Displacementby Thalia Chaltas
Home is supposed to be a place you belong. It's supposed to be parents who are there and siblings who bug you and a life that feels comfortable. It's not supposed to be an absentee mother or a drowned sister. But that's Vera's reality, and she can't stand it anymore. So she runs. She ends up in an old mining town in the middle of the California desert. It's hot, it
Home is supposed to be a place you belong. It's supposed to be parents who are there and siblings who bug you and a life that feels comfortable. It's not supposed to be an absentee mother or a drowned sister. But that's Vera's reality, and she can't stand it anymore. So she runs. She ends up in an old mining town in the middle of the California desert. It's hot, it's dusty, and it's as isolated as Vera feels. As she goes about setting up her life, she also unwittingly starts the process of healing and-eventually- figuring out what home might really mean for her.
In first-person free verse with halting rhythm, 17-year-old Vera narrates her sojourn in a tiny desert town she's never seen and doesn't know.
Vera wants to be someplace unfamiliar, someplace that doesn't invoke her younger sister, who died in a drunken ocean swim, nor her older sister, who's tried to replace their absent mother but seems aloof, so she hitch hikes to the desert and gets out at Garrett, where "nobody knows me." Despite her obvious grief, Vera's voice doesn't easily inspire sympathy. In a mostly abandoned mining town characterized by "scraping-the-bean-can / unapologetic / starkness," Vera squats in a deserted house and scoffs at the two part-time jobs she finds ("It's certainly not what my once best friend Rob / would have called 'rocket surgery' "). Mercantile owner Tilly lisps, her pronunciations mercilessly spelled out: "He'th an artitht! / Bowlth, jugth, plateth, / thellth it all it all on the Internet." Vera crushes on Lon, a businessman whose Indian identity is frequently reiterated: "I glare at him, / leaning forward / having dumped the heaviest words / directly onto his black-feathered Native head." Lon doesn't live up to Vera's expectations ("Frickin' noncommunicating-handsome-half-Hopi," she stews), and the text casts him as bad guy; only Milo the ceramicist is truly likable here.
The verse's irregular, faltering beat matches Vera's defensive grief well, but Vera herself retains an unlikable air of entitlement even as she moves on from the desert and back into her real life.(Fiction. 12-15)
- Penguin Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.40(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.40(d)
- Age Range:
- 14 - 17 Years
Meet the Author
As a teenager Thalia Chaltas wanted to do everything, and she envied people who knew without question what their life goal was. Thalia did preliminary training to be a kinesiologist, a helicopter pilot, and a fire fighter, and has at times been a bus driver, a ropes course instructor, and a contralto in an a capella group. Along the way she has played lots of volleyball, written poetry, and collected children’s books. And eventually, that anvil fell from the sky and she realized writing was what all this previous intensive training was for.
She has kept every poem she has ever written – except one. Because she can’t find it.
Thalia lives in California with her daughter. Because I Am Furniture is her first novel.
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Seventeen-year-old Vera leaves home in search of peace following the death of her younger sister, Amy. Her love of geology leads her to a small desert town where she meets the few folks who remain there including Lon, a half-Hopi man who piques her interest. Finding a box of unused postcards, she frequently selects one to be addressed to her absentee mother, whom she called “The Moth;” the postcards are not sent. Emotional trauma is a big point in this novel in verse as Vera refuses to contact Carole despite numerous phone messages and she thinks she sees Amy numerous times in the town. Some language might be problematic to younger teens.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-pub copy (promotional to booksellers and reviewers) of this novel in December. It is April and I still can't get the Death Valley desert sand out of my hair and out from under my finger nails! The author's words placed me smack in the middle of California Nowhere along with Vera, the main character. She is stubborn and persistent, which is how we get to know the odd group of people living in this desert outpost. The characters' unique voices linger with me. It is an amazingly sensory experience reading this novel. The best way to sum it up is to say, I feel as if I watched the movie. For the last four months I've found myself wondering what Vera is doing now, yet I just know she's doing well. This would be a great teaching tool for writing classes. Older adults will appreciate this novel, too. If you are one of those mom's, like me, who read's her teen daughter's novels and enjoys them, buy this for both of you! My sixteen year old daughter fell in love with Displacement before I could get my hands on her copy! On second thought, maybe you should buy two copies!