Tag Archives: literature

633. Good Books for Kids

When I was a child, I read as a child,
I thought as a child, I understood as a child:
but when I became thirteen,
I switched to Clarke and Heinlein.

That pretty much screws up 1 Corinthians 13:11. And it isn’t exactly true. When I was a child, i.e. about twelve, plus or minus, I read what was available, and it wasn’t always great. It was primarily science fiction and mysteries, by which I mean Tom Swift, Jr. and the Hardy Boys. You could buy them in a toy and hobby store on the main street of Coffeeville, Kansas, one of the towns we shopped in. There were no bookstores; there were libraries, but I didn’t know that yet.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate, which ground out novels for kids like Hershey’s grinds out chocolate bars, was actually the best thing that ever happened to rural American youth for most of the twentieth century. I read them, my grandfather read them, and kids were still reading them when the millennium rolled over. They weren’t very good. In fact, a lot of them were terrible, but they were there. For a kid out in the sticks who liked science fiction, the choice wasn’t Tom Swift or something from Arthur C. Clarke. It was Tom Swift or nothing.

When I started going to libraries a couple of years later, my possibilities were expanded, but it was still a small library. I read a lot of things that I would never have touched if more had been available. I read a lot of books meant for adults, but that’s the goal anyway. I also read books way below my level, because they were there.

I recently remembered a book I hadn’t thought about since those days, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Elanor Cameron. I was too old for it when I read it, but I still loved it, so much that I tried to find it again. No luck, but I did get a copy of the sequel.

I couldn’t read it. I could barely read it when I was thirteen, but if I had gotten to it when I was eight, I would have been in love.

That got me to thinking about what makes book a juvenile, as they were called then. The Mushroom Planet books would not have qualified. They were for children. Juveniles were for boys who were anxious to become men.

Of course there were juveniles for girls, but girls and boys were separate species in the fifties, so I can’t report on their books.

Heinlein did a lot of juveniles which I’ve already talked about. (See posts 311 and 513) My real favorite juvenile writer was Andre Norton, and I’ve done a few reviews on her as well. (For science fiction see posts 262 and 263, or others see posts 260 and 261.)

What Heinlein, Norton, and many other juveniles authors had in common was that their characters were not yet adults but were given adult roles by the author. The Heinlein characters were often learning a futuristic trade under an adult. Norton’s characters were often being stranded on an alien planet. Outdoors and with no other kids in sight — she was channelling my childhood.

Today’s young adult books seem to be quite different from yesterday’s juveniles. First, they are targeted for slightly older audience, and second, 2019 isn’t 1959. The audience itself is different.

I can’t imagine a modern kid reading the early Nortons I loved so much. With only slight exaggeration, those Nortons were about a young person alone in a wasteland, trying to survive the dangers of nature, and modern kids live in crowded cities trying to survive the dangers inflicted by the adults around them.

I wouldn’t want to be a modern kid, and I understand why the books of my childhood probably wouldn’t mean much to them.

I taught middle school for twenty-seven years and I tried to keep abreast of what was available for my students, but I’ve been out of that loop for a while. I used to go to every Scholastic book sale to see what was new and good. The answer — damn near nothing. The few good books the kids had to choose from were mostly reprints from way back when.

Those book sales were where I found Fog Magic by Julia Sauer. It’s a wonderful book but it was published in 1943. Later I found A Storm Without Rain by Jan Adkins published in 1983. That’s still almost four decades old. Both were time travel stories of the old style; that is, without a time machine. The kids just went back in time and never understood how it happened.

I also stumbled across a fine steampunk novel, before I really knew anything about steampunk. That would be Airborne by Kenneth Oppel, published 2004. At least we are getting into the right millennium.

Harry Potter? Tried it, couldn’t read it. Twilight and the Hunger Games? Don’t want to, and if you don’t know why, I could never convince you.

Good books for kids are rare. Fortunately they stay around forever.

Why didn’t I mention A Wizard of Earthsea? You can’t pigeonhole it as a juvenile or a young adult book. It’s literature. Buy it for your kids and read it yourself.

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630. Sequel

I spent most of the summer trying out possibilities before settling on Dreamsinger as my next novel. One thing I considered was a sequel to A Fond Farewell to Dying. FFTD was set in a post nuclear war/post rising of the waters world. I wrote it before global warming became obvious, and my main character thought the flooding was due to the nukes that opened up the San Andreas fault. I don’t feel obligated to agree with him if I write another novel.

