Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter

YA fiction
A widely believed in figure in the rogue's gallery of urban
legend is the deadbeat dad (personified by the only too real Timothy
McSeed who boasted that the government supported the six children he
had sired with multiple women--see my April 4 review of Doing The Best
I can). He leaves a woman with whom he is intimate as soon as the
pregnancy test comes back pregnant. Pundits and government officials
use a lot of ink reminding him that it's the ability to support the
child rather than just impregnate its mother that makes one a real
man. The idea that he might have real love for the child(ren) he
seeds does not generally fit in with this narrative.
Researchers who have taken the trouble to talk to large numbers
of men who leave their children have found that often a very different
picture emerges. The father may be strongly emotionally attached to
the child. Being undereducated may prevent him from earning enough
money to support the child. A new partner in the baby's mother's life
or his life and infidelity suspicion may stand in the way of his even
visiting on a regular basis. Gary D. Schmidt's Orbiting Jupiter is a
poignant portrayal of a teen father desperate to be in his baby's life
and stymied at every turn.
Jack and his parents take in a foster child who presents a
number of challenges. He's been in the juvenile justice system. He's
tried to kill a teacher. And he's parented a child by another 13-year-
Joseph also faces an obstacle his case worker fails to mention:
prejudice on the part of people who should know better. When he steps
on the school bus the driver (clued in by vice principal Canton)
greets him with "You're the kid that has a kid." Later Canton tells
Jack, "...They're [his parents] trying to make a difference in the
world, bringing kids like Joseph Brook into a normal family. But kids
like Joseph Brook aren't always normal, see? They act the way they do
because their brains work differently..."
It takes time and persistence for Jack and his parents to get
past Joseph's silence. When he trusts them with his story it's a
poignant narrative of young love complicted by strong disapproval on
the part of the girl's (Maddie's) parents who do their best to keep
the couple apart. What shouldn't happen does. Maddie dies in child
birth. Joseph is desperate to parent the baby who is also all he can
have of a girl he still adores. But seemingly insurmountable
obstacles stand in his way.
On a personal note, the last few Wednesday nights the programs at
Wilson Center have been about mysticism: Islamic, Jewish, and
Christian. Really thought provoking. And of course the food has been
A great big shout out goes out to people of faith who share their
beliefs and traditions with others.
jules hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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