Utopian communities don't fare much better in fiction than they do in real life. As the plot usually unfolds, a brave new world loses its luster fast when the failings of its founder are exposed, or when the community itself begins to morph into a cult. Think of Lauren Groff's Arcadia or Carolyn Parkhurst's Harmony, two recent novels that have imagined alternative communities and their inevitable crack-up.
Today's first half is about children who are orphaned after losing their parents to AIDS. Studies estimate that by the year 2000, up to 125,000 U.S. children will be left parentless because of the fatal illness. AIDS workers are now beginning to realize their next step is to help these secondary victims by providing homes, food and counseling. We interview two people on the subject; a single mother with AIDS, and the head of a project designed to address the needs of orphaned kids:
Baca co-wrote the screenplay for the new movie "Bound By Honor," about three young Chicano men from East Los Angeles and the different paths they take as they grow into adulthood. Baca is a Chicano who grew up in an orphanage in New Mexico and ended up in prison at the age of 20. He taught himself to read and write there. His collections of poetry include Black Mesa Poems and Immigrants in Our Own Land.
The renowned soloist says the nature of his instrument demands that he be flexible about also playing supportively in ensemble settings. He talks about how the death of his parents, both of whom were musicians, contributed to his artistic development.
Psychotherapist Eileen Simpson grew up as an orphan; her mother died from tuberculosis. As a young adult, she moved to Greenwich Village and married the poet John Berryman. Writing came to her later in life, after she split up with the renowned poet. Her new book is called Orphans: Real and Imaginary.
Book critic John Leonard says the memoir section of Eileen Simpson's new hybrid book, about her own experiences as an orphan, is compelling and insightful; her later meditations on the idea of orphanhood are less successful.