Friday, July 30, 2010

Ninth Ward

Having parents who have lived & worked just outside the French Quarter of New Orleans for over 11 years, I had to read this book by Jewell Parker Rhodes. It is a blending of fiction and spirituality based on true events.

Lanesha is mostly alone in her life. She doesn't have any friends to speak of. She's teased by kids in her neighborhood and at her school because of her yellow-green eyes. They call her spooky and a witch. Her only family is Mama Ya-Ya, the midwife who couldn't save Lanesha's mother when she gave birth to her. Unwanted by her mother's Uptown relatives, Lanesha and Mama Ya-Ya live contentedly in the Ninth Ward, a mostly poor and predominately black section of New Orleans. Mama Ya-Ya can see things and people coming before others know they are there - that is her gift.

As the story opens, Lanesha is celebrating her 12th birthday on Sunday, August 20, 2005. A few days later Mama Ya-Ya seems agitated like Lanesha has never seen...something is coming, something dangerous. They soon learn that this danger has a name: Katrina. Lanesha has always thought that it was Mama Ya-Ya that was the strength in their relationship but when Katrina hits, screaming like a wild animal, and the levees fail, Lanesha must be the strong one and fight for survival in their flooded city.

The story moves at a decent clip and is beautifully written. However, I don't think that this will be a book that kids pick up on their own. If asked to read it, they won't find themselves suffering through though. Lanesha is a strong character and children will be able to identify with her spirit.

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