By Oregon Live/ Posted at
The hippie parents in the new novel “A Boy Named Trout” don’t sing “Kumbaya.”
They also don’t put flowers in their hair and don’t shower people with love. They do ingest lots of substances, indulge in frequent “free love,” steal, and neglect and beat their children.
They’re an extreme depiction of the hippie movement, says Portland writer Mercy Strongheart, but their world is not too different from the one she grew up in as a child of New Mexico hippies. This starker world is the one she explores in her debut novel.
“A Boy Named Trout” (Auctus Publishers, 216 pages, $16) follows the middle child of two hippies in rural New Mexico in the 1970s as he struggles to find solid footing within his volatile world. By the time Trout reaches his late teens, he and his siblings have left home, thoroughly disgusted with their parents. But it’s harder than the siblings think to break family bonds – for better or for worse.
Strongheart will hold a book launch party at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Portland nonprofit p:ear, 338 N.W. Sixth Ave. She’ll donate 20 percent of the evening’s book sales to the nonprofit, which provides safe space, education and programs to homeless and vulnerable youth.
Strongheart talked recently about her book; questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: Why did you want to write this book?
A: I grew up in a town that is very similar to the town in the book, which is a fictitious town. When I was a teenager, people started asking me – they’d hear I had grown up in the hippie scene and they started asking, “Oh, wasn’t that so great? Didn’t you just run around free all the time?” They had all these really romantic, wild ideals. And even though some of that was true, in general it was a really hard way to grow up.
One of the things I mention on the back cover of the book is the dictum “If it feels good, do it,” which is a hippie saying. But how a lot of people took that quite literally was, “If something gives you pleasure, then it is inherently morally good.” I have a lot of friends who were given hallucinogens at 2, 3, 4 years old.