“Sidetracks explores and interrogates the multiple meanings of gender and the relationships between gender and sexuality.”

       -Leisa D. Meyer, Assistant Professor of History College of William and Mary


Set against the turmoil of the Great Depression, two young women from opposite ends of the East Coast disguise themselves as boys and become hobos—Josephine Lee to go north to accept a college scholarship against her father’s wishes, and Maxine McCarthy to escape her step-father’s abuse and her family’s grinding poverty. When they eventually meet in a boxcar, “Joe” and “Max” decide to travel the rails together, forming an alliance and friendship, neither realizing that the other is also a girl. They face the freedoms and uncertainties of the road and of the times together, their journey taking them through soup kitchens, railway sidings, hobo encampments, small towns, rural byways and cities. Against the song of the freight train singing over silver rails, they find themselves beginning to fall in love, each still believing that the other is a boy. When the truth is finally revealed, Jo and Max are faced with the challenge of how to proceed with a new knowledge of self and other in an America where nothing is any longer certain. Will Jo choose to pass as a man in order to be with Maxine? Can Maxine overcome her fear of being different, her longing for home, in order to be with Jo?