The Outer Fringe
Are you are a bit obsessed with the left political movement of the sixties and seventies, as I am? If so, American Woman, by Susan Choi, is the novel for you! Remember the Symbionese Liberation Army? The murder of Marcus Foster, Oakland’s first black school superintendant? The abduction of Patty Hearst from her Berkeley apartment? The demand for free food drops? The police bombing of the SLA’s “safe” house in LA? Patty as Tania the Revolutionary, photographed with a machine gun for an SLA poster?
You couldn’t make this stuff up, but that is what Choi does so well in her exquisite portrait of Jenny Shinada, already in exile, who takes up with Juan and Yvonne and their famous fugitive companion, Pauline. Choi is neither pro nor con. Life on the run here consists of tedium punctuated by vehemence, yet she does not bore the reader. Instead she offers meaningful detail to a story we would otherwise know only from the outside, or self-serving accounts.
For those of us who believe fiction is at least as true as factual “truth,” this book is a gem. Read it if you want to re-visit that time, for greater insight.