Raya falls in love with her best friend - who happens to be a girl. And unfortunately for them, they're both living in a very conservative Texas town. Despite their best efforts to be discreet, Raya and Sarah are found out and their Christian families ship them both off to a gay conversion camp.
The prose is unflinching and lyrical. Brynne Rebele-Henry crafts a tender, beautiful, and tragic story that parallels the Greek myth of Orpheus. The story could easily have been taken straight from the lives of any of the hundreds of LGBTQ teens who have survived the all-too-real horrors of the conversion camp industry that runs rampant in the dark underbelly of America. I can't speak highly enough about this book. In fact, it's so realistic that I would caution readers who have survived similar situations or had friends who have been disappeared to proceed with caution. Definitely read this book with tissues!— From Dean
In her debut novel, award-winning poet Brynne Rebele-Henry re-imagines the Orpheus myth as a love story between two teenage girls who are sent to conversion therapy after being caught together in an intimate moment.
Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya—obsessed with ancient myths—lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has been forced to hide her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are outed, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival, Raya vows to assume the mythic role of Orpheus to escape Friendly Saviors, and to return to the world of the living with her love—only becoming more determined after she, Sarah, and Friendly Saviors' other teen residents are subjected to abusive "treatments" by the staff.
In a haunting voice reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, with the contemporary lyricism of David Levithan, Brynne Rebele-Henry weaves a powerful inversion of the Orpheus myth informed by the real-world truths of conversion therapy. Orpheus Girl is a mythic story of dysfunctional families, trauma, first love, heartbreak, and ultimately, the fierce adolescent resilience that has the power to triumph over darkness and ignorance.
CW: There are scenes in this book that depict self-harm, homophobia, transphobia, and violence against LGBTQ characters.
About the Author
Brynne Rebele-Henry was born in 1999. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Rookie, and Blackbird, among other places. Her writing has won numerous awards, including the 2015 Louise Louis/Emily F. Bourne Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has two books of poetry: Fleshgraphs and Autobiography of a Wound, which won the AWP Donald Hall Poetry Prize and is a finalist for the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. Orpheus Girl is her first novel.
Praise for Orpheus Girl
“A haunting, brutally true stroke of genius.”
—Meredith Russo, Stonewall Award winning author of If I Was Your Girl
“This book is 175 pages of raw emotion and heart that has left me completely at a loss for words . . . an important work of fiction about a very real world issue . . . makes me want to don the Orpheus persona and save all the Eurydices of the world.”
—Nichole Cousins, White Birch Books (North Conway, NH)
Praise for Brynne Rebele-Henry
Finalist for the 2019 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry
Winner of the AWP 2017 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry
"With unflinching vision, Brynne Rebele-Henry pulls us into the trenches of young womanhood.”
—Julia Elliott, author of The Wilds
“I couldn’t get this one out of my mind. Brynne Rebele-Henry has such a singular, obsessive urgency to her voice."
—Kim Addonizio, author of the National Book Award Finalist Tell Me
“Rebele-Henry is unafraid to confront the darkness that lives in any crevice."
—Tarfia Faizullah, author of Seam
"Wise, startling . . . a poet to watch."