There would be several advantages in this sequel. I wasn’t done with my characters, even though FFTD had a proper closure. I had several bits and pieces of story that needed telling, but not enough to make a novel. I had a dandy idea for a third novel, if I could find a good second one to sew everything together.

In FFTD, the protagonist starts out in Ozarka, the island chain that lives in the middle of a much expanded Gulf of Mexico, but this is told as a flashback. The shattered, inundated remains of NorAm are not explored, and I felt there was a lot to see there. I wanted my old characters to fade into the background, letting me tell the next story through new eyes.

On a practical note, I’ve lived fifty years in California but only two of my novels are set there, and neither is science fiction. I know a lot of stuff that is going to waste.

So I decided to bring in a new character. He (I don’t know his name yet) is not so driven as David Singer was, but he is still a backwoods kid who has a lot to learn. That’s always useful; it lets us learn along with our character. I decided to let him grow up on an island off the coast of what is left of California, make his way across the now flooded Central Valley, spend some times in the former gold rush towns which will become seaports by his time, then head north walking along the crest of the Sierra/Cascade ranges. Up north he will come in contact with the characters from FFTD and his story will meld with theirs, but I don’t have that completely figured out yet.

I could tell you more, but at this point everything is still malleable. In fact, it is probably too soon to write this story; it needs to ferment a few more years.

Just to get a feel for this new novel, I wrote a few hundred opening words. You can have a peek at what may be coming, if you want.

==============

1.

The town I reached was a haphazard scattering of buildings up the dense green slopes of what was once the Coast Range, mostly built from sawn driftwood. At sea level were shacks and several small piers for fishermen, as well as a longer one for oceangoing vessels.

As for me, I was an invading army of one. Maybe I should say navy, since I was coming in from downcoast in the middle of a sealskin and driftwood kayak of my own making. I had left my birthtown two weeks ago, heading north to find a bigger life. Here and there I slept on islets, and cooked fish over driftwood fires, but mostly I just paddled all day with the sunrise on my right and the sunset on my left, and slept on the waters each night.

This place was not going to give me the life I wanted, but that long pier meant ships would come eventually. I beached the kayak on the open shore and dragged it into the brush, out of sight.

First things first. There were hundreds of streamlets coming down the steep, west facing slope. I picked one, walked up until I reached a waterfall, and let it sluice two weeks of grime and stench off my body. I swilled my fill of fresh water that had not spent days in a stoppered gourd. Then I walked on up the beach.

The first man I saw was a fisherman. So were the next dozen.

You could read the history and the future of the town in its architecture. There were a dozen huts on stilts paralleling the beach. The first actual houses were three hundred yards up a steep zigzag, and a hundred feet above the water.

Conclusion: from time to time a storm would wipe out everything below those houses. Prediction: someday, tomorrow maybe, or maybe ten years from now, a larger storm would wash the headland clean and this town would become a memory — if anyone survived to remember.

The first man I met looked me over and snarled, “Where did you come from?”

“Pirling. Two weeks south, out on one of the islands.”

“How’d you get here?”

“Kayak.”

His eyes ran down the beach behind me, looking, but he didn’t ask where I had hidden it. He said, “We all work here. No handouts. What can you do?”

“Anything you can do.”

#             #             #

For two weeks I worked, harder than anyone in the town. I wasn’t trying to impress anybody. It’s just that I had no friends or family, and nothing to keep me occupied but work. I slept on the beach. The sand was comfortable enough, and my boudoir was swept clean twice a day by the tide.

My body was comfortable, my belly was full, and the surly bastards I worked with never asked any questions. But my mind was trying to crawl out my ears to find something interesting to think about. Fat chance in that town.

Then a ship came. She was called Mariposa, Spanish for butterfly, a twenty-five meter schooner with a ferrocrete hull. I went aboard and looked for the skipper.

==============

His next stop will be the shattered remains of nuked San Francisco, with only Nob Hill still above the water. Maybe. Someday. If I get that far down the list of books-to-write.

629. Lord Darcy

First a note for those who got here following the tag steampunk
this isn’t exactly steampunk, but it tastes a lot like it.

