Monday, June 20, 2022

"The Name She Gave Me"

Betty Culley’s debut novel in verse Three Things I Know Are True, was a Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick, an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee, and the 2021 Maine Literary Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature. Her first middle-grade novel Down to Earth is inspired by her fascination with meteorites, voyagers from another place and time. She’s an RN who worked as an obstetrics nurse and as a pediatric home hospice nurse. She lives in central Maine, where the rivers run through the small towns.

Culley applied the Page 69 Test to her new YA verse novel, The Name She Gave Me, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Why would anyone live that close
to a volcano,

someone in class
called out,
unless they had a death wish?

Good question,

Ms. Harris said.
Can you think why
that might be?

I didn’t raise my hand
but I could have answered.

I would have said,
People stay there
because the soil is fertile,
the black sand beaches
are beautiful,
and it’s the only home
they’ve ever known.
And because they hope
the last eruption was really
the last.
Or they think,
if it does erupt,
they’ll be fast enough
to outrun the ash.
The poems in my young adult verse novel The Name She Gave Me all have titles, and this one is called "Science and Math," partly because the main character Rynn, who’s sixteen, is in a science class when she connects the science of volcanoes and their eruptions to her own home life. The teacher shows photos of the Mayon volcano in the Philippines, with wisps of smoke coming from the top of it. You can also see houses and people tending their crops right below the volcano. The volcano metaphor helps her explain to herself what it’s like to live with the unpredictable anger and ‘eruptions’ of her adoptive mother. While this knowledge is stark, it’s also a way for Rynn to make sense of and put words to the experience.

If a reader opened to page 69, they would have a good idea of the whole work, because they’d hear Rynn’s voice describing a pivotal moment in her understanding of her own situation.
Visit Betty Culley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Three Things I Know Are True.

--Marshal Zeringue