Thursday, February 5, 2009
Frank, E.R. (2002). America. New York: Simon Pulse.
The story of sexually abused and institutionalized fifteen-year-old America is a challenge to get through. Written by a clinical social worker who has “known many Americas,” the book switches back and forth between ‘then’ and ‘now’ showing the experiences that brought America to the office of Dr. B, the psychiatrist who just may be able to help him decide against committing suicide.
America struggles with being ‘lost’ and feeling abandoned and unloved. He must deal with issues involving his distant relationships with violent half-brothers, his mixed racial background which not even he can specify since he does not know his father and with his questions over his sexual orientation. While I don’t like to give spoilers in general, I do feel, with this book, it is important to know there is hope and comfort at the end of this novel.
Activities to do with the book:
America would be good for encouraging empathy and reflective journal writing. It can also be used with struggling teenage readers because the book includes American’s own struggle to become literate.
Other discussion topics include the use of America as a name, issues of love, forgiveness, trust, suicide, abandonment and recovery.
The book could also be paired with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (1999) because both books deal with trauma, secrets, metaphors connecting plants with growth, and physical labor assisting in recovery.
“You have to watch what you say here because everything you say means something and somebody’s always telling you what you mean” (p. 1).
“Can’t believe it’s s--- made this garden grow,” I tell her.
“Believe it,” she tells me. “The more s--- things get, the better they come out” (p. 237).