Brilliant, tomboyish Josephine Margaret Butler-better known as Jos-is the second oldest child in a large, poor family living in provincial Summit, Kentucky, in 1963. After her mother has a miscarriage and retreats into herself, Jos and her sister Ellie are faced with the responsibility of running the household and taking care of their siblings and their decidedly eccentric, sometimes brilliant, and always difficult father. The nation's mounting tensions over civil rights and the Vietnam War finally begin to infiltrate Summit at the same time that Jos begins to act upon her secret passion for women. During the course of this eventful year, Jos realizes that only one thing-her intellect-can provide escape from the stifling family dynamic and small town in which she is trapped.
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This odd, engrossing roman à clef by Madelyn Arnold, whose 1988 debut, Bird-Eyes, has been recently reprinted, begins slowly, in a Kentucky springtime in 1963, with a confusion of major and minor characters crossing the page. Jos Butler, a 15-year-old tomboy, has just set off fireworks perilously close to her face, rupturing her eardrum and giving herself second-degree burns over much of her body. One of seven children in an unlucky family--her mother suffering a prolonged, incapacitating grief over a dead baby; her father too unstable to hold a job--Jos is becoming aware of the ways that her older sister Ellie is beginning to soften herself in her bid for Southern womanhood. Jos can't imagine not running through the streets of their small town, though, or having to wear a bra. When she catches sight of a disdainful, mannish horsewoman at the Memorial Day parade, her crush is almost immediate, and that night she dreams of witches around a fire in the woods: "Suddenly one saw her and they came pouring after her waving thick withes the width of a finger or more, screaming derisively after her what they'd do when they laid hold of her. She ran in panic, but it was a pleasurable panic. It was like she didn't want to get away."
Although the affair with Peg, the sadistic horsewoman, is deftly rendered, Arnold is not at her best in the description of Jos's budding desires. What emerges far more strongly is the tainted innocence of white liberals in the South in the early '60s, who risked either Klan violence or the appearance of complicity with the racist teachers, town officials, and policemen who were working together to enforce the color bar. Jos has already made herself conspicuous by taking chemistry--a class for boys--and by confronting the racism of her biology teacher, whose text is the Book of Genesis. What will happen if she casts a black student as the lead in a play she is directing? This is a moving and rewarding novel for those who can make it through the first 50 pages. --Regina MarlerAbout the Author:
Madelyn Arnold is the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of the novel Bird Eyes and story collection On Ships at Sea. She lives in Seattle.
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Book Description Stonewall Inn Editions, 2002. Book Condition: Good. Reprint. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP69096667
Book Description Stonewall Inn Editions, 2002. Book Condition: Very Good. Reprint. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Bookseller Inventory # GRP69582444
Book Description Stonewall Inn Editions, 2002. Book Condition: Good. Reprint. Ships from Reno, NV. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP96246760
Book Description St. Martin's Press. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Book shows minor use. Cover and Binding have minimal wear, and the pages have only minimal creases. Bookseller Inventory # G0312287240I3N00
Book Description Stonewall Inn Editions. Paperback. Book Condition: VERY GOOD. Light rubbing wear to cover, spine and page edges. Very minimal writing or notations in margins not affecting the text. Possible clean ex-library copy, with their stickers and or stamp(s). Bookseller Inventory # 2780434803
Book Description Stonewall Inn Editions, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: Used: Good. Bookseller Inventory # SONG0312287240