Sunday, February 25, 2018

Book Review: Audacity

“In under an hour, [the sun] is gone again
slipped past the edge of the next building
like an egg yolk
sliding out of the shell.”

Poetic imagery can be so fresh sometimes. It’s like a breath of fresh air, even if the images aren’t entirely aesthetically pleasing. What’s so nice about an egg yoke slipping away after such a short time period? I suppose that’s the point. It’s supposed to sound uneasy as daylight is short and precious in a large city like New York.

The above quotation is just one of the main pieces that stuck out to me, and I could quote them all, but then I might as well hand you the book.

Book: Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Genre: Young Adult, Poetry, Historical Fiction
My rating: 4/5 stars
One-word description: Empowering

When I attended WriteOnCon, an online writing conference, earlier this month, I logged into a live panel featuring five different authors of novels in verse. Of course, I was excited. These authors wrote poetry after all! And YA/MG fiction as well. It’s like the best of both worlds. Audacity is one of the many books I added to my to-be-read list and the first I requested from my local library.

When I noticed that the cover says “inspired by a true story,” I knew I’d picked the right book. Historical fiction it is! I don’t know nearly enough about suffrage as I should, and I feel like this novel is a great place to start.

This particular novel in verse is the first that I’ve read (which isn’t too many, truth be told) that included form poetry, as if the novel itself laughed at the idea of formalities and took flight all on its own. Which is of course wonderful considering all the bird imagery in the book underlying the theme of fire.

I only wish the story would have delved more into the fire that took place in March 25, 1911. Instead, the book ends with the date November 23, 1909, about two years earlier, and focuses on the strike rather than the reform itself. While the fire is mentioned in the historical note at the end, it is not in the novel itself: “When Clara and […] many others spoke in the aftermath of the fire of the need for reform, the public finally listened.”

I’m also not sure I knew the main character’s name, Clara Lemlich, until the acknowledgements. But I suppose it’s hard with first person and with poetic novels to include the narrator’s name. As a writer, I know firsthand how hard it is to slip the main character’s name into a story told from a first-person perspective.

You will lose,
          I say
if you try to strike
on your own without us.
[...] It is only by standing together
—men and women—
that we can ever hope
to outlast them.

In this particular passage, Clara is speaking to the men’s union, but I believe her words are still applicable today. If we’re going to call for public reform, we cannot go about it by putting another group down, whether its men vs. women or one race vs. another. I’m not saying that standing together is easy. It certainly wasn’t for Clara, who faced rejection, slander, beatings. But she stood by her belief in fighting for women’s rights to work in a good environment.

Of course, there’s so much more to the novel than Clara’s involvement in the unions. There’s her passion for learning and reading poetry, her experience as a Yiddish immigrant to New York during the early 1900s, her interest in birds and beauty even among a crowded city.

In all, I gave Audacity 4/5 stars for an excellent narrative, imagery, and themes but some vague details. Reminiscent of The Boston Girl, I’d recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction, poetry, and women’s rights in employment. I look forward to reading my next novel in verse!

Does the sound of Audacity spark your interest? You might also enjoy these titles: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton, Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, and Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee.

Keep your eye out for future posts! I have one on 7 Reasons I Enjoy Novels in Verse in the works.

Let’s chat! Has Audacity made it to your to-be-read list yet? Have you read it? If you like novels in verse, which is your favorite? What are some of your favorite poetic quotes?


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