Thursday, February 11, 2010

Throwback Thursday: Orphea Proud

Orphea Proud by Sharon Dennis Wyeth 2004 Random House

Rating: 4/5

IQ "Have any of you experienced that kind of loss? There you are living a little peanut-butter-and-jelly-type existence, surviving school, answering e-mail, seeing a flick, counting the days until your escape from the dray prison walls of high school and the ruthless eye of the sadist who himself your guardian and BINGO! Fate trips you up, cracks open your chest, yanks out your heart, cuts it in half with a sharp pair of scissors, and then stuffs it back inside of you. And the world tells you to keep on going." Orphea pg. 56

Orphea Proud is told in an interesting narrative. Orphea tells her story to an audience during an open-mic night, she's a writer, but it took her awhile to work up the courage to perform at an open-mic night. Orphea realizes that she loves her best friend Lissa, and is lesbian at a young age, but she keeps it a secret because she isn't sure if her feelings are true. When she turns 16, she acts upon these feelings and shortly thereafter, Lissa dies. Orphea has already lost her father and mother, Lissa's death is the final blow. She has to live with her half-brother Rupert who she does not get along with. This novel tells the story of Orphea struggling to remember and heal from her loss, accept her sexuality, face prejudice and find her family. I think this poem is the best intro to the book:
Despite appearances, this isn't a book you're
This is a stage, with a soaring painting taking shape before your eyes.
A big-booty poet at the mike, and a seat right in front, just for you.
This is a place where wise old ladies live and boys act like horses.
This is a vision of love that was crushed and brought back to life.
And this is my story. I'm Orphea Proud
Welcome to the show.

Orphea has a very distinctive voice. The author has such a way with words, especially in describing grief "My mind was filled with images. Images of her, like photographs stuffed into a drawer so full that it could no longer move. A stuck drawer, stuffed with pictures of our lives completely out of order, chaotic, careening clips of our own private movie." (pg. 56). While Orphea is a lesbian, this book is less about her sexuality and more about recovering from the death of loved ones. Orphea didn't have much love for her father, but she loved her mom, Nadine. After her mom died, Lissa is the only person Orphea can really trust and they become even closer. I could easily see an Orphea attending my school and even being friends with her. The author makes the point that we are uncomfortable when faced with death and we don't know how to comfort those who have lost loved ones, so we ignore them or act awkwardly. Orphea recognizes this, but she doesn't mind because she wants to be left alone. Orphea shatters when Lissa dies, but not in an annoying 'get over it' kind of way, it's sad and pathetic but you feel so bad for her and just want to give her a hug because her life is just bad at this period in time.

I loved how the author connected Orphea's story to the legend of Orpheus and Ophea does mention it herself, since her mother named her after Orpheus (otherwise I might not have made the connection) but once this connection was made, I realized the two stories were similar, which I thought was a cool touch. I didn't really understand the point of Ray, a boy that Orphea befriends. He didn't add much to the story for me even though 'es in it a lot. I don't think he was completely necessary to the story, he's a 14 year old boy who loves to paint and gallop like a horse. His story was interesting but random, I don't think he really helped Orphea grow. Orphea's brother, Rupert is such a jerk. Boo. He was a bit of a cliche, the religious, protective brother who doesn't want a lesbian sister, but he was also a bit more original in some other aspects. I couldn't figure out his wife, Ruby. She was just there, hovering in the background, not very well-developed. On the other hand, I loved the brief mentions of Orphea's two adult friends, Icarus (more Greek names! Except not really a connection to the Greek myth as far as I could tell) Digits and Marilynn Chinn. They were loving, eccentric characters (shady pasts but good hearts). Orphea's two aunts were great as well, Aunt Cleo and Aunt Minnie. The friendship and love between Lissa and Orphea is well-written, you understand why they are such good friends and why it's so hard to let go (well, you can imagine how hard it is to lose someone but Orphea is really devastated). The author did a good job of describing rural Virginia and it's prejudices and the story had an interesting twist that I didn't seem coming (it was a little odd but it was still intriguing). I think the book could have been even better with more audience interaction, most of the conversation is one-sided with Orphea responding to a question the reader doesn't hear/see.

Orphea Proud is a captivating book. Orphea travels from Pennsylvania to Virgina to New York and it's a journey you will readily want to accompany her on. While Orphea struggles to accept her sexuality, it's not really the main focus of the book, it's more so about healing and love. I enjoyed watching Orphea grow and gain the confidence to reach the point where the book starts off with, her triumphantly sharing her story with us. I want to close this review with another poem I really liked. I highly recommend this to all GLBT teens as well as all of those who like reading poetry and to all who have lost a loved one. High school and up (not sexually explicit but some language that could be considered offensive).

Everybody has got a story has to tell
Everybody has got an eye
The truth is what you want to see
In your body's mind
Your mind and mine clicked like gold
You whispered that my hand was old
The lifeline long though fractured at the palm
Was it this hurt that you foretold?
You with your soul of an ancient seer
Next to my thumb did you glimpse the slippery road?
Or was it my future you felt when I held your hand in
My bitch friend Fate, dying to get on a roll
Still, I am yours, embraced by time
Those moments when we touched enshrined
Forever in my body's mind

Throwback Thursday was the idea of Taste Life Twice. You review older books (in my case books published before 2007).


  1. This sounds like such a great book! You had my attention after the first few sentences. I'm definitely going to read this. Your wrote a great review!

  2. Wow! This sound amazing. Loved the poetry and I really think I you captured the authors voice in your review. I must read this one.

  3. Hi Ari! Thanks for the great review. Will definitely be ordering this!

  4. Wow, this sounds like an incredible read and that was a brilliant review. As thestonebow said, I'll be ordering this!


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