It was in the Jokake room, Westercon 70, in Tempe, Arizona. Science and Technology vs. Magic was the name of the panel, and it seemed to falter from the beginning. Some panels are like that. They look good on paper, but in real life they are too cute to live.

I was a panelist, and I was puzzled by what I wasn’t hearing, so I asked, “Doesn’t anybody remember Lord Darcy?”

Some did, and said, “Oh, yeah, I read those.” Most of the audience had never heard of him.

Although the Lord Darcy series was somewhat successful — it got a Hugo nomination — it was too unique, too “in-between”, and it fell into the crack between the sub-genres. It was exactly what the panel planners had in mind, a set of stories based on magic as something that was studied, understood, and put to work by magicians who were trained in its laws — laws which had been meticulously discovered by scientific study.

The Darcy stories were also gloriously filled with in-jokes, with references to popular literature, and most of all they were great fun.

The series is set in modern times (the 60s and 70s, actually) in an alternate universe where King Richard did not die, John did not gain the throne of England, and magic took the place of science. I could say more, but I’m trying to avoid running this up to novella length.

Randall Garrett, the author, was a supreme practitioner of the punster’s art. If he had been writing about a magical object lost at a circus, he would certainly have called it The Adventure of the Rube’s Cube. He didn’t (sadly) write that, but I will dissect one of his real titles below.

Lord Darcy and his colleague Master Sean O’Lochlainn are often described as a kind of Holmes and Watson. That’s relatively fair, but it only scratches the surface. Darcy was of the aristocracy, tall, lean but strong, able with sword and pistol, brilliant of mind, lovely of body — the pluperfect hero. If that sound like Superman in need of a little kryptonite, forget it. You can be that heroic if the stories have an strong undercurrent of humor. Call him James Bond with a brain.

Master Sean, on the other hand, is no Watson. He is as competent in his own realm as Darcy is in his.

Darcy is chief investigator for Normandy, although he is sometimes called to England itself; he finds things out if they depend on actions, motives, and deception. Master Sean is a forensic sorcerer; he finds things out if they depend on magic. They work together seamlessly to solve murders and political crises for (modern day) Prince Richard and occasionally, King John IV.

There is a pattern to the stories. Typically, everybody is running around, wringing their hands and calling the latest crime an act of black magic. Darcy and Sean arrive on the scene; Sean investigates the magic at hand and passes the actual facts on to Darcy; Darcy sees the connections that no one else saw and shows how the murder was committed by purely physical means.

Master Sean explains Darcy’s technique like this:

“Like all great detectives, my lord, you have the ability to leap from an unjustified assumption to a foregone conclusion without passing through the distance between. Then you back up and fill in.”
                    from A Matter of Gravity,
                   but also repeated in several other stories

The only novel, Too Many Magicians, is particularly full of pop culture references of the day, including appearances by Nero Wolfe and Archie disguised as the Marquis de London and his assistant Lord Bontriomphe.

My favorite story title is The Muddle of the Woad. If it doesn’t strike you funny at first, say it fast three times. Woad is the blue dye used by the Picts when they went into battle. A double agent for the King, investigating a cult seemingly devoted to regicide, is found dead in another man’s coffin, stark naked and dyed blue. A warning from the cult? Everybody thinks so but Darcy.

The only thing wrong with these stories is that there are not enough of them. I first read them in the paperback collections Lord Darcy Investigates (which contains A Matter of Gravity, The Ipswich Phial, The Sixteen Keys, and The Napoli Express) and Murder and Magic (which contains The Eyes Have It, A Case of Identity, The Muddle of the Woad, and A Stretch of the Imagination). I read the only novel Too Many Magicians in the Gregg Press version with the excellent preface by Sandra Meisel.

If I had to replace my copies, I would opt for the 2002 edition of Lord Darcy, edited by Eric Flint, because it also contains the two otherwise uncollected stories The Bitter End and The Spell of War.

All these are out of print, but that is what used bookstores and — dare I say it? — Amazon are for.

As it was with Holmes, there were further adventures after Garrett’s death, written by Michael Kurland. They are on my to-read list.

627. Banned Book Week

If you google special weeks, you will find a week for everything. Some of them are worthy; most are just plain goofy.

There’s nothing goofy about Banned Book Week.

