Excerpt from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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My Heart Underwater

by Laurel Fantauzzo

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo X
My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo
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  • Published:
    Oct 2020, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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"So! Osnabrück. What is it?"

The class quiets. Now everyone seems shy and sleepy. Someone coughs. I stare at the sheen of my fake-laminate desk.

"Is Osnabrück the name of my cat?" Ms. Holden asks, leaning one arm against her podium. "Is it a bodily function?"

There are some laughs. I smile, hoping my smile seems as shy and neutral as the class laughing.

"Hmm. This is fun. Okay. If someone can come up and write a short summary of what occurred at Osnabrück in 1648—there, I gave it away, it's a place—I will raise that person's entire grade by five percent."

The class buzzes. I think of the minimum required grade point average for entering a University of California campus.

"But if no one knows the answer, I'll have to pop you another quiz," Ms. Holden says.

Melissa and Rika jab their hands into the air.

Melissa says, "Ms. Holden, we don't think this is very fair, since almost the whole class was at my house studying for the SAT. We're sorry we didn't get to the reading."

I feel anger grip my insides. Then it falls away. I'm unsurprised no one invited me.

"Huh," Ms. Holden says. "What kinda snacks do your parents provide for your study sessions, Grayson?"

Melissa pauses, confused. "Um, my mom isn't in charge of cooking, Maria is. She gave us turkey lettuce wraps. Why?"

Melissa doesn't specify who Maria is. She expects everyone to know Maria is her maid. My middle name is Maria. I hold back a tired sigh.

"Maybe if you bring me some of Maria's turkey lettuce wraps, you can bribe me into not giving you a pop quiz," Ms. Holden says. "Anyone else?"

I stifle a laugh. Melissa's eyes flare toward me, then she looks around for everyone to agree how messed up this is. The other girls nod and glance at each other.

Ms. Holden looks toward me again. I think, Mary! Mom! Dad! Sin! Quiz! I feel my eyes moving fast, flashing these random words to warn me away from wrongdoing, and I force my gaze down again.

"C'mere, Tagubio," Ms. Holden says.

Oh god.

I rise. Then I trip a little on my backpack strap. Some girls snicker. A smile dances across Ms. Holden's mouth. I want to see her teeth. What is wrong with me?!

I take the whiteboard marker. I think of my parents; my mom in front of a computer terminal, my dad in someone's yard. I could bring them the quiz, and the victory of a higher grade, all at once. I could hide, with my grades, the bigger truth: how I'm failing them in this moment, with the crush I can't control.

"Um," I say.

"Ja?" Ms. Holden says, and more girls laugh.

I remember a heading on one of our readings. "Peace of Westphalia and the Making of a New Europe." I write the first three words.

"Which was about?" Ms. Holden says.

"Independence," I say, since most of history seems to be about that anyway.

"You're feeding her answers!" Melissa cries.

"You're full of turkey," Ms. Holden replies without looking at Melissa, and the class laughs, shocked.

I look at Ms. Holden's mischievous eyes, her serious mouth. I want her to keep looking at me. I don't even care anymore that the rest of the class is looking at me too.

Is this what opens the door in my brain? Is Ms. Holden's attention the thing that crowds out my terror and brings the answer rushing forward?

I remember key words in a yellow box in our textbook, a grand, grave painting of dozens of longhaired European men.

"Sovereignty! Osnabrück is where the second treaty was signed. The first treaty was at Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years' War. The treaty at Osnabrück started a new political order in Europe. The Peace of Westphalia. Westphalian sovereignty!"

"Sehr gut!" Ms. Holden says, pumping her fist. "From a B to an A minus."

But now I can't stop. "The Thirty Years' War began with the Defenestration of Prague. The Protestants threw the Catholics out the window to signify their defiance to the people in power. But no one died, which, I mean, is good; it was more symbolic—"

Excerpted from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo. Copyright © 2020 by Laurel Fantauzzo. Excerpted by permission of Quill Tree Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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