A Girl, in Parts

A Girl, in Parts

by Jasmine Paul

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In the early 1980s in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Dorothy lives with her bartending mother, her bar-attending stepfather, and her sweetly precocious little brother. Dottie's nine, plagued by insomnia, asthma, earaches, and bad teeth. She is lonely and insecure, but her intelligence and keen sense of perception enable her to see every vivid detail of her improverished… See more details below


In the early 1980s in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Dorothy lives with her bartending mother, her bar-attending stepfather, and her sweetly precocious little brother. Dottie's nine, plagued by insomnia, asthma, earaches, and bad teeth. She is lonely and insecure, but her intelligence and keen sense of perception enable her to see every vivid detail of her improverished rural surroundings and the strange characters around her. When her family moves to Eastern Washington State, Dottie - confused, petulant, feeling more alone than ever, and furious at her changing body - battles her way through junior high, where she finds a measure of success and recognition in sports and academics. But her hard-won little victories are tempered by her troubled family and friends and she finds solace and distraction in alcohol, cigarettes, and general misbehavior. Dottie - nicknamed Utah by her teammates from the Colville Indian Reservation - becomes a star basketball player, falls in and out of love (more than once), and finally confronts a new, devasting emotional setback. But Dottie is indomitable: she emerges triumphantly as a young woman with limitless dreams and confidence in an uncertain world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
This quiet gem of a debut novel projects sincerity through its tightly focused vignettes and unsentimental depiction of a challenging though in many ways ordinary five years in the life of one girl. In 97 short sections, Paul captures the convincing voice of Dorothy, at the start of the novel a nine-year-old growing up in the 1980s in Martinsburg, W.Va. Dorothy lives with her bartending mother; her stepfather, Lyle; and her baby brother, Gabe, in a tumbledown house in a town she despises; she wishes it would burn to the ground so she could go live in Cleveland with her father. The family contends with working-class poverty and illness (Dorothy has chronic asthma and survives a bout with tuberculosis; her brother contracts ringworm and is slow to walk and talk). When life takes a turn for the better they move to eastern Washington State Dorothy is subjected to the humiliating experience of having to wear braces and headgear to correct a jaw deformity. But these harsh details, delivered unsparingly and without self-pity from Dorothy's point of view, are merely the backdrop for the timeworn adolescent rites of passage of friendships, crushes and the search for identity. While she gains acceptance by excelling on the basketball team with a group of Indian girls and becomes close friends with the beautiful and rebellious Dawn, Dorothy must also face the realities of the tensions within her family. Paul's sure grasp of her narrator's voice and keen observations make both the ordinary and unusual aspects of one childhood shine. Regional author tour. (Aug.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Jasmine Paul's novel captures the innocence of childhood, the angst of adolescence, the grittiness of a rural, working-class life, the pain and joy of blended families and the spirit of the 1980s. Beginning when the main character, Dorothy, is nine and continuing until she is almost 15, traveling from West Virginia to rural eastern Washington State, the story traces the changes in a bright little girl who becomes a smart, edgy teenager. She must deal with the trauma of changing schools, dividing loyalties between divorced parents, making and losing friends and figuring out who she is and what she wants to be. While she is a likeable character, her experimentation with cigarettes, alcohol and adventuresome and sometimes dangerous testing of all kinds of limits would worry any parent, but probably will seem tame to today's teenagers. While the novel covers the familiar territory of a coming-of-age story, the author has created a unique character in Dorothy who has her own voice and an unbeatable attitude that assures the reader that she will survive her real and imagined battles to find her own identity and path. KLIATT Codes: SA-Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Counterpart, 240p., Ages 15 to adult.
— Nola Theiss
Library Journal - Library Journal
In her first novel, Paul creates a child of nine who lives with her mother, stepfather, and small half-brother in rural West Virginia poverty. Dottie hates her life, but she prefers it to the unknown that awaits her in Washington State, where the family moves. However, she is pleasantly surprised by her new living conditions and social possibilities. As a gifted child, she intellectualizes the changes that adolescence brings and finds it difficult to cope socially and emotionally. She determines to overcome her physical shortcomings to win a spot on the girl's basketball team. In doing so, she wins the respect of the Native American girls on the team, who honor her with the nickname Utah. Although Dottie looks for trouble, she finds very little of it and begins to like her life. Just as things begin to click, her family plans to move again, but Dottie will no doubt do well. Paul captures the pain and confusion of adolescence, the struggles of poverty, the psychological impact of abuse, and the small rebellions that make "coming of age" a true passage to a new state. Her prose is realistic, her vignettes illustrative. Recommended. Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A winning debut in which growing up happens fast-and all out of order-for one young girl. It starts in West Virginia when Dorothy (Dottie) is just nine. She loves her developmentally stunted younger brother, Gabe, but everything else is pretty much a wash. All the worse, her mother is making them move with her boyfriend, the eternally drunken and good-for-nothing Lyle, to a tiny town in Washington. After the move, things are more or less the same, except that Dottie starts getting older and, ever so subtly noted by newcomer Paul, figuring out her place in the world. Dottie spends a lot of time obsessing over her real father, who lives back in Cleveland, and over Lyle's complete lack of usefulness, but it's in the parsing of the everyday traumas and epiphanies of childhood that Paul's fiction starts to pop off the page. While the candles on Dottie's birthday cakes have barely gotten into the double digits, she is already carrying the weight of a full-grown adult on her tomboyish shoulders and acting appropriately. Fighting for a place on the football team, dreaming of being a virtuoso saxophonist, drinking Wild Turkey with her best friend, and shyly eyeing the high-school boy she's too terrified to speak to, Dottie is a welter of spark and promise who seems almost destined to burn out before the final page. Unavoidably, A Girl, in Parts pays lip service to several standard rites-of-passage moments but thankfully avoids the vast majority of the coming-of-age drama, managing to show there's just as many ways to write about becoming an adolescent as there are adolescents. One tough heroine and a clear-eyed author willing to go take her wherever she needs to go, honestly and withoutcompromise.

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Product Details

Counterpoint Press
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5.34(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.68(d)

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