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BOOKS Starting from Here; Further Adventures Sissy Van Dyke
BOOK REVIEWS
by Sally Parsons
2014-09-03

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Two books about lesbians finding their way in the world, complete with road trips, lots of drama, and insights into growing up and finding oneself..

Starting from Here chronicles the adventures of Colby, a 16-year-old lesbian, broken up over a girl who has dumped her for a boy. Colby lives alone in a trailer park, as her mom is dead and her dad is a long-distance truck driver who is seldom home. They stay in touch by regular phone calls and his infrequent short visits.

Written for children 14 and older, Starting from Here deals with the confusion surrounding teen angst ( particularly lesbian teen angst ), making mistakes and learning from them, as well as dealing with severe loss, and discovering the dawn of a new love.

Colby hangs out with her best friend Van and her other classmates in a small community in rural Michigan. She takes in a roommate—a stray dog she names Mo—to fill the gap left by her father's long road trip absences. Mo fills her heart and leads her to several new friends, including the vet who saves Mo's life and a classmate who wants to write a feature on Colby and Mo for their high school paper.

Written in a relaxed style, the author's first novel captures the heartbreak, humor, and hope of Colby's world. Mo the dog is a definite scene stealer. Likeable characters, with plenty of insights for both adults and teens to ponder.

Further Adventures of Sissy Van Dyke is about the title character, a 25-year-old lesbian free spirit chasing her dream to make it big-time with her singing and compositions, and filling her down time with lots of casual sex. As Sissy herself says, "It's not just a name, it's a lifestyle."

We catch up with Sissy as she takes time off from work in a San Francisco music store, says good-bye to her parents and friends and hits the road with a demo CD to catch a break at one ( or more ) music events around the country. After striking out at a desert fest in Nevada, Sissy heads for Madison and a gig that turns out to be slanted more toward the business end of things than performance. Eventually, she ends up at the Michigan Womyn's Fest, where she describes in charming detail much of the life at the fest that has become a ritual for so many lesbians every August.

On her journey, Sissy meets many women, two of whom lead her to make significant decisions about her life. Wanda is a fast-thinking lawyer with music producer connections. Wanda has big plans for Sissy; she wants to turn Sissy's songs into commercial jingles ( not at all to the musician's liking ). The other woman we meet who makes a big dent in Sissy's life is Ava Nesta, who constantly presses Sissy to become part of her world.

All good things must end and so, as Michigan fades, Sissy must decide where to plant herself. She knows she doesn't want to go back to California. Enter Ava once again, who persuades her to move to Chicago.

As the book ends, Sissy settles in to her new life in the Windy City. One wonders where her next adventure will take her. Let's hope she invites us to come along. Sissy is someone in whose journey you want to share.

This is the follow-up novel to The Adventures of Sissy Van Dyke, published in 2010.

Women's Words Film Festival on Sept. 15

Pride Films and Plays has announced seven short films and two episodes from tello films receiving their Chicago premieres during Pride Films and Plays Women's Words Film Festival at the Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St., on Monday, Sept. 15.

The screening will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a brief talkback with a few of the filmmakers. The Pub Theater bar will be open beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 and VIP passes are available for $15; visit www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.


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