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Joyce Carol Oates, "My Life As A Rat" Reading and Discussion
THIS EVENT WILL BE AT OUR STORE. SEATING IS LIMITED. ADMISSION IS THE COST OF "MY LIFE AS A RAT" AND PLEASE GET ON A LIST BY COMING INTO THE STORE OR CALLING 845 679 8000.
PLEASE ARRIVE 10-15 MINUTES EARLY AS SEATS WILL BE GIVEN UP FIVE MINUTES BEFORE START OF EVENT
My Life as a Rat
Joyce Carol Oates
It's often repeated that Princeton-based author Joyce Carol Oates has written many novels (she has more than 50 to her name, plus another dozen under two different pen names), spanning mystery, gothic, horror, and historical genres. Perhaps the works that achieve the most recognition are the ones that take place literally in her backyard of western and upstate New York. Books including We Were the Mulvaneys, Gravedigger's Daughter, and The Fallsfocus on hard-working blue-collar families in the depressed towns left behind by once-booming industries. Her heroines are strong-willed survivors of such circumstances as well as various crimes and tragedies that add even more hardship to their stories. Oates' most recent novel, My Life as a Rat, is one of the best examples of her love for small-town New York heroines.
Violet Rue Kerrigan is 12 years old when she witnesses her brothers literally burying evidence connected to the racially motivated murder of a promising black adolescent. In a perfect storm of circumstances (including one of the brothers assaulting her), Violet confesses the secret of her brothers' crime, landing them in jail. She is immediately cast out of her large family to go live with an aunt on the opposite side of the state. Over time, Violet obsessively hopes for her family to forgive her and take her back, but as this becomes less and less likely, she grows increasingly afraid of her brothers' parole dates. Her difficult situation becomes even more perilous following a series of abusive relationships with men. At the same time, Violet employs herself as a housecleaner, a job her own mother once resorted to and then later denied, in order to put herself through night school and have a better life. All of this leads to a narrative twist that only a seasoned writer like Oates can pull off just paragraphs away from the conclusion.
Racist violence and sexual abuse are easily two of our society's darkest realities, and to explore them through the eyes of an adolescent highlights these issues with even more complexity and heartache. Written from the perspective of a young girl, Oates keeps the style straight-forward and narrative-driven, with italic bursts offering a window into Violet's constant anguish. Throughout the story, the vitriolic inside voices taunt her, shouting accusations like, "Don't pretend to be innocent, "Vio-let!" You dirty girl." In true Oates fashion, Violet becomes a survivor despite the odds and even against her own will, eventually breaking the spell of family to discover her own strength and grant herself absolution. —James Conrad/Chronogram
The Golden Notebook in Woodstock will host Joyce Carol Oates for a reading and signing on July 23 at 5pm.