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ORPHEA PROUD by Sharon Dennis Wyeth Kirkus Star

ORPHEA PROUD

By Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 2004
ISBN: 0-385-32497-9
Publisher: Delacorte

In one long onstage monologue with a smattering of recited poems, 17-year-old Orphea tells lyrically yet directly of the love and pain her life has held. Her beloved mother’s early death leaves Orphea seeing everything in gray until fellow ten-year-old Lissa brings color and warmth back into the world. The two intertwine their lives until, at age 16, they acknowledge having fallen in love. One wonderful night together is smashed by Orphea’s bigoted brother/guardian, who beats up Orphea and chases Lissa from the house—possibly contributing to Lissa’s immediate, fatal car crash. Devastated, deposited at her great-aunts’ house in the Virginia mountains, Orphea meets her 14-year-old white cousin Ray, who paints a mural of Lissa for her. The cathartic stage performance happens the following summer, in Queens, at a warehouse-turned-nightclub owned by adult friends: Orphea recites while Ray paints a mural behind her that only the audience can see. The unusual format, along with young-adult literature’s dearth of gay African-American characters, make this piece notable, but it’s Orphea’s passionate and poetic voice that makes it special. (Fiction. YA)