life story of an African slave who earned his freedom in Canada, and that's what inspires Zack to seek his own ancestors). The real power of the story, the answer to the racism, lies in the individuality of the characters and in the immediacy of Zack's contemporary first-person narrative, a wry mix of laughter, anger, and tears. Connect this with Half and Half (1998), edited by Claudine C. O'Hearne, and with What Are You? (see starred review, p.1697). --Hazel Rochman


Publisher's Weekly Review

Canadian author Bell (Crabbe's Journey) offers a unique and sometimes discomfiting perspective on racism in an issue-driven story narrated by a mixed-race teen. Zack Lane, the son of a Mississippi-born black woman and a Canadian man of Romanian Jewish descent, has managed more or less to fit in, until his family moves from Toronto to semirural, all-white Fergus, Ont. Zack misses big-city life and does poorly at his new high school, jeopardizing his chances of going to college. Worse, the girl he likes stands by when her cousin hurls a racial slur. But things change when he unearths an 18th-century dispatch case and, in the course of an extra-credit history project, discovers that it belonged to a former African slave who fought in the Revolution. Zack then decides to dig into his own history and drives to Natchez to meet his estranged grandfather. On his journey south, Zack comes face-to-face with bigotry, not least his grandfather's all-consuming hatred of whites. Readers will likely forgive the contrivances in the plot and the not especially nuanced social commentary. Zack may be the only character who rises above typing, but he narrates energetically and with a charismatic insight, and teens will like his smart, independent voice. Ages 12-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-10-Zack's parents have forced him to move in his senior year of high school, from Toronto, where he was one of many kids of color, to a rural community where he is the only black student around. Zack has always been very comfortable with himself; with his black mother and white father; and with his intelligence and social status. Now he finds himself isolated and bored, confronting racism and failure, determined to get into college and back to the city. When his history teacher offers him a last chance to pass her class, he grabs at it and decides to turn some odd artifacts that he found while digging in his mother's garden into a research project. Stunned when he discovers that they are related to the slave trade, he begins to connect with his past and decides to investigate the side of his family he has never known. Estranged from her father since she married a white man, Zack's mother has never spoken of her family to him. The teen's trip to his heritage resonates with emotion, meaning, and texture. Zack's character is drawn with depth and dimensionality, and his relationship with his parents, paternal grandparents, girlfriend, and the grandfather he meets on his journey are realistic and profound. Zack's history paper, complete with maps, and a song his mother wrote about her connection to her past, add flavor to a story that is brimming with soul, personality, and significance.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 "You can never place your foot into the same river twice," my dad often reminded me, quoting some ancient Greek philosopher with an unpronounceable name. I wondered as I scraped the sole of my high-top on the spade's edge if the same wisdom applied to stepping in dog droppings. Between our new house and the row of cedars that fringed the river, the dry brown grass was littered with revolting little piles of fossilized puppy poop that had magically appeared as the snow thawed. Scooping dog doo-doo pretty much summed up the way I felt about moving to that place. The house itself was all right. Under torture I would have admitted that it was better than our cramped two-bedroom apartment in the city. I had a decent room on the second floor with a big window looking over the yard, but that wasn't much consolation. I was used to going to school through the rumble and snarl of traffic, sidewalks teeming with people rushing past restaurants, pool halls, video arcades and head shops. I had travelled on a city bus jammed with faces of every colour and humming with languages from around the world. Now each morning I stood like a stump at the end of our unpaved driveway waiting for the big yellow monster to swallow me up and transport me to Boredom High School. I had been dragged from a major street in the biggest city in the country to the edge of the known universe, a rural route in Garafraxa Township-the name sounded like an incurable skin disease-with a chicken farm at the dead end, on the outskirts of a no-place village called Fergus where, as near as I could tell, the locals' idea of a good time was trying on gloves at the department store or watching the blue light revolve on the top of the snow plow. There was nothing funny about being the only child of two stubborn parents who had decided to leave the city and do the pioneer thing among the trees. I had visions of alfalfa sprouts and seeds for lunch, Mom weaving her own cloth, Dad dressed in a tartan bush shirt and faded jeans, chopping kindling and spitting black tobacco juice. "It's a great opportunity for your dad," my mother had told me a year ago, after she dropped the bomb. "He'll be chair of the department." "Your mom has never liked the city," Dad had said in a different conversation. "She can set up a recording studio in the house, like she's always wanted. And have a garden." Two against one. What the kid wanted didn't count. For months I ranted, sulked and threw things around my room. On purpose I flunked two courses. I ran away for three days. We moved anyway. And now, here I was in the back yard, Zack Lane, Canine Feces Remover. Chapter 2 I knew from the sour smell that Jenkins had sneaked up behind me just as the download was completed, and that he had seen me eject the diskette and slip it into my shirt pocket. "Let's have it, Zack," he commanded, his voice betraying a hint of triumph. I clicked the mouse and blanked the screen. "Um, what's wrong, sir?" "You know what." "It's just my own personal disk," I said. "It's, you know, confidential." "Nice try." "I can explain." "I'm not interested. Let's have it." I took the diskette out of my pocket and passed it back over my shoulder. "Stick around at the end of the period." Outside the dirty window of the computer lab on the second floor of the school a fine rain fell out of a low grey sky. Our geography class had spent the last hour pulling down weather maps from some satellite or other so we could watch bright green meteorological patterns flowing amoeba-like across the blue map on our screens. That is, most of us had. On one side of me a skinny guy who had just returned from a three-day suspension was painting hearts with initials in them on his binder with white correction fluid. On the other, a girl sporting purple hyper-extended false fingernails urgently explained to her friend why she "absolutely hated" her own hair. I already knew it was