Book review

Divided City by Theresa Breslin (2005)

You can either adopt the bigotry of your culture, handed down through the generations. Or not.

There are divisions in all cities if you look for them - between rich and poor, for instance. Or between locals and newcomers. In some areas there are divisions along religious lines.Glasgow divides into Catholic and Protestant. Catholics support Celtic and Protestants support Rangers. Football teams, though there is more to the divide than mere football. It's historic and cultural.

Joe and Graham both play football. Actually, they live and breathe it. And they've both been selected from their different schools across the city to try out for the Glasgow Youth Team. Just think of it! A chance to represent your own city in the UK Inter-Cities Youth Team Gold Cup. Joe and Graham both believe they have a good chance of being selected because they work together instinctively and the coach has his eye on the pair of them.

It's a little surprising then that the two boys should live their lives on opposing sides of a seemingly unbridgeable divide:

... Joe recalled how the other boy had hesitated just for a second before shaking his hand. And he knew why.
They talked about it in his family. The way some people reacted as soon as they heard your name, or the name of the school that you went to. You might as well be wearing a label. CATHOLIC. Branded on your forehead. You saw them clock it. And then the look as they slotted you into a box inside their head. And what they thought of you depended on the dimensions of that box.

And no matter how intuitive their play is on the field, they have to work hard at being friends off it:

'You have to work at friendship, Joe. Maybe you need to stand back and give your friend room.' His dad looked at Joe seriously. 'As he'll have to do the same with you.'
Joe recalled Graham's reactions when the two of them had been in the St Franciscus church last Sunday. Graham obviously thought the statues of the saints were way too much, but it hadn't changed how he'd spoken to Joe afterwards.

It can be easier to understand a problem if you step back a little. Meeting Kyoul, illegal immigrant and torture victim,helps the two boys to see that it isn't really culture that separates people, it's bigotry.

What can I read next?

Do you like Theresa Breslin's work? Have a look at this heartbreaker that she set during the First World War:

Are you interested in culture clash? Try this one by Gaye Hicyilmaz:

Or this one by Bernard Ashley:

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