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Rush Hour: Volume One - Sin

Review

Rush Hour: Volume One - Sin

Young adult fiction has developed beyond the issue- or relationship-driven novels with which it has long been associated. Today, YA fiction reflects the complexity and ambiguity of the contemporary teen experience. Young adult literature has been waiting a long time for a literary journal to legitimize the genre. RUSH HOUR, a twice yearly "journal of contemporary voices," has the potential to do just that.

The theme of RUSH HOUR's first issue is Sin. Editor Michael Cart has assembled a collection of morally complex pieces under this issue's theme of Sin. Included in the collection are stories, poems and essays by a variety of better and lesser known YA authors, including Brock Cole, Joan Bauer and Emma Donoghue. These pieces cover a variety of material: shoplifting, corporate ethics, social equality, sportsmanship, sexuality and war.

The most striking and potentially controversial story in the collection is "The Silk Ball" by Terry Davis, which weaves Hmong folklore into a story about the United States' secret war in Laos during the Vietnam period. Graphic violence and sexuality punctuate a story filled with poetic vision, longing and loss. Adults may be hesitant to let their young ones read this material, never mind the fact that the characters in the story --- and the age of actual soldiers in military conflicts then and now --- are closer to the age of the intended readers than the adults who would want to shield impressionable young minds from such material.

Another marvelous piece in this issue is a nonfiction essay by Hazel Rochman, "What Would I Have Done?" The essay is illustrated with a pen and ink drawing by Mark Podwal of a fragmented Star of David, complete with the now familiar iconography of railroad tracks, smokestacks and tattooed limbs. I expected a straightforward essay about the Holocaust, but was surprised to find something much more complex. Rochman uses the Holocaust, which she assumes most readers are familiar with, to discuss the systemic and structural oppression of other people in the world today. She discusses her experiences living in South Africa during apartheid, including a marvelous anecdote about hiding Nelson Mandela in her home by pretending he was the gardener. She challenges the reader to think about their role in a world that continues to profit off the oppression of others. Like Marc Aronson's essay, "The Sins of Salem," about the role of youth in the Salem Witch Trials, also in this issue, Rochman's piece is relevant to young people and recognizes their involvement in making history as well as influencing the events of the present.

The marvelous thing about poetry is the sense of immediacy it can bring to events or emotions. RUSH HOUR also includes several powerful poems dealing with contemporary lives. "Massage" by Sonya Sones is about adolescent longing and captures perfectly the inner monologue that accompanies burgeoning sexuality, including the frustration of thwarted desire. "Later On / My hands / touch / my untouched places, / imagining / how his hands might have felt / on my skin, / trying to feel / how my skin might have felt / to his hands," Sones writes.

Elizabeth Lord-Rollins offers a glimpse into the lives of inner-city youth with her poem "The Terror Class." It is in five parts, utilizing different points of view, condensing a series of images and evocative emotions, fusing complex subjects like poverty, education, drug use and race relations. "Does my bebop scare you? / Walking with my buddies / Can I make you cross to the other side / Hey, white bread / Do you resent bein' terrorized / On streets we both know / Belong to you?" she writes.

The inclusion of these kinds of unexpected openings into other worlds is RUSH HOUR's greatest strength. It is not the first journal to try to reach the young adult market. Cricket Magazine Group has already given us CICADA, a gentle and imaginative magazine that includes short stories and essays from contemporary authors, as well as classics from the past. I believe there is room in the literary world for both publications. RUSH HOUR dares to push the envelope and takes on some of the more controversial issues, and readers well beyond the intended age group will appreciate this journal.

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Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on October 18, 2011

Rush Hour: Volume One - Sin
by Michael Cart

  • Publication Date: April 13, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385730314
  • ISBN-13: 9780385730310