Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sister Golden Hair by Darcey Steinke

Coming of age story of a Virginia teen

Twelve year old Jesse and her family move to the South after her father, a minister, has lost his faith. Not in God, but in the institutional church. Now he is transformed and sees the divinity in all things. Seeing the divinity in all things, however, does not pay the bills and Jesse’s mother is passive-aggressively upset that they are economically insecure and that her husband has his head firmly in the clouds. Shy Jesse must deal with a new middle and high school, and during the course of the story has anxious encounters with popular girls and less popular girls.

Sister Golden Hair reminded me of Rhoda Huffey’s The Hallelujah Side and Mary Miller’s The Last Days of California. The sensitive girl from the religious family in a deadpan encounter with the secular world. My problem was that the tension felt linear – there was no story arc. The evocative and well written anecdotes felt strung together and did not build to a conclusion. Many of the images, however, were wonderful. I loved the part with the two girls training to be Playboy Bunnies and then the dominating girl ordering Jesse to sit in the closet. The best part, near the end, was when the low status girl with a birthmark does a school presentation of how each morning she conceals the birthmark with makeup. The real story, I suspect, is going on back at the apartment with Jesse’s mother and father

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