Blackbird Fly


“While you look so sweetly and divine, I can feel you here.

I see your eyes are busy kissing mine, and I do, I do.

Wondering what it is they’re expecting to see,

Should someone be looking at me?”

-- George Harrison, “Let it Down”

“My mother frowned. ‘Your father gave you that nickname.’

“I thought of my father’s name written in black marker on Abbey Road. When you write your name on something, it means it’s really important to you, so it must have been one of his most prized possessions. I always thought that meant he was creative and smart. But if he was so creative and smart, why did he give me such a stupid nickname? Did he ever think about how it would make me feel? Did he ever think about how my name would look when I had to write it on things?

“I swallowed. ‘I don’t care.’ And why should I? The only information I had about my father besides the tape were a few fuzzy memories and a postcard from our island in the Philippines, and that’s not really information, it’s just a picture of where we lived. There aren’t even any people in the picture. Just a white sandy beach and blue water. My mother’s always saying that she moved us to America to have a better life, and I still haven’t figured out how Chapel Spring, Louisiana, is better than a white sandy beach. When we first moved here, I’d stare at the postcard and imagine my mother and father holding hands and standing with their feet in the water, but now I keep in my nightstand under a pile of old notebooks. What’s the point?”

When Apple Yengko was younger, other children were not so outwardly judgmental about Apple being the only Asian-looking kid at school or about her having a heavily-accented mother who cooked differently. But now it is middle school, and many of Apple’s former friends are caught up in impressing boys and each other. No doubt their own insecurities make them feel that it’s a liability to hang with someone different, someone the not-so-bright boys make fun of by claiming she’s a dog-eater, someone who isn’t beautiful in that stereotypical manner.

Things might be different if this was a multicultural-rich metropolis, but Chapel Spring, Louisiana is anything but multicultural rich.

On top of her problems with her peers, Apple’s immigrant mother won’t even discuss Apple’s obsessive desire to get a guitar and learn to play. In her mind, Apple figures that, like her dead hero George Harrison who left school to join The Beatles, Apple can escape Chapel Spring by becoming a great guitarist.

After her friends abandon her, in the wake of Apple’s being listed on the “dog log” (the ugly girls list) that the boys compile, she becoming friends with a Evan, a newly-arrived California boy who sees the local unintellegencia for who they are, and with Heleena, the most despised girl at school--the fat girl--who turns out to be an incredible vocalist. Thanks to a music teacher’s generosity and the support of her new friends, Apple is able to at least make some of her dreams come true.

BLACKBIRD FLY, which is a phrase from the McCartney song “Blackbird,” is a feel-good, there-is-a-better-way book in the same vein as James Howe’s THE MISFITS.

For instance, when a so-called “beautiful” girl is traumatized by being put on the boys’ “hot” list and then having a lot of hormonal boys falsely claiming that they got to “make out” with her, it reminded me of Joe’s cousin Pam in THE MISFITS. 

"And in the end, the love you take

Is equal to the love you make."

-- Paul McCartney

Reading BLACKBIRD FLY made me feel really happy.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, Instructor, San Jose State University

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