2003 National Book Award Finalist:
Young People's Literature

Paul Fleischman


Cricket Books / A Marcato Book / Carus Publishing Company

About the Book

Having spent the majority of her life bouncing between foster homes, 17-year-old Audelia "Del" Thigpen is cynical beyond her years and tired of being "Del." In an attempt to escape both herself and Los Angeles, Del fakes her own death and hits the road. Her escape is hindered when she finds herself in the midst of an all-day traffic jam. Eight years later, it's the opening night of "Breakout," Del's one-woman play. As the narrative switches between present and future, Paul Fleischman traces the path of youthful experience transformed into art.

About the Author

A native Californian, Paul Fleischman grew up working as a typesetter for his family's hand printing press. He attended the University of California for two years before setting out to cross the country by train and bicycle. He is an author of numerous books, including works of poetry and historical fiction, and is also a musician and found-object sculptor. His father, young people's writer Sid Fleischman, was a National Book Award Finalist in 1979 for Humbug Mountain. After living in many parts of the United States and abroad, Paul Fleischman returned to the California coast, where he now lives with his wife, Patty. They have two grown sons.

Suggested Link


Selected Backlist

The Animal Hedge
The Borning Room
Bull Run
The Half-a-Moon Inn
I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices

Lost!: A Story in String




Los Angeles! City of tanned shoulders! Smog-spewing, pay-per-viewing, sit-com maker for the world! Mall builder! Pierced-tongue purveyor of tacos! Surfboard toter, deal closer, looter, shooter, barbecuer, black-jacketed valet parker of a million BMWs! City of thronged roads! Drive-through city! City whose dwellers see the sun through sunroofs, its rays pouring through like revelation and tanning the youthful, muscled, tattooed, sunscreened shoulders of Los Angeles!

Probably half the people in this theater moved here from there, right? You know what I'm talking about. L.A. Home of drive-in movies. Also drive-through burgers, bagels, banking, booze. Not to mention drive-in church. And why not? What is sitting in church like? Gridlock, without the bucket seats. In both cases, a good time to clean under your nails. A chance for profound examination of your behavior: "Why didn't I wait until rush hour was over?" Staring at the head in front of you, wondering if she did her hair by sticking it out the window at the carwash. Wondering if God meant you to wear bangs. Wondering when we can all go home.

Roads and revelation go together. Saint Paul had his vision on the road to Damascus. Blinded him. Knocked him flat on the ground.

Mine came on a road, too, in my twenty-fourth year. In L.A., on the San Diego Freeway. Northbound, near the Mulholland exit. A metaphysical, out-of-body, out-of-automobile experience. A Scenic Vista vision of Los Angeles, of the whole freeway of life.

Could we dim the lights just a little? Thanks.

Wow. Weird. That's exactly how it started with Saint Paul. He looked up and saw light. A blazing light from heaven. Struck him blind for three days.

Mine wasn't the three-day variety. It's been more than a year and it's still with me, still revealing itself, a flower in the mind, endlessly unfolding, a new petal every day.

Mine also started with light. Or rather, lights. Red lights. Thousands and thousands of them.

Copyright © 2003 Paul Fleischman