You don’t have to like it, but you will

You don’t have to like it.

That’s the way it is with parental decisions. You may not agree with Mom and Dad and you can argue all you want. You don’t have to like it but, as in “Two Roads” by Joseph Bruchac, the path they set for you is in your best interests.

There was a certain code of ethics that “knights of the road” followed.

“I take care of you, you take care of me” was the one etched most firmly in Cal Black’s heart. Twelve-year-old Cal and his Pop followed that rule faithfully, after having lost their farm to the bank and Cal ’s mother to illness. It was 1932, they were riding the rails, and they didn’t have much but they had one another.

For Cal , that was key. Pop taught him everything there was to know: how to act, how to be respectful, how to find a safe place to sleep, how to track man or dinner. And in the middle of Kansas , Pop taught Cal something about himself.

Pop was a veteran of World War I, and Cal knew that his father’s service was a big point of pride. Cal had heard battle-stories, and they gave him nightmares but what he’d never known until that day on a boxcar heading north, was that Pop wasn’t the white man he’d led Cal to believe.

Pop was a “full-blood” Creek Indian, and that made Cal a half-blood.

Cal wasn’t sure what to think. There was no shame in being an Indian; while growing up, Pop told him stories of Indian bravery and wisdom and Cal knew history. But now it was his history and he’d have to adjust to thinking of himself in a whole new way.

There was little time for it, though. Pop needed to join his fellow soldiers on a Bonus Army march to Washington , to get President Hoover to release much-needed money. To do this, he had to leave Cal behind.

An Oklahoma “Indian School,” Pop figured, was the perfect place.

But would a half-blood, English-speaking boy ever fit in there?

In life, there are times when you pick a path, and there are times when a path is chosen for you. Same with books, and “Two Roads” is the way to go.

Based gently on actual historical events and a few real people, this is one of those books that can yank a kid back nearly a hundred years in time, to a reality they might only know from schoolbooks. To do that, author Joseph Bruchac lends no romance to anything in his book: people die in “Two Roads,” racism is harsh, poverty happens, and folks go hungry. That won’t scare kids, so much as it’ll put Depression-era life into a perspective they can understand while they’re reading an absolutely fine coming-of-age story.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading over the shoulder of your 10-to-14-year-old because this is a book neither of you should miss. You don’t have to like “Two Roads”… but you will.

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