Delta Girls by Gayle Brandeis
Novelist Gayle Brandeis and poet Bob Covington will be at COHS on Wednesday after school for our student writers’ conference. The conference is open to anyone between the ages of 13 and 18. We’ll start about 3:00ish (as we settle in). Each participant will receive a writing journal. We’ll have refreshments.
Now that’s I’ve gotten my Hunger Games fix with last week’s library events and the movie, I’m looking forward to my fiction and poetry fix at the conference. I’ve been looking back over Brandeis’s novel Delta Girls, which I read when it was published in 2010. It’s a lovely read for anyone who wants to absorb a good writer’s attention to atmosphere and detail, a writer’s ability to use lush language, sweet and ripe, like the pears of the novel.
I also think Delta Girls is a good choice in an adult novel for teens. Much of the action centers on teen love and lust, and shows very well, through Karen and Nathan, how early romances are affairs of hormones as much as they are affairs of the heart. I think teen readers will root for them—and against them—throughout the book, and will rail against the manipulation of their relationship by Karen’s mother Deena.
Karen and Nathan are ice skaters and together, they are national championship caliber. Deena is their choreographer and manager. There are several suggestions through the novel that she, too, is attracted to Nathan, which adds a wonderful ick factor to her overbearing (but not entirely unloving) way of mothering Karen.
Chapters about the lives and relationship of Karen and Nathan as they win their way toward a national championship are alternated with chapters on Izzy and her nine-year-old daughter, Quinn. Izzy is a migrant farm worker who picks fruit for a (hardscrabble) living. When mother and daughter come to the Sacramento River Delta to pick pears, they find a feeling of family and home. Even so, its clear that Izzy is running from something. When she spots a whale and her baby stranded in the Sacramento River, she identifies with their plight.
How Karen, Nathan, Izzy, and Quinn are connected may surprise the reader. Yet even if it doesn’t—I was sure I knew why all of their stories belonged together in a single novel—there is suspense in the wait to find out how they with all come together, how they will all come to terms with one another and make meaning out of losses and out of love.
Bob Covington came to COHS a few years ago to run a poetry workshop as part of our National Poetry Month celebration in April. He was wonderful, and every student in the workshop—as well as a few teachers (myself included), completed a poem that day under Bob’s direction. As high-stakes STAR testing has become the focus of April, we’ve decided not to have any of our regular poetry month events. Wednesday will be your only chance to celebrate poetry with us or to work with Bob, so I hope you come on over and get your creativity flowing!
Hope to see you there!