Friday’s Forgotten Books: Yellow Line by Sylvia Olsen

Friday’s Forgotten Books: Yellow Line by Sylvia Olsen

In 2005’s Yellow Line, Vince knows his place. Stick with your own kind. Don’t mix. Not on the bus, not in school.

And when you date, you’d better stick to your own kind, too.

Vince’s home is divided between Native persons and white people. It’s important to note this book was published in 2005. Given the time variables, it would have been written in 2004 or earlier. The author elects to use the “I” word in the novel, and given the time of publication this was an understandable decision. It may not be ideal or politically correct, but there’s been a history of different terms used over the years, including Aboriginal, Native, Indigenous, and, yes, Indian. 

It’s also important to note that the author, Sylvia Olsen, “spent most of her life living in Tsartlip First Nation, where her children and grandchildren now live.” She may not speak as an Indigenous author, but she does write with first-hand knowledge of the racism and issues that Indigenous persons endure.

In Yellow Line, Vince’s world is turned upside down when the girl who lives next door–who he’s been friends with forever–starts dating an Indigenous boy. Vince is pretty quick to intervene and try to shut that down. He’s dismissed by Sherry and her boyfriend, Steve, and soon mocked by other Indigenous kids. Vince gets mouthy and presents a challenge, which leads to the threat of a physical altercation with some of the other Indigenous kids. He also tells his parents about Sherry’s relationship, knowing that they will tell Sherry’s parents.

As these events unfold, Vince finds himself attracted to an Indigenous girl. He can’t stop thinking about Raedawn. When he doesn’t show up for the scheduled fight with the Indigenous kids, Vince finds out his friends went and found the girl that he likes. Something happened. His friends say one thing, and Raedawn stops coming to school. 

Sherry’s parents decide to send her away and Sherry goes missing. Vince searches for and tries to figure out what to do about his feelings for Raedawn. 

Can he find the courage to stand up for what he wants? Even if that means his friends go to jail?

This was part of the Orca Sounding series, a series of YA novellas. It’s meant to be a short, focused story, and that’s what you get. It’s a coming-of-age story about a teenager who starts to question the way things have always been, and why his village remains segregated. He must confront the racism he’s been raised with and learn to evaluate people based on their character instead of their race. The Indigneous people in this story are portrayed well. While the author alludes to stereotypes about Indigenous persons, she undermines them with the characters presented. While Sherry and Vince’s fathers are referring to Indigenous persons as drunks, they themselves are intoxicated and in no state to drive or even think clearly, a fact that Vince points out. Overall, this is a quick read that touches on some important issues, and handles the storylines well.