Monday, February 26, 2007

Whatever Wild Idea Suits You: Going Going by Naomi Nye

Ah, youth. A time of figuring yourself out, finding first love, and...taking up causes?

So goes the plot of Going Going by Naomi Nye. Sixteen year old Florrie has a pechant for grey clothes, old postcards, good Mexican food, and her pet project; as the button of a fellow protestor says, she is out to Keep San Antonio Weird.

After blowing out the candles on her pineapple-topped, smiley-faced sixteenth birthday cake, Florrie encourages her family to join her in patronizing only small, local businesses. She implores them to keep away from larger corporations that threaten the character of her beloved city--not to mention her Lebanese family's Mexican restaurant, which has been open for several decades. Her mother and father accede easily, noting that it would be something their parents would have encouraged; her brother True is skeptical. All agree to give up big business for sixteen weeks, the remainder of the year. From there, Florrie goes on to encourage the rest of her city to join her--starting with her neighborhood, which is more than happy to take up the cause. However, hurdles come in the form of an apathetic public, laws nobody even thought about, and Ramsey, the handsome young son of the owner of the Marriot with a taste for adventure to match Florrie's own:

Ramsey wanted to see everything: the toilet seat museum, the Shrine of the Black Madonna. He wanted to see the wolf-dog spirit that supposedly haunted the grounds of the Mission Espada. Florrie had never heard of it, despite her specialization in Weird Things.

Nye's language is fluid and fun, with a gift for simple but beautiful images:

Pasquale de Leon would be wearing his bright blue overalls, arranging crates of fresh tomatoes and zucchini around his battered green truck in the parking lot down the street. He was the one that caused Florrie to fall in love with turtles when she was a little girl. He would give her chunks of mango and papaya to pitch into the river and all the mysterious turtles would rise.

Florrie has a rather unique voice, comfortable in her skin and sure of what she believes in. The supporting characters are a bit weak (I would have liked to get to know them better--especially Ram), but her family shines; they are loving and functional and it truly is a pity they're too busy to spend much time with each other. If the descriptions of unique places and people run away with themselves, Florrie is an engaging enough narrator to put the story back on track. The conclusion is open-ended but hopeful.

This is one for your idealistic younger friends, or those wishing to relive those wild carefree days of culture jamming. Going Going is a suitable primer for the youthful starry-eyed protester, as Florrie's actions are commendably non-violent (Be positive, support local and independent business, research the law, dress up, leave a false name, be legendary...wait, those last three are Hakim Bey), so never fear.

Enjoy with some low-key 60s folk and an avocado chalupa.

Going Going by Naomi Shihab Nye, Barnes and Noble, Powell's

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