Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions

Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions

by Sheila O'Connor


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Fiction. Hybrid Genre. Women's Studies. Criminal Justice Studies. In an ambitious blend of fact and fiction, including family secrets, documents from the era, and a thin, fragmentary case file unsealed by the court, novelist Sheila O'Connor tells the riveting story of V, a talented fifteen-year-old singer in 1930s Minneapolis who aspires to be a star. Drawing on the little-known American practice of incarcerating adolescent girls for "immorality" in the first half of the twentieth century, O'Connor follows young V from her early work as a nightclub entertainer to her subsequent six-year state school sentence for an unplanned pregnancy. As V struggles to survive within a system only nominally committed to rescue and reform, she endures injustices that will change the course of her life and the lives of her descendants. Inspired by O'Connor's research on her unknown maternal grandmother and the long-term effects of intergenerational trauma, Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions is a poignant excavation of familial and national history that remains disturbingly relevant a harrowing story of exploitation and erasure, and the infinite ways in which girls, past and present, are punished for crimes they didn't commit. O'Connor's collage novel offers an engaging balance between illuminating a shameful and hidden chapter of American history and captivating the reader with the vivid and unforgettable character of V.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


This introspective tale from O’Connor (Until Tomorrow, Mr. Mars) explores and imagines the difficult life of the author’s maternal grandmother. When O’Connor was in her late 40s, she and her mother, June, were given access to June’s sealed adoption record. They discovered that, in 1935, when June’s birth mother, V, was a pregnant 15-year-old, she was committed to the Minnesota Home for Girls, Sauk Centre. In riveting juxtaposition of prose and historical research, O’Connor recreates an almost Atwoodian reality where girls, some as young as eight or nine, were labeled “sex delinquents” and forced to reside in group homes designed to reform and domesticate them. Using the details in June’s adoption file, O’Connor imagines the circumstances that may have led to V’s employment as a “showgirl” at Minneapolis’s Cascade Club. The story follows V’s intimate relationship with 35-year-old Mr. C, her attempt to escape Sauk Centre, the forced adoption of June after three months of state-enforced breastfeeding, V’s escape from working as hired help in a wealthy household, and the tragic end of her life soon after. V’s harrowing tale highlights the stark reality of an all-too-recent past where victims of sexual abuse were scapegoated for their perpetrator’s crimes. O’Connor’s engrossing, powerful narrative will appeal to those who enjoy the work of Amy Bloom. (Oct.)

From the Publisher

"Written in compelling, creative, and near poetic prose, O'Connor vividly introduces the reader to V—a promising 15-year-old singer in 1930s Minnesota, sentenced to a reformatory for sexual delinquency. O'Connor uses a mix of fiction with historical case file information to illustrate the myriad ways such facilities exploited, misunderstood, silenced, and traumatized young women who were deemed insolent, damaged, and mendacious. Kin to Girl, Interrupted, Evidence of V gives a keen sense of how we have punished (and continue to punish) girls for non-criminal violations, often in a misguided effort to 'rescue and save.'"—Lisa Pasko, author of The Female Offender: Girls, Women, and Crime

"With grace and aplomb, Sheila O'Connor's Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions shines a bright literary light on a dark page of American history. To every 'tuff' girl, to every girl who ran wild or got in trouble, to every girl who had to make her own way or raise herself, and to every adult who ever knew such a girl, O'Connor's new novel is for you. O'Connor tells the story of her grandmother V, institutionalized for her sexuality. When our power is too great, when shaming doesn't work, when they don't know what else to do, they lock us up. V is our grandmother, our auntie, our long-ago sister, and our defiant best friend. V is us."—Maureen Gibbon, author of Paris Red

"In trying to tell the story of V—a rebellious teenager with guts and smarts—Sheila O'Connor has written a novel that is as bold, non-compliant, and exceptional as its protagonist. The reader will root for V as she endures alienation, loss, and institutional cruelties (just to name a few of her struggles), but the reader will also root for O'Connor, who, as a writer and descendant of V, uses her artistry, intellect, and affecting literary powers to try to know what is ultimately unknowable. In the end, Evidence of V is both a novel and an ontological question, as in, is it possible to know (truly know) who and where we come from, and if not, what stories will we invent to fill that void?"—Nami Mun, author of Miles from Nowhere

"Evidence of V is unlike anything I have ever read. Exhilarating, heart-breaking, and haunting, the experience of V's life and times scintillates and sears long afterward. Part mystery novel, poem cycle, police report, ethnographic study, noir screenplay, historical account, existential spreadsheet, medical report, legal history, hometown newspaper article, meta-feminist account, writer's diary, literary collage, psychological assessment, family memoir, social criticism, and several other forms that are uncategorizable, by the end, the reader realizes, through Sheila O'Connor's masterful artistry, that at the heart of the 'lie' of this fiction, lurk deeper truths—that our ancestors and their traumas can never fully be known to us and each of our family histories is a complicated mix of truth and lore and absence."—Ed Bok Lee, author of Mitochondrial Night

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941628195
Publisher: Rose Metal Press
Publication date: 10/15/2019
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 129,380
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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