THE STARPLACE by Vicki Grove: A Review

This 1999 YA novel has been sitting on my TBR shelf since buying it from Half Price Books’ Clearance several months ago.  I bought it to put out in my Little Free Library in the side yard, but I wanted to read it first. With Hurricane Harvey delaying the opening of schools, I had enough time to read more than usual this past week, and since the novel is set in the time I was in junior high and high school, during the height of the Civil Rights era and “forced” integration of schools, I was intrigued.

On the Puffin paperback, a reviewer describes it as dealing with Friendship…”in spite of racism.” Francine, aka Frannie and her friends Margot, Nancy, and Kelli, meet the new girl to Quiver, a small town in Oklahoma who is named Celeste.  She is the first African American the girls, and almost the town, have ever seen up close. Max, Theodore, and Jason–misfits at their junior high, are the girls’ “friends who are boys–not boyfriends.”

Frannie fancies herself a “modern” Nancy Drew, as this excerpt clearly shows:

“My name is Driscoll, F.E. Driscoll, girl detective…Driscoll will get to the bottom of this mystery of the searchers from the haunted house (Celeste and her father) no matter how many hours of secret surveillance it takes.”

Frannie’s impression of Celeste on the first day of seventh grade is that Celeste is “polished,” like her polished fingernails (Frannie bites hers) wearing saddle shoes, bobby socks, a circle skirt, and maintaining her composure amid curious and some malevolent stares. As Frannie and Celeste’s friendship deepens, meeting at the “rocket” in Frannie’s back yard, aka “The Starplace”, they exchange rhinestone bobby pins and become Star Sisters. Until she met Celeste, Frannie did not concern herself with the news on TV about sit-ins, firehosed young people or snarling dogs nipping at teenagers’ heels. She refused to listen to the evening news which poured out rhetoric about the “Red Threat” or even connect this with the “drills” they had begun at school.

All these fashions and things came directly out of my seventh and eighth grade years. Like Frannie, my folks tried to protect me from “such things,” never lying to me, but not bringing “delicate subjects that children don’t have to concern themselves with” up for discussion.

The book has a hilarious account of a patiently planned luau that turns out to be a catastrophe instead of making the four friends “popular” and cool. I laughed out loud. There is mystery; there is romance–a teen crush on Robin, Batman’s sidekick; and there is the complexity of best friends vs.new friends. Not only will young adults appreciate this peek into history (perhaps their grandparents’ day) but oldsters like me will look nostalgically back on kinder, simpler times which seemed so full of angst to us back then.

 

COMING OF AGE IN MISSISSIPPI: A Review of a Classic

Coming of Age in Mississippi, written in 1968, still has a relevant message today:  Don’t forget the past. It is the “autobiography of growing up poor and black in the rural South.” The author, Anne Moody grew up in Mississippi during the forties, fifties and early sixties.  The book ends around 1963 or so, after the Kennedy assassination.  The book is divided into sections: Part I Childhood, Part II High School, Part III College, Part IV The Movement (which is, of course the Civil Rights Movement).  I would be “hard put” to pick the part I liked best, if “like” is even the appropriate word.  It is an unforgettable personal story and a coming of age story, taking Ms. Moody  from a young girl to a responsible, aware adult.

I enjoy reading about people who overcame great obstacles, and this is definitely such a story.  From an innocent, accepting child to a militant, questioning, mature young woman, Anne emerges as a witness to times we whites may have lived through but never understood both “sides” of. Her voice is true and powerful without condemning except where it is well deserved.

With books like The Help we get a picture of Mississippi in the early sixties, but with Moody’s  factual help, we learn what it was like to live through those times.  It is a book that is not outdated and well worth your reading time.

Monday (Afternoon) Musings

Here I sit, running late once again, but with a good excuse.  I just finished the classic, Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody, and I am filled with things I would like to say to the young protagonist of this memoir.  Because of this feeling of a need/desire to communicate with a character in something I’ve read, I would like to provide the venue for you to do the same.

Post here by typing in the reply box a letter, e-mail, or simply address the protagonist of the book you are currently reading.  I am going to set a deadline of January 20th for posting your communication here. If you cannot maneuver the necessities for posting yourself, click on “contact me” and type in your letter/note there, which I will copy and attach to this post.

I am looking forward to you thinking about what you would say to your book’s character in writing.