A Girl in Parts

In the early 1980s in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Dorothy lives with her bar tending mother, her bar-attending stepfather, and her sweetly precocious little brother. Dottie’s nine, plagued by insomnia, asthma, earaches, and bad teeth. She is lonely and insecure, but her intelligence and keen sense of perception enable her to see every vivid detail of her impoverished rural surroundings and the strange characters around her. When her family moves to Eastern Washington State, Dottie – confused, petulant, feeling more alone than ever, and furious at her changing body – battles her way through junior high, where she finds a measure of success and recognition in sports and academics. But her hard-won little victories are tempered by her troubled family and friends and she finds solace and distraction in alcohol, cigarettes, and general misbehavior. Dottie – nicknamed Utah by her teammates from the Colville Indian Reservation – becomes a star basketball player, falls in and out of love (more than once), and finally confronts a new, devastating emotional setback. But Dottie is indomitable: she emerges triumphantly as a young woman with limitless dreams and confidence in an uncertain world.

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The Ghosts of Anne & Sylvia

Both gritty and lyrical, The Ghosts of Anne & Sylvia is a winning collection of poetry that pays homage to the friendship and written work of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Amber LaParne and Jasmine Paul present a unique book that showcases poetry as “story,” with each poet’s work complementing the other as well as interweaving similar themes. The Ghosts of Anne & Sylvia is an illuminating collaborative work, groundbreaking in its brashness and flawless in execution, culminating in a fantastic read with an intelligently hopeful ending.

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Tour Stop 13

This is the year when the walls seem to be made of smoke and every surface moves with the soft, pale crawl of ghosts.  I can feel their fingertips rolling under the carpet. The air smells of stale breath, decaying clothes and rich black soil.  The cherry tree beside the porch flowers with hands instead of fruit.  There are blinking eyes near the roots instead of fallen leaves.

This is the year the trees are made of ghosts.

I smell them in the air and swallow them with every breath.  Every surface undulates beneath my palms.  Every surface holds some old secret that it unleashes when I walk by.  When I try to sleep, black wisps shape into bodies behind my closed eyes, the bodies sprout faces, eyes blink at me, ghost mouths crack open, and teeth fall out.  When I try to sleep I hear the whispers of ghosts in my ears, but I can’t make out what they are saying.

The ghosts that visit me are more real to me than my mother ever was.  It was difficult to know her.  She would stand in the backyard, cigarette in hand, staring off into the shorn wheat fields.  She exhaled cigarette smoke and it would float for a few yards, wrapping the rotten fence posts in billowy plumes of white.  She stood like a girl, one foot nervously tapping and her left arm hugging her own waist.  She was slender and petite, with icy eyes and high cheekbones.  I don’t look like her at all.  She was so beautiful, so lean and cool.  She was like an expensive knife.  A blade of a woman.

I remember the smell of her skin in the heat.  I remember the smoky sweetness of her hair and how her hands were slightly damp and cool to the touch. I remember this from when I was six years-old, when my mother could drive, sing with the radio and hold me in her arms all at the same time.

The light around my mother always faded in and out like flickering lamplight.  I used to want to scream at her, shatter her moored body with sound.  I wanted to say I love you I love you over and over until the words burrowed deep inside her ear, took root and grew. Instead, I said nothing.

Now, in the absence of conversation, in the thick of nightmares, wrapped in the ache my mother left me, I learn how to talk to the ghosts who visit me.