Emily's Reviews > Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
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Mar 07, 12

bookshelves: ya, historical-fiction, verse, children-s-chapter
Read in September, 2000

Lit Log for
Out of the Dust
By Karen Hesse

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse provides a glimpse into the personal side of the Dust Bowl during the Depression years. Hesse’s verse is easy to read cover-to-cover or as self-contained poems.
Reading through this book, I felt I needed at times to put the book down because Billie’s life kept getting worse and worse. To be a young teenager living in the Dust Bowl was bad enough, but to know that her father wanted a boy, to be burned, have her mother die, then her baby brother, then the crops fail, and on and on was almost overwhelming.
Billie spends a great deal of the book trying to figure out who she is. This is evident from the first page where she lets the readers know that her father wanted a boy, not a “long-legged girl / with a wide mouth / and cheekbones like bicycle handles” or “a redheaded, freckle-faced, narrow-hipped girl / with a fondness for apples / and a hunger for playing fierce piano” (Hesse 3). Billie struggles to reconcile who she is with what she thinks her father wants of her throughout the book, especially after her mother dies.
Billie’s greatest identity crisis seems to happen after her hands are burned and she can no longer play the piano. She lost the one thing she felt defined who she was and the one thing that allowed her to escape from the depressing world and never-ending dust. This aspect of the book particularly touched me. Most people, especially adolescents have a way of escaping the world they live in, whether it is through music, books, running or computers. And most adolescents, like Billie, have a moment at least when they desperately want to run away from it all.
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