Monday, April 18, 2016

O: Joyce Carol Oates & FOXFIRE

This month, I'm doing the Blogging from A to Z ChallengeMy theme: authors whose work I read when I was younger.

"Any kind of creative activity is likely to be stressful. The more anxiety, the more you feel that you are headed in the right direction. Easiness, relaxation, comfort- these are not conditions that usually accompany serious work." - Joyce Carol Oates

FOXFIRE (Dutton, Adult)  is the first novel I read by Joyce Carol Oates, and it's one of the darker stories I'm sharing here this month. The story takes place during the 1950s in upstate New York. One of the first scenes depicts a junior high girl named Rita who is lured by her younger brothers to a clubhouse built by older neighborhood boys. Once inside, it's implied that Rita is gang raped. She returns home alone, bleeding and crying. Her mother takes a look at her and slaps her, refusing to hear about what has just happened. Rita goes on to join Foxfire, a girl gang led by a charismatic girl named Legs. Later, when a male teacher fondles Rita during detention, the Foxfire girls vandalize his car and call him out for his behavior. The teacher soon retires.

The story is told from the perspective of Maddy, another Foxfire member. Maddy wants a typewriter. While bargaining with a man to sell her the typewriter that he intends to throw away, the man tries to sexually assault Maddy. Maddy tells the Foxfire girls about what happened and then she returns to this guy. While he undresses, the girls emerge. They beat him until he passes out. Maddy leaves some money behind and then snatches the typewriter. 

Told with a gritty honesty, FOXFIRE challenges the 1950s as being a gentler time when parents were thought to be more nurturing, families were more solid, and girls were more docile and safe from sexual assault. Reading this book also made me think of Lois Duncan's DAUGHTERS OF EVE, though I'd say that FOXFIRE is darker with much more sexually explicit language and content. Interestingly, I found this book in the MG section of a library when I was a teen. It is currently marketed as adult fiction, though it could also be considered YA. But a MG book this is not. 

Have you read FOXFIRE?  What do you think about when you think of the 1950s?
Have you ever strongly felt that a book's intended age group has been wrongly classified?

20 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I haven't read this, but it sounds really interesting. Weird that you found it in the MG section. I agree that it is definitiely not MG.

Hart Johnson said...

Wow--how did I miss that one? Sounds like a gripping story. Hard to read now (as a mother) but I would have loved that when I was younger. I had trouble finding books that were dark enough for me in Jr. High. (read mostly Stephen King but I would have loved a more complex story)

Pat Hatt said...

Never even heard of this one before. Sounds like an interesting one. I think of Happy Days when the 1950's pop in lol

Random Musings said...

Sounds like a good read. I don't think life was any safer for young girls in the 1950's I just think abuse was talked about a lot less, which in a way makes it even more dangerous. I am shocked this book is YA though
Debbie

Misha Gericke said...

I have to admit I never heard of this one before, but it sounds like something interesting to read.

Claire Annette said...

I haven't read this but it sounds very interesting - especially being set in the 50's
I think a lot was swept under the carpet in the 50's which is why everything exploded in the 60's. I can't believe this was classified as a MG (I used to be a children's librarian - I know we would have had parents protesting)

Sunday Visitor said...

Seems like an interesting read. I have not read anything set in 1950's, I like the Jazz Age though.

Stephanie Bird said...

I love the darkness and gritty quality of Joyce Carol Oates work. She is gifted. I will check out this title, as I'm unfamiliar with it but it sounds like all the things that intrigue me about her work are present.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The fifties weren't as innocent as we've been told.

Stephanie Faris said...

How interesting! I love that the 50s are always painted in such a perfect light when really it was a pretty tumultuous time in our nation's history.

diedre Knight said...

Sounds like an intense read; triumph over trespass, by unlikely vigilantes. Sadly, beneath the grand facade secrets were made darker in the shadows. But that's how they thought back then.

Lynn Proctor said...

I was just thinking of my older sister and her generation about the innocence of the 50-easy 60s- I still think it was a gentler time

Lynn Proctor said...

I was just thinking of my older sister and her generation about the innocence of the 50-easy 60s- I still think it was a gentler time

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I have read it, but can't remember much of it. Oates is a good writer I think.

Liz A. said...

That's one I couldn't read. Although, I did read Daughters of Eve (I think). My uncle talks of the '50s. He's interested in the juxtapositions you mentioned here. Of course, he remembers the '50s, so that lends a different perspective.

Liz A. from
Laws of Gravity

Sarah Zama said...

This sounds like a very strong story.
I've never read Oates, though I know her by fame. It sounds like I shoudl really try her.
Yeah, that's the stereotypes we attached to many 'simpler' times. You know? I don't think there were ever 'simpler' times.

@JazzFeathers
The Old Shelter - Jazz Age Jazz

Natasha Duncan-Drake said...

I have not read Foxfire - sounds like a very dark book, but well written. As for your other question - I can't remember thinking a book I was reading was wrongly classified, but as a teenager most of my books came from second hand shops and I never even thought about how they were actually classified :).
Tasha
Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

Doree Weller said...

That sounds like an intense book and it definitely sounds misclassified. Still, I'm glad that books like that were written before some of the taboo about talking about this stuff was relaxed.
@DoreeWeller from
Doree Weller’s Blog

Jeffrey Scott said...

I've never heard of this one. This girl really had some wicked brothers to lure her to get raped. Just awful.

Susan Brody said...

I haven't read this one, but I have read Oates' gripping WE WERE THE MULVANEYS. It tells the story of the gradual disintegration of a picture-perfect family when neither of the parents can deal with the consequences of their daughter having been raped by a schoolmate. What makes this book so chilling is the nuanced presentation of each family member and why each of them needs his or her own denial more than they need to help the victim by hearing the truth.

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