I Am a Taxi
Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
Well- known for her hard-hitting books for young adults, Deborah Ellis
solidifies her reputation with I Am a Taxi, a story set amid the
Bolivian drug world. The novel’s protagonist is a 12-year-old boy who
for the past four years has lived in San Sebastiбn Women’s Prison in
Cochabamba. Diego Juбrez shares a cell with his mother and
three-year-old sister. Diego’s parents were falsely convicted of
trafficking drugs and sentenced to jail.
In order to help his family pay for their jail cell (they would
otherwise have to sleep outside in the courtyard), Diego works as a
“taxi,” running errands for the prison inmates. Diego has not been
convicted of any crime, so he is free to come and go. He ventures forth
each day to procure supplies for the inmates, sell their wares, post
letters, and deliver messages.
After Diego gets into trouble for neglecting his sister, he reluctantly
decides to join a friend in the drug trade. Diego and his friend are
taken into the jungle, where they are put to work treating and mashing
dried coca leaves into coca paste—paste that will eventually be
transformed into cocaine.
I Am a Taxi features believable, multi-dimensional characters and
subject matter that is sure to spark lively discussions about morality,
imprisonment, and free agency. Highly recommended.