Synopses & Reviews
On the eve of the Great Depression, Verna Krone, the child of Irish immigrants, must leave the eighth grade and begin working as a maid to help support her family. Her employer takes inappropriate liberties, and as Verna matures, it seems as if each man she meets is worse than the last. Through sheer force of will and a few chance encounters, she manages to teach herself to read and becomes a nurse. But Verna’s new life falls to pieces when she is arrested for assisting a black doctor with "illegal surgeries." As the media firestorm rages, Verna reflects on her life while awaiting trial.
Based on the life of the author’s own grandmother and written after almost three hundred interviews with those involved in the real-life scandal, The Blue Orchard is as elegant and moving as it is exact and convincing. It is a dazzling portrayal of the changes America underwent in the first fifty years of the twentieth century. Readers will be swept into a time period that in many ways mirrors our own. Verna Krone’s story is ultimately a story of the indomitable nature of the human spirit—and a reminder that determination and self-education can defy the deforming pressures that keep women and other disenfranchised groups down.
"In what could be a modern classic, poet and fiction writer Taylor takes an unblinking look at abortion in America many decades before Roe v. Wade. Introducing Verna Crone as she's arrested in her home in 1954, Taylor then transports readers to her poor Pennsylvania beginnings, yanked out of school as a teenager to help support her family. Raped by her first employer, Verna soon undergoes an abortion, illegally administered by a country midwife. After another pregnancy leaves her with a son, Verna enlists her mom's help and returns to the city to become a nurse; before long, Verna begins working for Dr. Crampton, a well-to-do African-American doctor who performs illegal abortions. Conflicted at first, Verna quickly grows accustomed to the money and finds herself less upset with every procedure; it's only after Crampton runs afoul of some state politicos that the two are arrested. In this powerful, vivid debut novel, Taylor parses issues of race, power, and religion in unflinching terms while believably inhabiting the mind of a conflicted woman." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[Taylor] illuminates the thorny ways of class, race, and gender. This is an amazing book." -- MARIE PONSOT, National Book Critics Circle award winner and author of Springing and Easy
"The Blue Orchard held me in its spell. Taylor is a master storyteller and his novel is riveting, substantial, and unforgettable." -- WALLY LAMB, author of The Hour I First Believed
"If you want to understand Roe v. Wade, Civil Rights, Nixon, Vietnam, Free Love, Free Sex, Pop Art, Howl, feminism, and the death of white gloves and veiled hats -- then read The Blue Orchard." -- ULTRA VIOLET, author of Famous for Fifteen Minutes: My Life with Andy Warhol
"The Blue Orchard is a revelation, an insightful look at a girl born into poverty and ignorance with a mind of her own and the courage to act on it. We all need to read and remember this story." -- HETTIE JONES, author of How I Became Hettie Jones
"This novel re-creates wonderfully a time, a place, and a circumstance in American life
that drove women and men alike to break a law that could never—and will never—be obeyed.
I found myself stirred repeatedly."—VIVIAN GORNICK, author of Fierce Attachments
"The Blue Orchard is a classic, a great American novel that will astonish and quicken
dead and bored parts of our hearts. If Jackson Taylor never writes another word he has
made his mark with The Blue Orchard." —SAPPHIRE, author of Push
"Taylor is a master storyteller and his novel is riveting, substantial,
and unforgettable." —WALLY LAMB
"A work of overwhelming tenderness, unflinching veracity, delicacy, and
restraint. I was engaged and moved from start to finish by Jackson Taylor’s storytelling art."
—PHILLIP LOPATE, author of Notes on Sontag
About the Author
Jackson Taylor is the Associate Director of The New School's Graduate Writing Program, which he helped launch, and where he teaches. For more than fifteen years he has been the Director of The Prison Writing Program at PEN American Center
. His short fiction has appeared in Spit, Pink, Moss
, and his poems have appeared in Lit
, Sleeping Fish
, and others. For three years he worked at The New York Times
in the Culture, Arts and Leisure, and the National desks. He holds a BA from Columbia
and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College
. He lives in Manhattan