Orphea Proud tells her "love story" as a performance piece, also sprinkling some poetry into the mix. She talks about losing her preacher father at age seven, the death of her mother the following year, and about being raised by her strict half-brother and his wife. At age 10, she meets Lissa, and they become best friends. But years later Orphea feels "panic" as she realizes she is in love with Lissa. When her brother, Rupert, catches the 16-year-olds in bed, he beats Orphea, and Lissa, hurriedly driving away in the snow, crashes and dies. There is a lot of tragedy for readers to swallow, and the preacher and Rupert seem too stereotypically cruel to be credible. But the performance angle keeps the pace brisk, even though some of the material seems more expository than would be plausible before a live audience (as would its length). After Lissa's death, Orphea has a breakdown, and her brother ships her to her mother's aunts in remote Virginia. The two elderly women seem overly familiar, but they add some warmth and much-needed tolerance to the story, assuring Orphea that "you're family, honey child" even after she tells them she is gay. Wyeth (Once on This River) brings the story to life with tactile details, such as the "wood smoke mixed with snow clouds" smell of the aunts' store on Proud Road. All in all, a tender, if not always believable, novel. Ages 14-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Orphea Proud has been raised by a loving mother and a strict father. Now, at 16, she is an orphan, living with her half-brother Rupert and his wife. On the night of a snowstorm sleepover, Orphea and her best friend Lissa explore their sexual identities and share an intimate kiss. When Rupert catches them, he hits Orphea and disgustedly sends Lissa home in the snow. Lissa is killed in a tragic accident and Orphea is thrown into the depths of depression. Rupert then dumps Orphea, along with her journal and her belongings, with her great aunts in Proud Road, Virginia, the rural home of her late mother. He leaves her there with the warning that the family is "righteous" and will not be interested in the loss of her gay lover. But living with her Aunt Minnie and Aunt Cleo in the rundown general store Orphea learns more about her mother and her father, about prejudice and tolerance, about family and love. Although she is herself an African American, the blond, blue-eyed boy who lives across the street is a relative. He too has experienced loss and now spends his days painting colorful murals of horses in a root cellar. Orphea takes her journal to the cellar and returns to writing poetry while planning on someday sharing her work in performance. In fact, the story is itself that performance, a performance that includes the poetry she has written. Interspersed throughout are subtle details and allusions to Orphea's namesake, the Greek hero, Orpheus. KLIATT Codes: S*Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students. 2004, Random House/Delacorte, 208p., Ages 15 to 18.
The author tells of a love relationship between two adolescent girls. It is a tale told from the perspective of one girl's struggle with her sexual identity. Various adults in her life react differently. Her brother, who is her guardian, reacts violently and with anger. Her school mates whisper and giggle. And then there are her two elderly aunts who accept and love her for who she is. Woven through the story are poems written by the main character, Orphea, which express her thoughts and feelings. The venue is a show in a nightclub. The main character comes out and introduces herself, her show partner, the club owners and the waitress. She then begins the tale of her love story. The story provides a chance for adolescents to learn and accept differences among people. 2004, Delacorte Press, and Ages 12 to 17.
Gr 8 Up-Using a combination of prose and poetry, an African-American teen relates her life to a live audience-and to readers-as a performance piece. Orphea recalls happy memories of her mother while growing up in Pennsylvania, and the death of her parents, which left her under the guardianship of her rigid half brother, Rupert. She met Lissa when they were 10 and the two became inseparable. However, everything came crashing down when, at 16, they decided they were in love and Rupert found them in bed together. He beat Orphea, and Lissa drove away in a snowstorm and had a fatal wreck. Inconsolable, Orphea began to shut down. Her only friends, Icky and Marilyn, who owned the diner where she read poetry at open-mic night, moved to Queens, NY, adding to her loneliness. Fed up with her behavior, Rupert dumped her with her mother's aunts in Virginia. This turned out to be a lifesaver for the teen because these old hill women loved her unconditionally and she loved them in return. In the healing process, Orphea befriended 14-year-old Raynor Grimes, a white relative and brilliant painter who accompanied her to New York City for the summer to be part of a show at Icky's new club. The monologue device is sometimes successful and sometimes intrusive. The plot moves quickly and most of the characters are well developed. The mood is sustained throughout, and the tone lightens when Orphea's life begins to improve. This is a solid read, similar in tone to Ellen Wittlinger's Hard Love (S & S, 1999).-Betty S. Evans, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In one long onstage monologue with a smattering of recited poems, 17-year-old Orphea tells lyrically yet directly of the love and pain her life has held. Her beloved mother's early death leaves Orphea seeing everything in gray until fellow ten-year-old Lissa brings color and warmth back into the world. The two intertwine their lives until, at age 16, they acknowledge having fallen in love. One wonderful night together is smashed by Orphea's bigoted brother/guardian, who beats up Orphea and chases Lissa from the house-possibly contributing to Lissa's immediate, fatal car crash. Devastated, deposited at her great-aunts' house in the Virginia mountains, Orphea meets her 14-year-old white cousin Ray, who paints a mural of Lissa for her. The cathartic stage performance happens the following summer, in Queens, at a warehouse-turned-nightclub owned by adult friends: Orphea recites while Ray paints a mural behind her that only the audience can see. The unusual format, along with young-adult literature's dearth of gay African-American characters, make this piece notable, but it's Orphea's passionate and poetic voice that makes it special. (Fiction. YA)