In an ambitious blend of fact and fiction, including family secrets, documents from the era, and a thin, fragmentary case file unsealed by the court, novelist Sheila O’Connor tells the riveting story of V, a talented fifteen-year-old singer in 1930s Minneapolis who aspires to be a star. Drawing on the little-known American practice of incarcerating adolescent girls for “immorality” in the first half of the twentieth century, O’Connor follows young V from her early work as a nightclub entertainer to her subsequent six-year state school sentence for an unplanned pregnancy. As V struggles to survive within a system only nominally committed to rescue and reform, she endures injustices that will change the course of her life and the lives of her descendants.
Inspired by O’Connor’s research on her unknown maternal grandmother and the long-term effects of intergenerational trauma, Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions is a poignant excavation of familial and national history that remains disturbingly relevant—a harrowing story of exploitation and erasure, and the infinite ways in which girls, past and present, are punished for crimes they didn’t commit. O’Connor’s collage novel offers an engaging balance between illuminating a shameful and hidden chapter of American history and captivating the reader with the vivid and unforgettable character of V.