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I Am a Taxi (The Cocalero Novels) by Deborah…
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I Am a Taxi (The Cocalero Novels)

by Deborah Ellis

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Booktalk: Diego lives in the women's prison with his mother and baby sister. His father lives in the men's prison across the way. Diego's parents were arrested when a packet of coca paste--an ingredient used to make the drug cocaine--was found under their seats on the bus. It wasn't their coca paste but Diego's parents got sent to jail anyway and now that's where they live with their children. Diego is only 12 years old but he considers himself a man who supports his family. He works hard as a "taxi," someone who runs errands for the other prisoners. He gets paid a few Bolivianos for his work. It's not much money but it's enough for his mother to buy food for them to eat. But Diego's best friend Mando, who lives in the men's prison with his father, knows of a job where they can make real money. Diego agrees to the job but what he doesn't know is that this job will take him away from his family, the bosses will abuse him, work so hard he can't stand up and he will never get paid serious money...in fact, he'll never get paid at all. Lib notes/spoilers: Diego works for members of a drug cartel, stomping the coca leaves to make into paste. Some scenes of coca leaf use as a stimulant to keep the boys working, a description of glue-sniffing homeless boys, description of coca leaves and use as a part of Bolivian culture. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
A riveting, fascinating, and heartbreaking story. Well-researched and important. The main character steals your heart and never lets go. A powerful writer deserving of international recognition. ( )
  Bonnie_Ferrante | Apr 14, 2014 |
Very sad tale of the fall out from the U.S.'s war on drugs as it affects a smart hard working boy from a poor family in Bolivia. Somewhat simplistic with the good guys and bad guys, but paints a credible picture of the consequences for the poorest people in the 2nd poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
  Matt_B | Dec 1, 2013 |
This is a new author for me- and our librarian- Diane R. assures me that it is a switch from her norm. The book, although fiction- is a very believable portrayal of a family caught up in the conditions of poverty created in part by the drug trade in Bolivia. The main character- a young boy- 12(?) is the main wage earner for the family. Both parents are in prison and he and his sister are able to come and go between their parents. Diego attempting to earn some ‘real money’ is entrapped in a jungle camp where he and his friend are fed drugs and kept at work producing coca paste- which will later be refined into cocaine. This would be a good choice for middle years readers—several of last year’s grade nines come to mind. ( )
  HelenGress | Feb 1, 2013 |
Beautifully written, in a voice I felt was well-developed, which carried a story that was heart-breakingly told. Sometimes YA novels wrap up too neatly; I'm not sure that authors do this because they have a page count they can't go beyond, or if they fear not having some kind of reasonably happy ending. Oddly enough, I find this when authors are writing about marginalized characters, which has the unfortunate end result of feeling like a tokenistic approach. Ellis is writing this as the first in a trilogy, which gave the story room to breathe. And the ending did read realistically; I need to read the next two. ( )
  allison.sivak | Jun 7, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0888997361, Paperback)

For twelve-year-old Diego and his family, home is the San Sebastian Women’s Prison in Cochabamba, Bolivia. His parents farmed coca, a traditional Bolivian medicinal plant, until they got caught in the middle of the government’s war on drugs. Diego’s adjusted to his new life. His parents are locked up, but he can come and go: to school, to the market to sell his mother’s hand-knitted goods, and to work as a “taxi," running errands for other prisoners. But then his little sister runs away, earning his mother a heavy fine. The debt and dawning realization of his hopeless situation make him vulnerable to his friend Mando’s plan to make big money, fast. Soon, Diego is deep in the jungle, working as a virtual slave in an illegal cocaine operation. As his situation becomes more and more dangerous, he knows he must take a terrible risk if he ever wants to see his family again.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Living with his family in a prison in Bolivia due to his parents' convictions for drug trafficking, twelve-year-old Diego does his best to live a normal life, but when his mother receives additional fines, Diego risks everything to earn quick money.

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