Tupelo Hassman

Tupelo Hassman has arrived on the fiction scene with a firecracker debut garnering worthy praise from readers and critics alike.  Set in and around a Reno, Nevada trailer park, Girlchild chronicles the trials of young Rory Hendrix, daughter of downtrodden barkeep Jo and a bright young thing who daydreams of joining the Girl Scouts and one day escaping her oft-humbling lot in life.  Reading proves a saving grace for Rory — both in her local library and her grandmother’s powerful letters.  In this week’s Guest Books, her creator recommends an impressive array of fictions fit to inspire anyone looking for a voyage in great literature.


Battleborn

By Claire Vaye Watkins

“Here is a terrific read about a Nevada just as true to me as the one in Girlchild and the one I know. This collection has us looking into many pockets of the Silver State, a state whose motto contains no references to a higher power, like so many states’ do, or to a future, which is another common state motto trait, or even to a hopeful philosophy, like Idaho’s does for example: esto perpetua (let it be perpetual). Nevada’s state motto is focused on its past. Still seemingly in shock from the pain of its own creation and with no time for the niceties of the Latin, its motto is: Battle Born. I’d venture that many folks who’d call Nevada their home share this past-focused shock at their own existence and how it came to be. Certainly the people in Watkins’s Battleborn do. Watkins presents Nevada’s cast of characters in all the Silver State’s glory.”


What We Do Is Secret

By Thorn Kief Hillsbery

“There’s a strange doppelganger to Rory Dawn in Hillsbery’s Rockets Redglare, a smart kid being raised not by addicted parents in the middle of nowhere, like Rory, but by an assorted group of friends, many of them addicts, in the middle of a serious somewhere: Los Angeles. Rory and Rockets share a righteous fear of authority figures and take what they need, since it is hardly ever given, to see themselves from one birthday to the next. Hillsbery’s Rockets does this with a lyricism that spins and plays even when discussing the most serious subjects. The writing is more than gorgeous, every word is a page, and Rockets reminds us that smart kids rule, whatever their kingdom.”


I Am the Cheese

By Robert Cormier

I Am the Cheese took up permanent residence in my brain in grade school, and when Rory Dawn needs a book to read in Girlchild, this is one that she checks out. When I reread it as an adult, I was nervous it wouldn’t hold up, but it does, perhaps more so. As an adult, it’s easier to see Cormier’s supreme lack of condescension here, the trust that he has in, or demands of, his audience of any age.  Not only does Cormier not offend his adult readers, he doesn’t offend his teenage hero, Adam, and those who might identify with him. What magic does Cormier have that he remembers how very smart all kids are while many of the rest of us tend to forget?  Whatever it is, I want to remember too and let the early-onset amnesia created by clocking hours and paying taxes and parking tickets and the otherwise brain-sucking details of being an adult be damned. I wish I was as smart and brave now as when I was Adam’s age and seeking my true identity on a long bicycle ride.”


Northline

By Willy Vlautin

“There are not too many books about or set in Nevada and Vlautin’s written two of them, Northline and The Motel Life. Northline is my favorite, in part because the paperback edition comes with a CD of music performed by the author, music that sounds just like the desert rolling by out an open car window, and partly because, the main character, Allison, fills the empty spaces of her Nevada setting with one of the best imaginary friends ever, Paul Newman. Rory Dawn has something of an imaginary friend in Girlchild (though I really leave that up to you) and between these two creations , I wonder what it is about the desolation of the Nevada landscape that requires just that extra bit of friendly filler between the sky and sand to help those struggling along through the desert extremes.”


Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour, An Introduction

By J. D. Salinger

“I feel a fool mentioning Salinger at all. It seems to go without saying that his work is important enough to remember and revisit but this list is a lie without him. Even without reading Raise High the Roofbeam, latecomers to Salinger find the Glass family has a far reach. Without the Glass protégées we wouldn’t have The Royal Tenenbaums and without The Royal Tenenbaums a generation loses their touchstone for the angst and beauty brought by being an intellectual outsider. The Glass kids are a family of outliers and while Rory Dawn might be jealous of the comfort the Glass siblings have in each other, Salinger provides a different type of comfort in proving that there was never a time when smart kids didn’t feel awkward, alienated, and unembraced, except by their readers.”