“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, April 9, 2012

Love & Haight ▪ YA fiction

Available now    Henry Holt / Macmillan    Ages 14 and up
Even in the land of easy love, some things aren't so easy.
Story: It's about old love and new love and free love. And what happens when two girls spend two weeks in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury in 1971, and one of them is pregnant and wants to be unpregnant.  Seventeen-year-old Chloe and her best friend MJ head to San Francisco to ring in the New Year, circa 1971. But Chloe has an ulterior motive—and a secret. She's pregnant and has devised a plan not to be. In San Francisco's flower-power heyday, it was (just about) legal to end a pregnancy.

As soon as the girls cross the Golden Gate, the scheme starts to unravel amid the bellbottoms, love-beads, and bongs. Chloe's secrets escalate until she betrays everyone she cares about. Her best friend who has doubts about Chloe's plan. Her groovy aunt who offers the girls a place to crash. Her self-absorbed mother meditating back in Phoenix. And, especially, the boy she wishes she'd waited for. 
Story behind the story:  Author Susan Carlton tells us "LOVE & HAIGHT is set in the waning days of San Francisco’s hippie movement, started as a valentine to my hometown. I grew up in the city and its suburbs, although I was too young for the Summer of Love by a good decade. Still, as a teenager in the ’70s I spent many weekends with friends getting lost in Golden Gate Park or thumbing through albums at Tower Records. And I was raised in a politically active family with protests and petitions served up alongside tofu stew and clove tea. I drew on these memories—the serious and the not-so—for Love & Haight.

So place came to me first. As for the abortion storyline…well, I didn’t set out to write a book about abortion. I set out to write about seventeen-year-old Chloe, a girl who views life as a series of either/or choices (either a fox or a prude; either a hippie or a square). When Chloe finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand, she is resolute—she will find a way to get an abortion without telling anyone but her best friend, MJ.

As it turns out, abortion in 1971 isn’t as easy as Chloe thinks, especially when MJ starts voicing her opposition. Chloe’s decision is complicated by the convoluted laws governing abortion in the year before Roe v. Wade. To get all the details as right as I could, I read state statues, spoke with women who had had abortions in that period, and interviewed editors of the original Our Bodies, Our Selves, the manifesto of early ’70s sexuality. And I spent many afternoons combing through the Hippies Collection at the San Francisco Public Library Archive—boxes of hand-written scrapbooks and peace poems and copies of the Haight Ashbury Free Press

Maybe all this makes Love & Haight sound super serious. It is serious in that the issues I write about are real and important, then and now. But the book is also funny, I hope, with its cast of trippy characters and ‘happenings’, such as a Nude Relay. And there’s a lot of love in Love & Haight too, especially between Chloe and the boy she wishes she’d waited for."

"Daring, insightful, romantic, and wonderfully honest. Carlton has created characters that feel so real, you'll be thinking about them long after you finish this fascinating book."
   —Candace Bushnell, author The Carrie Diaries

"Caught between 'An Old-Fashioned Love Song' and 'Stairway to Heaven,' Chloe's trying to figure out her own morality in the midst of Haight-Ashbury, ground zero for trippy hippies in 1971. Carlton's novel is lyrical, honest and moving."
   —Ellen Wittlinger
"What a gorgeous book. It turns out your heart isn't all you can lose in San Francisco. Brilliantly, Carlton captures the heady pace and jubilation of an era and the heartache of a girl who must pay the consequences for letting it all hang out. Ah, but there isn't an ounce of moralizing here. Carlton's writing is so smart and funny and vivid and...well, I give it a 9.0 on the Richter Scale of Fabulosity!"
   —Tim Wynne-Jones, author of Blink & Caution

SUSAN CARLTON says "one of the best parts of writing Love & Haight was cueing up old albums on the turntable. This playlist is heavy on the San Francisco sound—bands that came of age along with drugs and love and peace and happenings. It's the music of the Grateful Dead but lots more (I cheated with Tom Waits—his album came out a year later—but he's too awesome to leave off). Here's my dream line up. (PLAYLIST) These are songs to write to, dance to, cook to, make out to."  

Order your reviewer's copy now.