It’s tough to find a book that takes on a challenging issue relevant to teens and manages to twist it from what could be a trite retelling to a new, imaginative, and fresh take. Thalia Chaltas in Because I Am Furniture is successful, though, in her story about an abusive father.
Because I Am Furniture is told in verse and follows Anke as she witnesses the physical, mental, verbal, and sexual abuse of her brother, mother, sister, and friend. Anke is spared nearly all of this abuse because she is space taker in the family, and that is all — she is, as the title states, furniture in the family. Her father is an abuser and because of the fear that her family has in furthering his anger, they do not report him nor speak about the terror he causes. That is, until Anke witnesses a girl with whom she is friendly come under the power of her father’s abuse. When Anke is told that nothing will stop her father, she knows that because of her role as the family furniture, she can use that as her power to change the family’s situation for the better.
Imaginatively and creatively told through verse, Because I Am Furniture broaches many difficult teen topics from the perspective of an outsider. The verse enhances this perspective, as it is just descriptive enough and sparse enough to leave the reader wanting something to happen but ultimately understanding the feeling of helplessness. Chaltas is spot on in her storytelling, and she paces the story perfect. The book is a quick read, but it is not a fast enough read at the expense of the story and the emotion. This is the type of story that a reader will sit down with and go cover to cover with in one sitting.
Because I Am Furniture would be a fantastic companion novel for any of the novels about abuse or rape available, including Halse Anderson’s Speak. What makes this book stand out from the crowd is not only its imaginative and thoughtful use of verse rather than traditional narrative style, but also the important lessons that can be learned from Anke, including the lessons she learns about the importance of all people in a family. This is the sort of book that will resonate with readers and could inspire them to better themselves by not being afraid of being who they are. Anke goes from furniture and accepting her lot as such to learning how important she is as an individual in all of the varied roles she plays in her life within and outside her family.