A powerful story about friendship, death, and figuring out who you are, from the author of How It Went Down, The Rock and the River, and X: A Novel (with Ilyasah Shabazz)
Ellis only has four days of her sophomore year left, and summer is so close that she can almost taste it. But even with vacation just within reach, Ellis isn't exactly relaxed. Her father has been in a coma for years, the result of a construction accident, and her already-fragile relationship with her mother is strained over whether or not to remove him from life support. Her best friend fails even to notice that anything is wrong and Ellis feels like her world is falling apart. But when all seems bleak, Ellis finds comfort in the most unexpected places.
Life goes on, but in those four fleeting days friends are lost and found, promises are made, and Ellis realizes that nothing will ever quite be the same, in 37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon, who won the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award for the Rock and the River, whose book X :A Novel (written with Ilyasah Shabazz) was longlisted for the National Book Award, and who earned the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for How it Went Down.
“Magoon (Camo Girl) gently but unflinchingly explores difficult adolescent territory in this intelligent, affecting novel. . . . [T]he book traces 15-year-old Ellis’s complex emotional journey as she confronts the inevitable death of her comatose father. . . . navigates volatile friendship dramas, explores her sexual identity, and struggles with her evolving relationship with her mother.” –Publisher’s Weekly
"This coming out story takes the reader on her journey as she deals with the family dynamics, and tries to understand her own sexual orientation." -Children's Literature
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Kekla Magoon is the author of Camo Girl and The Rock and the River, winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award. She is a New York City-based editor, speaker, and educator. In addition to writing fiction, Kekla leads writing workshops for youth and adults, writes nonfiction titles for the education market, and is the co-editor of YA & Children's Literature for Hunger Mountain, the arts journal of Vermont College.
Read an Excerpt
If humans had them, the world might just be perfect.
I LOOK FOR WAYS to stop myself from falling. The air is wide beneath me. Wide and warm. The beam, cold and narrow. This balancing act will end with me spread wingless in the sky, no idea how it happened—maybe I closed my eyes at the very wrong moment. Then I’m tumbling, tearing, down, down …
The scream that rips out of me is so familiar, I recognize its taste before I even hear the sound. My stomach soars into my throat, about to choke me, when I buck and come awake.
The dream. It’s only the dream. I clutch the edge of my mattress, which is on the floor. There’s nowhere to fall from here, but I feel as if I’m groping the air.
Mom appears in the doorway. She crosses the room with fleet footsteps and puts the washcloth in my hand, cool and soothing. I press it to my face as she settles down beside me.
This is our routine.
Mom scoops the hair away from my cheeks. Her hands are small and swift. She says nothing. She’s tried every comfort word already and learned that saying nothing is always safest.
I get that she doesn’t know what to do with the dream, or with me. The inside of her slim wrist strokes my cheek, maybe by accident.
It’s almost time to get up. Light seeps in under the curtains, and Mom’s here, still dressed in her work clothes.
Her fingers sweep through my hair, every strand, repairing the loose ponytail I was sleeping in. By the time she’s finished, my grip on the mattress has relaxed. I hold on to her arm, knowing she has both feet on the ground.
I don’t like the worried look on her face, or the urgent way she strokes my hand, trying to calm me down.
When I lie back against the pillows, she stops and holds my hands between hers.
* * *
“I’M HAVING FETTUCCINE,” Mom says, pressing buttons on the coffeemaker. “What do you want for breakfast?”
It’s things like this that make me sure that we will never talk about the dream. Never talk about anything that matters.
“Oatmeal, I think.”
Mom stretches high to reach the Quaker Oats carton. It’s only the second-highest shelf, but she wobbles on tiptoe, like a beginner ballerina. At times it’s hard to believe we’re even related. Mom is thin. Rail thin. Dirty-looks-from-passersby thin. Eating-disorder-ad thin, but just by nature. She loses weight when she sneezes. Sometimes I think she loses weight when I sneeze.
Her voice doesn’t match her body. Not at all. People never guess she’s Laura Baldwin, late-night radio goddess, by looking at her. Mom has this deep-throated voice like hot milk on chocolate. Her voice is her job, her life. Her voice is this amazing gift to the world.
To look or sound like her, all small and throaty, is a different kind of dream. Standing side by side, we seem like strangers.
I head for the coffeepot as Mom shifts to the stove. She starts heating water for my oatmeal. Then she nukes the leftover fettuccine from my dinner last night for herself.
Mom works nights at the radio station, so she cooks me dinner while she cooks herself breakfast, and vice versa. We hardly ever eat the same thing at the same time. According to my guidance counselors, this makes me more likely to be “troubled.”
But it works for us. Mom sleeps during the day while I’m at school, so she’ll be awake when I get home. If I come home late, she knows I’ve been to see Dad. Those are the days when she bakes cookies. It’s funny, because Mom’s not at all domestic like that.
She leaves for work at the radio station late at night. Her on-air shift is midnight to four A.M., and she’s always home by six, when I’m getting up for school.
It’s five thirty now. In two hours, I’ll have to leave for school. Four days until summer vacation, and I’m counting the minutes.
“We need to talk,” Mom says, over fettuccine and oatmeal.
“Huh?” My spoon slips, clattering against the bowl.
Mom and I do great at not talking. It’s not a hostile thing. There just aren’t any words lost between us. Mom saves up her thoughts for when she’s on air.
I don’t have a whole lot to say. At least not to her.
“I want us to talk,” Mom says. “About your father.”
I push my bowl away half full.
She’s dragging me across the invisible line, straight into the never-ever domain. I am shaken.
“Ellis, I think it’s time.”
She couldn’t be more wrong.
Copyright © 2012 by Kekla Magoon
Table of Contents
4. Goldfish Crackers,
5. Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies,
6. Mrs. Scottie,
8. The Dark,
9. The Swings,
11. My Own Bed,
12. Riding the Bus,
13. Getting Away with It,
14. Getting Caught,
16. Rain on a Stained-Glass Window,
18. Dr. K-H,
19. Hospital Shows on TV,
20. Microwave Popcorn,
21. Phone Calls,
22. The Pool,
24. Rash Decisions,
25. The Last Days of School,
26. Love Itself,
27. BE FRIE / ST NDS,
28. Not Knowing,
30. Hot Drinks,
31. Making the Call,
32. First Times,
33. The Truth,
35. A Good Cry,
37. Saying Good-bye,