Alma Presses Play by Tina Cane ff. Tina Cane, former French teacher at Friends and present poet laureate of the state of Rhode Island, offers a fresh look at what it feels like to be thirteen. Alma is a New York kid living in the East Village; her world begins with her family, a Chinese mother and a Jewish father, and extends outward to her block and to the wider community around her. One half of her belongs to a culture where Lunar New Year is a major holiday and the wok is always in use; the other offers her Jewish humor, bar mitzvas and knishes.
Her Walkman provides the soundtrack of her life, her school presents her with mythology, which she uses just as the ancients did – to try to explain to herself what it’s all about -- and her local sweet shop offers candy for every occasion, from rooftop gab fests with her friends to hanging out on stoops, watching the neighborhood’s endless pageant.
The book is written in verse, and though it reads like a narrative with a story line, there is more introspection and word play than you would find in a prose novel. The events take a backseat to what Alma feels and thinks about the events. Young readers will love Alma for her generosity of spirit, her frank appraisal of adult foibles, and her search to understand and be understood. They will also love the image of Alma riding her bike through the streets of New York with her pony tail flying, feeling free.