Map of Ireland
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I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant.
So, the 60’s, that was a big deal. Everything that was important in my childhood happened back in that mythical time before I could remember, and being a child of the 70’s I missed out on flower power but got the fall of Saigon. When did the 60’s end? Was it as the last helicopter lifted off that roof? Well, that was actually 1975. Did anything really happen in the 70’s? It did if you were living in Boston. In 1974, I was 12 years old and living on Long Island. I went to summer camp, I hung around with my friends, I pestered my parents for a dog (no dice). I remember thinking Nixon looked pretty creepy and that was about as far as my political consciousness was raised. I was a million miles away from forced busing I guess I remember hearing about it, and I didn’t understand why it was important and I sure didn’t understand why anyone would protest. It was easy to love everyone when you’d never met anyone, and no one does moral superiority like a teenaged girl.
If you remember it well, or just barely, or better than me, Stephanie Grant’s novel Map of Ireland will draw that time and place into sharp focus. It’s the first week of junior high for Ann Ahern, but no one’s going, what with The Busing starting up. When Ann finally makes it to class, her French teacher, the beautiful and very exotic Senegalese Mme. Eugenie, is the catalyst that sends Ann on a trip into the neighborhoods she just didn’t think to visit and to places in her heart and mind she barely suspected were there. In Map of Ireland, no one is who Ann thinks they are, not the girlfriends who make her heart beat faster (she knows why, Ann knows that much about herself), not her mother, not even Mme. Eugenie. The answer to who the teacher is and how she wound up in Boston, like a lost suitcase full of orchids, is just one of the surprises Ann faces on her long trip. Another is Rochelle, the ‘black girl,’ the new face in school. You’ll want to meet her, too.
Stephanie Grant set out to write a female Huck Finn, a smart and tough-minded wanderer on the roads of class, race and sexuality in post-hippie America, a tomboy who can proudly take her place at the front of the stage.