Friday, March 10, 2006

"You're a very sexy audience. I love the way you laugh. I bet you can dance on the ceiling and eat pretzels off the floor with one hand tied behind you. Admit it- you're an adrenaline junkie, undulating hysteria about to explode, waiting to be discovered. You're not cynical, are you? Please tell me you're not. But if you are, I guess it's okay. I've had my moments, too. But it's hard to be cynical when you're telling a love story. And that's what I'm about to do."

Written as a live performance piece, Orphea Proud is Orphea's story of love and loss. Realizing she has fallen in love with her best friend Lissa, Orphea is confused and scared by her feelings for another girl. But Lissa feels the same, and it looks as if their friendship might morph into something more - until Orphea's guardian brother finds them kissing. Rupert is furious, throwing Orphea across the room and Lissa out of the house. Upset and driving too fast for the snowy conditions, Lissa is killed in an accident on her way home.
Orphea is more alone than ever, and relations with her brother and his wife go from bad to worse. Finally, fed up with her, they abandon her to her mother's aunts at the family home in Virginia. Here, Orphea finds unconditional love and inspiration for her poetry. Coming to terms with her sexuality and her feelings for Lissa, Orphea finally becomes strong enough to share her love and loss through her performance.
Orphea's story is a good one, although I'm not sure it works as a performance piece. It's a little bit like Paul Fleischmann's work, only not as successful. Fleishmann usually pulls off his unusual formats flawlessly, and Orphea isn't flawless. It's really too long to work as a performance piece. The story is good, though - interesting enough that Orphea's occasional directions to the audience about the club's owners, the artist painting behind her, or ordering food & drink seem intrusive. The structure of the story is a bit contrived, and almost takes away from the story itself.
As a book for gay teens, this work breaks little new ground. The race of the girls (both are African American) is really it's only distinguishing trait; other books, such as Geography Club by Bret Hartinger, Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan deal with teen homosexuality in more innovative and interesting ways.

Wyeth, Sharon Dennis. Orphea Proud. New York: Delacorte Press, 2004. ISBN 0385324979 $15.95.

What I'm Reading: Every Time a Rainbow Dies by Rita Williams-Garcia
On My Book Shelf: The Body Eclectic: An Anthology of Poems by Patrice Vecchione; Dairy Queen and a book I'm supposed to be reviewing for VOYA but can't remember the name.


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