What was it that Toni Mirosevich's story collection, "Pink Harvest," reminded me of as I read it? The book was mercurial, changing voices and forms like new outfits. Slights between friends were remembered, polished with attention, beatified. Long car rides served as plot. Then, seven stories into the collection's 25, in "Stripping," a house loses its walls and a table its layers of paint. The writer shows herself, finally -- stark, unadorned and plain-spoken.
I realized at that moment what the book reminded me of: a teenage girl. Specifically, the ones I know, girls in intervention programs where I teach writing -- girls who teach me how to read and hear them. That was the feeling: of listening to a girl tell the day's outrage or revelation, a story that goes on and on before getting to breakfast; of biting the side of my mouth to keep from interrupting to ask, "What happens at the end?" And I had that other feeling, true for each girl, of eventually being blindsided by her plain truth, by what Mirosevich calls "inconsolable beauty."
It seemed only fair to take "Pink Harvest" to class and introduce the girls to the book. We read aloud from "Truant," and after a quick translation of the title -- "a girl who ditches" -- we were into the story of a scolding teacher who visits a Croatian immigrant family to warn the mother of her daughter's impending expulsion. The teacher holds up an outstretched hand -- a pointy finger for each day the girl has been absent. She says, "Your daughter is truant." The girl translates into Croatian for the mother: "Your daughter is a star."