Susan Carlton: Love & Haight

History does begin with yesterday, after all. Nineteen seventy one, when cigarette ads were banned from TV, The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar topped the charts, and Clockwork Orange and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory were playing at the movies, does not seem so very long ago. Then again, gasoline was forty cents a gallon.

During the book launch party for Susan Carlton’s new Love & Haight, which is about a seventeen-year-old, a smattering of colorful 1971 San Francisco hippies, love of several varieties, and an abortion that needs to happen, Susan was asked what kind of research did she have to do for this historical novel? I was helped by the fantastic librarians at the San Francisco History Center, she said, who brought out cardboard boxes of their Hippies Collection for me to use! She had a blast going over posters, scrapbooks, song lyrics and other memorabilia of the Flower Power, free love era. Her parents pitched in, sharing their Technicolor memories of having lived there. The story Susan spun is colorful as tie-dye, honest and open as Janis Joplin’s music.

Love & Haight is redolent of the era and its issues. Her research included Q and As with people deep into women’s choice including Jane Pincus and Wendy Sanford, contributors to the original version of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and staff at Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health and the former Planned Parenthood Golden Gate. Main character Chloe and her side kick MJ are Tab drinking, VW Bug driving, typical teens with an ear for the Doors, the Who’s Baba O’Reilly (aka Teenage Wasteland), and Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi – “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Love & Haight elicited a golden review from Kirkus, whose standards are up there. Her publisher, Henry Holt and Company, wisely assigned the book design to Veronique Lefevre Sweet, who did a cool, dude job with the cover and interior. Love those shades and the daisies with Gerald Holtom’s peace symbol in the middle. The typeface Hobo doesn’t get used much nowadays, and the primary color scheme in full saturation on the cover is so psychedelic. In an indication of the tight times in editorial offices, there is a typo or two, for example, a lone quotation mark unassociated with dialogue on page four. However, I have read that there has never been a book published that does not contain at least one typographical error. In addition to Holt’s promotion for the book, The {Teen} Book Scene has arranged a blog tour starting April 16th.

This fast reading story of one girl’s journey through difficult issues feels realistic and immediate. Importantly, it ends with a hopeful, promising onion ring.


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