Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book 32, Curaçao: "The Other Side of Blue" by Valerie O. Patterson

Yay for Curaçao, which is as of last month officially a country! (Turns out they actually have a larger population than Aruba.) Again, I'm afraid I couldn't find a work by a native Curaçoan (?), but this book will do just fine.

It's shelved under young people's fiction, which I generally eschew for the purposes of this project. But since I'm considering writing for young people, this is terribly useful: it points out to me that I don't have to write like JK Rowling to make it to the market, because you can even succeed with a first-person, present-tense coming-of-age-and-angst story from the viewpoint of an overweight 14 year-old daughter of a successful artist mother.

Yeah, it's pretty cool. Quite different from everything I've been reading: strangely earnest, coming from the viewpoint of someone so young, communicating the utter discomfort in one's body that so many young girls face. Paired together with the descriptions of the sea-and-sand-swept landscape, yummy Caribbean food and a mystery story about the death of the girl's dad.

What's a little annoying is the way the theme of "blue" keeps on being pushed - from the mother's tubes of ultramarine and Prussian blue paints to the protagonist's name, Cyan, and the name of their villa, Blauwe Huis, to the Curaçao liqueur and the blue taxis and the Casa Azul restaurant and the sea, always the sea.

(But I love the way the mother's so distant, and that competition with the daughter of the mother's fiancé - how one's own mother can turn into a wicked stepmother during remarriage. So 21st century, the erasure of traditional birth relationships.)

View Around the World in 80 Books in a larger map

I can't quite write something like this, though: it's too dependent on an understanding of the vulnerability and complexity of being a girl. Us guys are a little more thick-skulled. (Ooh, and those are the ABC islands up above - Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire. We won't be stopping in Bonaire, even though it's the only one of the three anyone I know has visited: namely my sister, last year.)

Representative quote: From the studio windows, I notice the sea is the color of tumbled blue-green glass, roiled and unsettled. Last June after Dad died, his seat between Mother and me on the plane going home sat empty until just before takeoff, when a red-faced, sweating tourist weaved her way down the aisle and claimed it. She stuffed an oversized tote bag under the seat in front of her, leaving me to huddle against the window. As our plane rose into the sky, I couldn't take my eyes off the sea. I thought the color of the water might change with the light, but it didn't. It appeared deep blue, almost black, and dense as oil. No light penetrated the surface; we were left with the dark skin of the sea and no answers.

Next book: Luis Rafael Sanchez's Macho Camacho's Beat, from Puerto Rico.

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