Sunday Books - 'Cinnamon Girl' and 'Vanishing Maps' | GUEST COLUMN | The Week Ahead
August 20, 2023
Editor’s Note: As the FXBG Advance continues to grow, so are the ways that you can access our materials. You can now read all of our stories on the web at our transition website: fxbgadvance.substack.com.
Thanks for reading and supporting Fredericksburg’s source for local news!
by Trish Macenulty
Published by Livingston Press at the University of West Alabama (Release date: September 8, 2023), Paperback - $19.95, 316 pages
Reviewed By Drew Gallagher
Trish Macenulty’s new young adult novel Cinnamon Girl is unlikely to ever make it onto the shelves of the school libraries in Spotsylvania County. And that is a shame.
(And as I thought about the Neil Young song that was the basis for the novel’s title I realized that the song “Cinnamon Girl” is probably not suitable for Spotsylvania County schools either because Young’s band was named Crazy Horse and Crazy Horse was a Native American who resented the genocide being inflicted upon his people. Crazy Horse rebelled against the thievery of his oppressors, as one might, and ended up killing many soldiers at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Killing of white people, especially heroes of the Civil War, is not to be tolerated in Spotsylvania County. Even though, of course, George Armstrong Custer probably killed a few native Virginians during his service to the Union. Reverence gets complicated.)
Macenulty’s novel deals with racism as well as sexual assault, just to name a few of her plot developments, and those subjects are verboten in Spotsylvania because those types of things never happen to people under the age of 18.
But in “Cinnamon Girl,” these things do happen to 15-year-old Eli Burnes. Some would also like to think that unarmed black men were never gunned down by white police officers in Georgia during the race riots of the 1960s, but Eli bears witness to such an atrocity and it changes her perspective on life.
Some school board members and one parent in particular have argued that the children of Spotsylvania County do not need their perspectives considered or changed by books. We also don’t need to educate them on the aforementioned genocide, racism, or the war in Viet Nam, because they are merely children.
Some of them teenagers who, 60 years ago, would have been the same age as the boys who were sent to Southeast Asia to be killed for politicians who were also afraid of books and songs.
Neither the Florida-based Macenulty nor her entertaining book need to be dragged into the Spotsylvania County School Board’s war on books, but it is a travesty when books like Cinnamon Girl are withheld from a young adult audience who could benefit from exposure to the history and story contained within.
Cinnamon Girl should not be a casualty of an overbearing elected body and I’d like to think that there are school districts in the land of the free that would willingly put Cinnamon Girl on their library shelves. It is a tale well told, and one that should reverberate with young adult audiences.
Eli Burnes goes through more tumult in a year than any child should have to endure in the entirety of their teenage years, but it is naïve and detrimental to think that teenagers are not exposed to racism, loss, and sexual situations not of their choosing.
Eli’s perseverance is to be admired, and to act as though this fictional account is inappropriate for kids with cell phones always at the ready is absurd. Macenulty’s writing is crisp and the pace is perfect for attention spans that seem to grow shorter by the hour.
To crudely paraphrase Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “I want kids to read Cinnamon Girl, I could be happy the rest of my life if they were allowed to read Cinnamon Girl. Seems like a small ask.
Drew Gallagher is a freelance writer residing in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He is the second most prolific book reviewer and first video book reviewer in the 136-year history of the Free Lance-Star Newspaper. You can find some of his video book reviews at Fredericksburg.com.
by Cristina Garcia
Reviewed by Penny A Parrish
In early 2016, President Obama loosened travel restrictions for Americans who wished to visit Cuba. I was fortunate to go there that year with a National Geographic group. We visited Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and many small towns. The people I met were friendly and curious, and the meals we shared, the art we discussed and viewed, opened eyes on both sides.
Before that trip, I read a novel by Cristina Garcia titled Dreaming in Cuban. I loved the stories of three generations of Cuban women, and how each reacted to the revolution and political situation in that country. Garcia has now written about those characters again in her new book, Vanishing Maps. It is set 20 years after the first book, and since I will be visiting Cuba early next year, I was excited to read this sequel. In hindsight, I wish she has left me to create my own scenarios for those people. I don’t much like what they’ve become.
Celia, the matriarch, remains in Havana, in love with both Fidel Castro and the Spaniard who left her heartbroken decades ago. Her husband now dead, Celia plans a reunion with her lover in Granada. Lourdes now lives in Miami and becomes actively involved in the Elian Gonzales incident. Pilar, her daughter is now a mother herself, raising Azul (perhaps the only character I liked in this book).
Others from the first book have also faced major changes. The little boy Ivanito is now La Ivanita, a drag queen in Berlin. He is haunted – literally – by his dead mother Felicia. Irina lives in Moscow where she is a successful entrepreneur designing and selling sportswear and lingerie. And she finds out she has a twin sister.