My first encounter with banned books was in high school, when I became aware that Oklahoma and almost no other state had banned The Grapes of Wrath because it supposedly portrayed Oklahomans in a bad light. They didn’t much like the term Okie either.

I’m an Okie and I like the term, but if I had been walking down the streets of Bakersfield in the thirties, and people had been calling me that while spitting on me, I would probably have a different viewpoint.

When I was a boy, more than half a century ago, I said n— all the time. I quit when I grew up and learned better. Of course Black people will never come to accept the word like I accept Okie, and they shouldn’t. Okie was only a cuss word in parts of California for a brief time, a long time ago. N— has a different history.

While we are banning books, let’s go ahead and ban the word nigger.

See, you can’t do it. I’ve managed to use the abbreviation n— up to now, but I couldn’t write that sentence without spelling it out.

We have made not saying the word the key to survival in modern politics, but does a clean mouth insure a clean conscience, or a clean personal history? If you think so, I have a swamp I’m willing to sell you.

Shall we ban the idea behind the word? Good luck trying.

All this brings us back to books. Books should not be banned, except for a few.

What?!?!?!?

That’s a lot like saying I’m for free speech, but not for hate speech. Okay, define hate speech. Not give examples, that’s too easy. Define it.

It can’t be done.

Now, back to books again. Personally, I hate the *** series. I wish those books had never been written, but I’m afraid to even mention their name in this post. They have all but disappeared on their own, but if I were to mount a campaign to ban them, they would be back on the shelves and on their way to the best-seller list before the month was out. There would be websites defending them and websites condemning them and hash-tags like — no, I’m not going to tell you what the hash-tags would say.

Banning books is not only wrong, it is also self-defeating. If something bothers you — books, words, concepts, actions —  confront it. Banning it just drives it more deeply into the public consciousness.

If the media had not been so outraged in 2016 that they made  ***** the main subject of every newscast, we would have a different president today.

If the Ayatollah had not condemned The Satanic Verses, it would have died the quiet death it deserved. I know. I fought my way half way through the thing out of moral obligation before I tossed it. If it hadn’t been condemned, I would have quit after page three.

End of sermon.

Now here is a tidbit that I am adding just because it amuses me. The Index Librorum Prohibitorum is the list of books banned by the Catholic Church, beginning about 1600, going through various versions, and being finally dropped in 1966. Johannes Kepler and Immanuel Kant along with some translations of the Bible have all had the dubious honor of inclusion over the years.

When I wrote A Fond Farewell to Dying, set on a post nuclear war Earth, the main character wrote a book called Inquiry into Artificially Induced Immortality. I needed to have it banned, so I had to let the New Vatican located on Lake Titicaca (Rome having been nuked) reinstitute the Index just so my hero’s book could be on it.

625. Gateway Drug

Science fiction is a gateway drug. I don’t mean a gateway into general reading; that would probably be Dr. Seuss. I mean a gateway drug into a life of exploration.

Harlan Ellison told this story on himself. He was on a tour of some space installation, probably Houston but I can’t be sure. It’s been years since I read the story. One of the pocket protector crowd came up and told Harlan that his stories had been inspirational to his career. In Harlan’s version of the story, he was unimpressed, but he had a carefully crafted curmudgeon persona, so who knows really. He later found out that he had been talking to an astronaut.

Space exploration is taken for granted today. The moon landing happened during my early twenties, but just a dozen years earlier, in the late fifties when I first became fascinated with science fiction, few people believed man would ever leave the earth.

Science fiction people — writers and readers — believed.

Science fiction has been a gateway drug for a very long time. In 1898, 16 year old Robert Goddard, already fascinated by science, turned his attention to space when he read H. G. Wells War of the Worlds.

With little outside help and while enduring the disdain of his colleagues, Goddard invented the liquid fuel rocket, then went on to invent the multi-stage rocket. He received patents for both in 1914 and had actually built and successfully launched a liquid fuel rocket by 1926. He went on to pioneer the use of gyroscopic control of steerable thrust rockets.

Goddard was launched by science fiction, and in turn he launched a whole flotilla of boy scientists building rockets in their basements and flying off to explore space in the science fiction of the twenties and thirties.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is named after him.

In 1905, in Transylvania (now in Romania) eleven year old Hermann Oberth became fascinated with the works of Jules Verne, particularly From the Earth to the Moon.

