Release Date: January 8, 2015
Publisher & ARC: Philomel
About the Author:
Melanie Crowder lives on the Colorado Front Range, where she is a writer and educator. She teaches English to non-native-English-speaking students. Melanie holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the novels Audacity (Philomel/Penguin Books) and Parched (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Visit her website here.
Often, our young girls grow up not knowing the unheard stories of courageous women who fought for equality and justice. Sometimes, it's not a matter of exposure but of knowledge. Melanie Crowder's Audacity gives young girls a new type of hero who doesn't exist on the pages of comic books or in movie theaters; instead, she could be right next door.
A novel in verse, Audacity immediately reminded me of Ellen Hopkins, which is a good thing as many fans of Hopkins will quickly become fans of Crowder because of the format. I read this book in about two hours for two reasons: the first being the format and thus its accessibility and the second, and most important, being Clara's story.
Born in Russia, Clara Lemlich, is the daughter of two very traditional parents who believe she should learn how to be the best wife possible. Sneaking books, Clara wants more for her future than domesticity. After the dangers of being Jewish grow, Clara's family must make the harrowing and claustrophobic journey to America. Once there, she quickly realizes that she must go to work to support the family (thus sacrificing an offered scholarship to college), and the only available work for a teenage girl is in a sweatshop. Working under conditions where she is sexually harassed and denied regular bathroom breaks, Clara soon begins to learn English and the term that will lead her fight: union. From there, she organizes smaller protests where she is beaten by "gorillas," but her breakthrough comes with the Uprising of the 20,000.
Clara's story is one that is based loosely on the true story, and one that, without this book, many girls would not become aware of. Each word, deliberately and creatively chosen, dangles on the page long enough to consider each and every one of Clara's courageous thoughts.
As women, we have forgotten where we came from, and we need to be able to pass this history onto a new generation of girls heading out into the real world.
Through her poetry, Crowder reminds us of this history and the audacity it entails.