I do like the concept Garcia uses as the basis for this book: the revolution and fall of the Soviet Union scattered Cuban people all over the globe, thus the maps they knew from their homeland have vanished or changed. I lived in Florida during the Mariel boatlift in 1980, when Castro emptied the prisons and sent “degenerates” by ship to Miami. And I followed the lives of many Cubans who ended up creating their own version of Little Havana there.
But I had never thought about those who moved to and were welcomed by the USSR or other places in Europe. All were looking for a new sense of identity and place. Some found that, but many never did.
Readers who are intrigued are urged to read Garcia’s first book before this one. Vanishing Maps is a stand-alone book, but reading them together will provide a better sense of the wholeness of each character. Or if time is short, just read Dreaming in Cuban.
GUEST COLUMN: Jacob’s Ladder provides more than food for families in need
Forty tons. That’s how much food is distributed by Jacob’s Ladder each month to people in need, and it all started when three men recognized they shared a common goal: to help their struggling neighbors.
Reverend Dr. Frank Lacey of Touch Hearts Christian Center connected with Brian Gillespie and John Roller, both of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at an interfaith dinner held two and a half years ago and have been working together ever since.
The three founders then partnered with Joyce Ammen who works with Operation Care for the Troops. Together this foursome has increased the supply of food donations in the local area more than four times over, their reach now extending from north of Baltimore, Maryland to Orange County, Virginia and beyond.
With their coordinated efforts, donations are solicited from companies such as Amazon Fresh, Costco, Sam’s Club, and local restaurants, and then passed to the local churches for immediate distribution. Amazon Fresh, in particular, has been a huge supporter of the Jacob’s Ladder efforts, providing commercial products this year that are valued in excess of twelve million dollars.
And while ensuring people have food on their tables is central to the Jacob’s Ladder program, it’s also committed to taking these efforts a step further by providing self-reliance courses. The hope is that those receiving assistance can improve their situations so that they can provide for themselves.
The majority of the food donations are handed out through the 22 area churches, who help identify families who would benefit from the program.
Serving the community has not been without its challenges. The rapid growth of fresh food passing through the program resulted in a need to buy a larger truck to accommodate the excess. As Apostle Lacey said, “We have been abundantly blessed.”
An additional influx of food came last month in honor of Juneteenth in the form of a 40,000-pound shipment from Salt Lake City, courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A local company, Labelink in Fredericksburg, assisted in this effort by allowing the use of its warehouse to receive the goods that included staples such as beef stew, pasta, and pancake mix.
Bradley Sant, president of the Stafford Stake of the Church stated, “Joint efforts to provide food and basic needs to members of our community are at the heart of service. As a faith community, we are pleased to come together in unity to serve and love one another.”
In recent months, Jacob’s Ladder has expanded beyond only Christian faiths, the consensus being that regardless of what higher power one believes in, basic needs must be met for all. As John Roller said at the chaplaincy graduation last spring, “We need to bring the faith community together. No matter who you pray to, the focus needs to be to serve one another.”
Brian Gillespie added to that, “To help the community come together. That is the goal.”
In an expansion of Jacob’s Ladder’s mission, it will be taking over the management of the Stafford Food Security program, which provides meals to school-aged children in Stafford County. Backpacks of food are given to those who might not otherwise have food at home so they will have nourishment over the weekends. This addition came about when Tim White, the founder of Stafford Food Security, decided to step down from his managerial role and pass the reins to the Jacob’s Ladder organization.
For more information about Jacob’s Ladder or to donate or volunteer, information can be found on their website: jacobsladder4u.org or by contacting the Touch Heart Center for Development in Stafford, Virginia.
Traci Abramson has written forty-five best-selling novels and is an eight-time Whitney Award winner, including 2017 and 2019 Best Novel of the Year. Look for her interview on the New Dominion Podcast early next week.
The Week Ahead
Here’s what you can expect in the week ahead:
Our new writer Jess Kirby’s first story on issues surrounding UMW’s student conduct review system - Monday
Guest Columnist Rick Pullen on Spotsylvania and its ongoing educational issues
Columnist Shaun Kenney - Tuesday
Editor Martin Davis with a follow-up story on voter signatures, as well as a column on Youngkin and the Spotsy School Board
Candidate interview with Matt Kelly of Fredericksburg
And so much more!
Help Support Local Journalism
The FXBG Advance is off and running, but we can’t do this without your help. You can support local journalism here in Fredericksburg by donating $8 a month. Your dollars will go toward hiring journalists so that we can broaden our reach and strengthen our coverage.
The content is now, and will continue to be, free.
Help us bring aboard the journalists who will elevate our coverage and strengthen the community we all share.
Consider joining for $8 monthly or $80 yearly. A $200 donation makes you a Sustaining Member, while a $500 donation makes you a Founding Member.
Thank you for reading and supporting FXBG Advance.
-Martin Davis, Editor
F2S is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.