Delia’s Song recounts a young woman’s maturation during the turbulence of student riots and civil rights movements in academic institutions during the late 1960’s. The novel is divided into three sections and consists of twelve chapters.
The story begins with a flashback in an italicized passage that suggests the intensity of Delia’s emotional state. The book then switches immediately into the central event of the main plot, which took place earlier in the novel’s chronology. The disjointed nature of the plot requires the reader to remain attentive to cues within the narrative in order to make chronological sense of the sequence of events, but the unconventional structure is one of the novel’s best features.
Delia, dressed as the Carmelite Santa Teresa and overwhelmed by suddenly erupting memories of fire, terror, and threatening predators, has an emotional blackout as she contemplates a tenacious single yellow rose hanging to its branch in November (the rose is a unifying symbol throughout the narrative). She falls, swooning, and is rescued by none other than James Joyce himself, or so it seems to the distracted Delia, who is herself not who she seems in this scene. Gathering her wits, she continues to her destination, a “Day of the Dead” costume party given by Mattie Johnson, her mentor.
The narrative then shifts to the story’s chronological beginning, as a nineteen-year-old Delia is introduced to the highly charged political campus life at Berkeley. She meets Samuel, Jeff, and Sara and begins her involvement with the social movement to establish a department for Third World studies at the university. The students and idealistic activists of MASC (the Mexican American Student Confederation) are taken with Delia’s mysterious but intelligent personality.
The political and sexual tensions build. The confrontation between the students and the administration culminates in a conflict with the police, the sting of tear gas, and sudden mayhem. In the midst of all the upheaval, Jeff and Delia kiss, ostensibly to divert attention from themselves as activists, but obviously with much passion. Their kiss creates a romantic connection that forms the love theme of the novel, but the could-be lovers are soon star-crossed, separated by youthful misunderstandings when Jeff, heroically carrying a wounded Delia away...
(The entire section is 972 words.)