title: The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary
author: Nonieqa Ramos
date: Carolrhoda Lab; March 2018
main character: Macy Cashmere
The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by Nonieqa Ramos is her debut book. I received an ARC to review.
Macy is a high school student with an individualized education plan. She spends her days in Special Education classrooms where she and her friend, George, are expected to be intellectually stunted because they learns differently.
“Teacher Man glares at us. He is annoyed because our ignorant asses broke the school firewall again to check social media posts, but we can’t even pass a daily quiz.” (p. 2-3)
Her bestie, Alma is brilliant in school but needs Macy to protect her in real life.
I made the mistake of wanting to know more about George and I was told more. And, I wanted Alma to be better developed. And she was. This book delivers the unexpected in powerful ways.
You can try to read it on your terms, but Macy will not let you. She claims these pages, defines her own vocabulary and uses the grammar she finds most proper.
Me: “Alma always never posts pics of herself. Even her profile pic is of one of her kids. Check it out. This girl is Alma’s mini-me. She always never—“
“Macy! George!” Teacher Man is staring us down. “Let’s talk about why we cannot use the words always and never in the same sentence.”
“What do you mean by we?” I lean way back in my seat. People are always talking like that to me. Saying our and we.
Our plan for Macy is… I think we can all agree that…We don’t want THAT to happen, do we?
Teach pops a cap off a black marker and writes the sentence I said on the whiteboard in Caps Lock.
ALMA ALWAYS NEVER DOES THAT.
He’s trying to turn this into what he calls a teachable moment. Like that time he made us proofread all the graffiti in the bafroom.
With a red marker, he crosses out the word always and rereads it. He says, “See, always is what we call superfluous. It’s clutter.”
Clutter? Like he knows my life.
This story has texture; it’s not a simple tale. I think readers who limit themselves to traditional story elements such as plot and character development for analysis, will miss the crucial ways that Macy empowers herself. Those readers will cling to providing attention to typical power structures like schools and families that are there but not there. They’ll stick to traditional beliefs and judgments and not be open to accepting Macy’s world. And, they’ll want grief in places where tears will lead to floodwaters. There’s no room for that here. Rather than judging her poverty or her lack, it’s important to identify her survival techniques and to note her isolation. I’m too used to writing those kinds of reviews.
Disturbed Girls Dictionary is told somewhat in a series of vignettes, a fragmented story of a whole girl.