Black Boy White School
Anthony --- or Ant, as he prefers to be called --- doesn’t love everything about the mean, harsh streets of East Cleveland, but they’re home. However, when things take a turn for the really, really worse, he accepts the scholarship offer he’s gotten from a fancy boarding school in Maine and heads there for his freshman year of high school.
Ant knows it will be a major adjustment, but some of the changes aren’t exactly the ones he expects. For one, everyone wants to call him Tony. For another, they all believe he can play basketball, even though he’s short and prefers football. They also think he’s from New York.
"BLACK BOY, WHITE SCHOOL is a nuanced, sophisticated novel about social structures, racial politics and identity.... No matter your race or background, you likely will find something to identify with, some idea that challenges your thinking, and something you’ve never thought about before."
Ant is frustrated yet willing to stick with it. He seeks out the other black students at Belton Academy but finds that he doesn’t quite fit in with them, either. They are all from New York and think his slang is weird. And even though they all know each other and share the common bond of being the few minority students at a wealthy, white school, within their small group are two headstrong opinions of what it means to be black and how a black student should act when in such a whitewashed community. Having grown up in an African American community, Ant is confronted with this idea for the first time, and makes some social missteps when he protests a hazing ritual and gets pegged as an angry, dangerous, violent student.
There are some positive things, though. Ant does create some good friendships, and there are some pretty girls at Belton, too. His adviser takes an interest in him and encourages him to run for student government. When Ant goes home for winter break, he’s not totally cut off from his old friends, though he understands that he’ll never have quite the same connection to them as he did before Belton.
BLACK BOY, WHITE SCHOOL is a nuanced, sophisticated novel about social structures, racial politics and identity. Brian F. Walker deals with issues of low income, urban life, and the walking on eggshells that is required of minority students in private schools --- who are caught between retaining their cultural and social affiliations of home while becoming a fully functioning member of their new school communities --- in a manner that is fair, thoughtful and not romanticized. Ant takes steps forward and back all the time, and at the end of the story, not all issues are resolved, just as in real life.
This book is so well done, dealing with such an important and complicated topic, that I almost can’t believe it hasn’t been written before. No matter your race or background, you likely will find something to identify with, some idea that challenges your thinking, and something you’ve never thought about before.
Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gomez on March 12, 2012