Intermediate historical fiction
As Richard Easton's A Real American begins, Nathan (11) is
waiting to say goodbye to his last friend. Like so many other farners,
Ben's father has sold out to the coal company. Even as Ben's family
rides away, a company crew has begun to hack down their trees and tear
apart their house to make room for shanties that will house immigrant
coal mine workers and their families.
Nathan hates the ways the pursuit of coal has changed his town.
At times he resents the miners. He doesn't, however, want to be in a
gang that prides itself on breaking bones and cracking skulls. He
also doesn't want to become hardened and bitter like many of the
remaining townspeople. He's even becoming friends with Arturo, an
Italian boy he thinks he can Americanize enough to make acceptable.
Nathan's father is no help whatsoever. It's been thirteen
months since the death of his older boy, Harry. Mourning for his
deceased son blinds him to the reality that his living wife and son
need him desperately. Nathan has to grow up really fast and make
decisions nothing could prepare him for--decisions that could
determine the fate of Arturo and his family and neighbors.
If A Real American has the ring of authenticity there's a
reason. Easton based this fine coming of age narrative on the stories
of his ancestors. "My relatives taught me more than the hardships of
those times. I learned from them how people survived by taking care
of each other, by making friends and working together. If we listen,
the stories our relatives tell us can guide us in our own time."
Isn't that the truth?
On a personal note, I'm on a search committee working to select a new
principal for Orono Middle School.
A great big shout out goes out to the awesome team that I'm lucky to
be part of charged with carrying out this mandate.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod