Thursday, October 07, 2021

Throwback Thursday: Credit-Card Carole

Klass, Sheila Solomon. Credit-Card Carole
1987, Scribner Book Company
School Library Copy

Carole is in high school, and has a typical upper middle class, East Coast life for 1987. Her father is a dentist, her mother is a housewife, and her older brother is in college at an Ivy League School. She has a best friend, Monique, whose mother is divorced and dating a succession of men. Carole runs cross country, but her real sport is hanging out at the mall, eating pizza with friends, and doing a lot of schopping. When her father decides that being a dentist isn't making him happy, and he is going to try his hand at being a Broadway actor instead, there are changes that need to be made. The credit cards are cut up, the mother goes back to work at a real estate agency as an executive assistant, and Carole even gets a job for $5 an hour, dusting knick knacks for her sort-of boyfriend's older and asthmatic mother. Her father doesn't have a lot of luck getting roles, but is upbeat about it, and eventually manages to break into the theatre. Carole realizes that living a life of ordinary privilege instead of extreme privilege isn't so bad, even if she can't have one of the rad new cotton Shaker style sweaters in peach and teal. 
Strengths: For a Young Adult book, this was really short. Not even 150 pages. I'd love to see books about characters in high school facing problems in middle grade appropriate ways today, but YA now tends to be much, much grittier. This was fairly forward thinking for the 1980s-- Carole has a friend on the track team who is Black, and when other kids make fun of her hair ("Why can't it be normal?"), Carole speaks up and says that the friend's hair is natural, and it is normal for her. There are four Black students in the school. Her boyfriend balks at his parents' wealth, and gets involved in raising money for victims of Apartheid. While the mother enjoys being a homemaker, Monique's mother is a business woman, and the mother enjoys going back to work. The details about life in the 1980s are very, very rich, and I'm glad that I kept this as a historical record. 
Weaknesses: This was a great reminder that most of the literature and media in the 1980s was about white privilege and covered a lot of first world problems. There is also a mention of "Asiatics" instead of Asians, which seemed odd. When I was growing up, the very offensive term "Orientals" was often used, so at least that wasn't used here. 
What I really think:Things have changed since the 1980s. Maybe not a lot, but they have changed. I enjoyed this so much that I broke down and bought a copy of Klass's The Bennington Stitch (1986). Sadly, Ms. Klass passed away in 2014 at the age of 86. Young Adult author David Klass is her son. 
 Ms. Yingling

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