Oberth took training in medicine, but spent his spare time conducting experiments in rocketry. He studied physics from 1919, but his dissertation on rocket science was rejected as utopian. He chose to expand his work and publish it privately, saying he would become a great scientist even without a diploma. He was right.

His book, The Rocket into Planetary Space, became a classic. Its publication led to the formation of the VIR (Verein für Raumschiffahrt — Society for Space Travel) a German group which built and launched rockets in the years between the World Wars. Wernher Von Braun became a member. Oberth later became a mentor to Von Braun.

Von Braun’s work led to the V-2, and the V-2 led to every subsequent rocket built by the Americans or the Russians, including the Saturn V. Oberth was in the crowd watching its launch when it carried Apollo 11 to the moon.

Today Nova on PBS is probably the gateway drug for a life of fascination with space, and science fiction as literature has been largely co-opted by the movies. But there is a lot more content in a science fiction novel than Nova or Star Wars can present, and kids are still reading.

The first time a kid comes upon a science fiction idea, no matter what the quality of the work it appears in, that story is the one which counts. It doesn’t matter how many times the idea has been presented in the past, the story you read when you are twelve or thirteen is the one that stirs your juices and sets your neurons into a new pattern.

Maybe someday, some kid will be inspired by one of my books. The odds are against it so late in the history of science fiction, but it’s a comfort to know that it could happen.

624. Jandrax Meets Trenco

When I occasionally borrow, I take from the best. Tidac Wyrd s’Marquart got the s’ in his name from Andre Norton’s Star Gate. That is a classic novel unrelated to the movie or the TV series. The Marquart part, his fathername, did not come from Shrek; I wrote Valley of the Menhir years before Shrek came along. I picked up the notion of “avert” while I was visiting Earthsea.

When I decided to make Stormking fit its name, I was looking straight at my memories of Trenco. Actually, I hinted at that four posts back when I called Stormking “a place of Trenconian extremes”.

Trenco is a planet where the liquid isn’t quite water, and it rains 47 feet every night. Yes, I said feet. The entire ecosystem is made up a creatures who must be born, grow, procreate, and die in one planetary day. Their offspring will do the same tomorrow, and it gets mighty fierce. If you want the real scoop, read chapter 10 of E. E. Smith’s Galactic Patrol.

Dreamsinger has the same underlying theme as Jandrax, the oasis and the desert. In Jandrax most of a group of stranded colonists choose to stay in a fortified village while the remainder become wanderers, following the melt, a moving band of springtime. The wanderers life is crude, but they manage to squeeze freedom and joy out of it.

In Dreamsinger, the oasis is the buttoned-down Home Station in orbit, reasonably pleasant, but dull and lacking in freedom. The desert is the planet Stormking where a Uranian tilt turns the exiles there into perpetual wanderers simply to survive.

Back in 2015, when Cyan was due for publication, I pulled up my notes for Dreamsinger and wrote a few thousand words. Now that I am fully engaged in completing the novel, I found that writing again, and discovered a forgotten prolog.

Gaugi, a young girl exile, is speaking, telling a small part of her story before things shift to Antrim’s viewpoint. It is unlikely that this bit — or Gaugi — will end up in the final novel, but it gives a quick peek at the hardships the exiles endure.

The wind was fierce, but the wind was always fierce. So am I so it doesn’t matter, but it was making it hard to see and that can be dangerous. Deadly. The kamrak rose up before any of us had a chance to be ready for it, or to get out of its way, dripping acid, teeth and fangs ready. We scattered like quail — whatever quail are. They always scatter in all the Earthstories, so we scattered like quail.

Mazie didn’t make it. She almost did, but she didn’t. She fell down, tripped over a tilticle just before she got far enough away that the kamrak wouldn’t reach her, and then it had her. I saw it. I stayed to watch. She didn’t die all at once. That was the worst part. It was the acid that got her. The kamrak had her clawed so he didn’t bother to use his fangs. She lived longer than she needed to, longer than she should have, longer that I wanted her to. And I watched. I didn’t want to, but Ma told me early to watch everything, to always learn what I could. It might keep me alive and it might make my life better. I don’t know how watching the kamrak dissolve Mazie, screaming all the time would make my life better, but I learned more about how a kamrak feeds and someday that may let me escape like Mazie didn’t. I don’t know. Ma said learn everything, but watching Mazie die like that wasn’t something I really wanted to learn.