raining so I connected to the Internet and surfed for certain information I was after. It had taken me most of the period to find some good stuff, almost oblivious to the clickety click of keyboards and mice and the hum of conversation. Going "off task" hadn't been difficult because Jenkins had spent most of the period with his sleeves rolled up, hunched over his cluttered desk marking tests and pumping out the b.o. Short, rotund and an early victim of pattern baldness, he was best known for the stale body odour that enveloped him like a damp fog. As my classmates filed out of the room, some casting curious glances my way, Jenkins tightened the tie he had worn for five days running and slipped on an old tweed jacket. "Meet me in Ms. O'Neil's office after last class, Zack. And bring your computer-use contract with you." An hour and a half later I plowed through the noisy chaos of the halls to the principal's office, more irritated than worried. O'Neil would probably give me a reprimand and revoke my computer privileges. Unauthorized downloads were treated seriously by the school. I didn't blame them. There was all sorts of disgusting crap available on the Net and the school didn't want us finding, seeing or downloading it and corrupting ourselves. If you got caught, you'd lose your login and could only use computers for word-processing and spreadsheets and stuff-unless you had a friend who would let you use his login, which I didn't. The truth was that the school had about as much success controlling Net access as it did preventing the drug trade. From the Paperback edition. Excerpted from Zack by William Bell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 "You can never place your foot into the same river twice," my dad often reminded me, quoting some ancient Greek philosopher with an unpronounceable name. I wondered as I scraped the sole of my high-top on the spade's edge if the same wisdom applied to stepping in dog droppings. Between our new house and the row of cedars that fringed the river, the dry brown grass was littered with revolting little piles of fossilized puppy poop that had magically appeared as the snow thawed.
Scooping dog doo-doo pretty much summed up the way I felt about moving to that place. The house itself was all right. Under torture I would have admitted that it was better than our cramped two-bedroom apartment in the city. I had a decent room on the second floor with a big window looking over the yard, but that wasn't much consolation. I was used to going to school through the rumble and snarl of traffic, sidewalks teeming with people rushing past restaurants, pool halls, video arcades and head shops. I had travelled on a city bus jammed with faces of every colour and humming with languages from around the world. Now each morning I stood like a stump at the end of our unpaved driveway waiting for the big yellow monster to swallow me up and transport me to Boredom High School. I had been dragged from a major street in the biggest city in the country to the edge of the known universe, a rural route in Garafraxa Township-the name sounded like an incurable skin disease-with a chicken farm at the dead end, on the outskirts of a no-place village called Fergus where, as near as I could tell, the locals' idea of a good time was trying on gloves at the department store or watching the blue light revolve on the top of the snow plow.
There was nothing funny about being the only child of two stubborn parents who had decided to leave the city and do the pioneer thing among the trees. I had visions of alfalfa sprouts and seeds for lunch, Mom weaving her own cloth, Dad dressed in a tartan bush shirt and faded jeans, chopping kindling and spitting black tobacco juice.
"It's a great opportunity for your dad," my mother had told me a year ago, after she dropped the bomb. "He'll be chair of the department."
"Your mom has never liked the city," Dad had said in a different conversation. "She can set up a recording studio in the house, like she's always wanted. And have a garden."
Two against one. What the kid wanted didn't count. For months I ranted, sulked and threw things around my room. On purpose I flunked two courses. I ran away for three days. We moved anyway. And now, here I was in the back yard, Zack Lane, Canine Feces Remover.
Chapter 2 I knew from the sour smell that Jenkins had sneaked up behind me just as the download was completed, and that he had seen me eject the diskette and slip it into my shirt pocket.
"Let's have it, Zack," he commanded, his voice betraying a hint of triumph.
I clicked the mouse and blanked the screen. "Um, what's wrong, sir?"
"You know what."
"It's just my own personal disk," I said. "It's, you know, confidential."
"Nice try."
"I can explain."
"I'm not interested. Let's have it."
I took the diskette out of my pocket and passed it back over my shoulder.
"Stick around at the end of the period."
Outside the dirty window of the computer lab on the second floor of the school a fine rain fell out of a low grey sky. Our geography class had spent the last hour pulling down weather maps from some satellite or other so we could watch bright green meteorological patterns flowing amoeba-like across the blue map on our screens. That is, most of us had. On one side of me a skinny guy who had just returned from a three-day suspension was painting hearts with initials in them on his binder with white correction fluid. On the other, a girl sporting purple hyper-extended false fingernails urgently explained to her friend why she "absolutely hated" her own hair.
I already knew it was raining so I connected to the Internet and surfed for certain information I was after. It had taken me most of the period to find some good stuff, almost oblivious to the clickety click of keyboards and mice and the hum of conversation.
Going "off task" hadn't been difficult because Jenkins had spent most of the period with his sleeves rolled up, hunched over his cluttered desk marking tests and pumping out the b.o. Short, rotund and an early victim of pattern baldness, he was best known for the stale body odour that enveloped him like a damp fog.
As my classmates filed out of the room, some casting curious glances my way, Jenkins tightened the tie he had worn for five days running and slipped on an old tweed jacket.
"Meet me in Ms. O'Neil's office after last class, Zack. And bring your computer-use contract with you."
An hour and a half later I plowed through the noisy chaos of the halls to the principal's office, more irritated than worried. O'Neil would probably give me a reprimand and revoke my computer privileges. Unauthorized downloads were treated seriously by the school. I didn't blame them. There was all sorts of disgusting crap available on the Net and the school didn't want us finding, seeing or downloading it and corrupting ourselves. If you got caught, you'd lose your login and could only use computers for word-processing and spreadsheets and stuff-unless you had a friend who would let you use his login, which I didn't. The truth was that the school had about as much success controlling Net access as it did preventing the drug trade.

Google Preview