Grand Avenue

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 357

GRAND AVENUE is named after the street that is home to an extended family of three generations of Pomo Indians. The older generation tries to make sense of their lives through the old beliefs and rituals. The younger generation is mostly lost in their various confusion and pain.

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In “The Magic Pony,” Jasmine doubts her aunt and cousin in their reliance on dreams. “The Progress of This Disease” features Anna, who agonizes over daughter Jeanne’s cancer and daydreams about coming from the reservation. In “Slaughterhouse,” Frankie goes with a group of boys to the slaughterhouse to spy on prostitutes, and inside finds Ruby, Jasmine’s cousin, with whom he is in love. In the story “Waiting for the Green Frog,” Nellie, the singer/healer of the community, tells about the green frog first appearing to her to show her how to sing. Albert, Anna’s husband and Jeanne’s father, is the main character of “Joy Ride,” in which he picks up a young girl who makes him think of Mollie, who haunted him sexually for years. In “How I Got to Be Queen,” Alice, one of Mollie’s daughters, scares away her sister Justine’s attackers with the family shotgun. The story “Sam Tom’s Last Song” shows how Sam Toms, a song stealer, tries to move in with Nellie. In “The Indian Maid,” Stella listens to her mother’s story about being a maid for a rich white woman. “Secret Letters” portrays Steven Pen, who finds his illegitimate son and becomes obsessed with knowing him. In the story “The Water Place,” Alice shows up at Nellie’s house to learn how to make baskets and to sing, bringing the generations full circle and giving hope that the traditions will not be lost.

As all the stories but one are told from the first-person perspective, each story provides a completely new perspective on the community, and each new detail helps to explain the complex relationships and secrets within it. Drawing on Sarris’ firsthand experience of life on Grand Avenue, the stories formed the basis of a 1996 made-for-television film that aired on Home Box Office (HBO).

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