In that same packet from 2015, there was this description given to Antrim just before he joins the downsiders, by a pilot who knew them well.

Antrim, these people are smarter than you are, tougher than you are, and there is no softness in them. We’ve been dumping exiles onto Stormking for a generation. The dumb ones died immediately; the smart ones survived and had smart children. Those children have spent their lives surviving a harsher environment than you can imagine, no matter how hard you’ve trained. If you underrate them, you’re dead.

Sounds like studying the exiles might be interesting — if Antrim survives.

623. Hanging a Shotgun on the Wall

They call it foreshadowing, or sometimes hanging a shotgun on the wall. That’s from the old mystery novel rule, “If you hang a shotgun on the wall in chapter one, you had better shoot somebody with it by chapter three.”

You want to let your reader know what is about to happen, but not too much, and you don’t want to bore him in the process. It really isn’t easy. The 648 word prolog-as-teaser at the bottom of this post took me three days to get just right, and that was after I was already 12,000 words into Dreamsinger.

Time will tell if it actually gets used. I needed to give my reader a small look at family life on Home Station and tease him about the mystery of the exiles, without making it look too ordinary or too outré.

=============

During the 115th year of the escape from Earth, Antrim was decanted. Four others had preceded him and three followed, all so close together that they shared a birthdae.

For a while, Antrim’s world was smelly, wet, loud, and untidy, full of strange hands and faces. Eight new babies and a rotating cadre of adults occupied Natal Intensive. Slowly the frequency of feedings and the incidence of fecal outflow slowed and soon only Ma and Da remained with the eight new children. Finally the spray hoses were removed, the floor drains were sealed, and the newbies were introduced to their first ferds.

There had once been a different name for them, but since the computer categorized them as Fecal Emission Retention Devices, they were now called ferds.

There also used to be a word for a group of young humans raised together by an adult male and female, but that word was out of fashion by 2242. Antrim and his seven sibs were Socialization Group number 1352.

Never mind that. They fought, hugged, smiled, frowned, screamed, sulked, and bonded with one another. They were a family, even though no one used the word.

Ma and Da actually had names, although the children didn’t learn them until much later, and they were unrelated to their kinder. They had high ma-pa-ternal indexes, and that was all that mattered.

For their first seven years, the children lived in their crèche and did not interact with the outer world. Da and Ma provided them with their education, aided by the central computer. It seemed normal to be a society of ten, since they had never known anything else.

They knew that at age eight they would join with three other socialization groups to become a schooling group. At age fourteen, they would begin to interact with the rest of Home Station.

Most of the adults on Home Station had never seen a child younger than fourteen, and did not want to. That also seemed normal. For now, eight children and two adults seemed just right.

Da taught history, mostly the history of their own small group of refugees, but also enough of Old Earth history to know why they had fled. Ma taught science and math.

When Antrim was six, they learned the planets. The computer provided a holograph in the center of the crèche with Sirius A in the center, Forge next out, then the broken cluster of planetoids called The Swarm, then Stormking, and finally Bifrost. Home Station was there, endlessly circling Stormking. Sirius B, various asteroid belts, and the other fourteen planets were missing from this first lesson.

Tril asked to see the surface of Stormking and the computer obliged. A three-D holograph filled the center of the room with a surging hellscape of rain and storm, but comp had made a mistake. This was not a censored version for an elementary lesson but a real-time display complete with struggling, nearly naked humans being battered by Stormking’s winds.

A sharp command from Ma cut it off and Mosh said, “Those were people. Why were there people on Stormking?” Ma refused to answer.

A few daes later, Antrim got Da aside and asked the same question. Da usually answered the questions Ma wouldn’t, but this time he was evasive. Antrim persisted, and Da finally said, “They are being punished.”

“For what? What did they do that got them into that much trouble?”

Da shook his head, and when it was evident that Antrim planned to persist, he said, “Stop asking. I’m not allowed to answer.”

“Why?”

“If I tell you, they will take me away from you.”

That put a stop even to Antrim’s curiosity. Then Da said, “If you still want to know when you are grown, come and ask me then.”

=============

One page later, Antrim is twenty years old and his question to Da has not yet been satisfactorily answered. It will guide his life and the novel Dreamsinger as he chooses to study the exiles by living among them.