Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

I usually make it a practice not to read any literature meant for an audience younger than seventeen years of age because I tend to judge it too harshly. However, I received this book at a conference over a year ago, and was intrigued with the plotline since it was written about Hurricane Katrina (2005).

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in the Ninth Ward with Mama Ya-Ya, her elderly guardian ever since her mother died giving birth to her. As the story progresses, the reader learns that Mama Ya-Ya has "the sight" that allows her to sense the fast approach of Hurricane Katrina. As citizens in the Ninth Ward prepare for the hurricane, Mama Ya-Ya's visions grow worse, and the reader learns that many of them didn't refuse to flee because of ignorance; they didn't flee because they couldn't afford hotels and gas. Unfortunately, no one was prepared for the devastation that hit New Orleans that day.

In an eloquent writing style, Rhodes does a superb job of using imagery that creates an understanding of the fear that ran throughout the Ninth Ward as Hurricane Katrina hit and the flood waters rose. She humanizes the people who lived in that part of New Orleans and shows that many of them had nothing and nowhere to go. In a land of plenty, it's often easy to forget about the ones who have barely enough.

Although this book is about Hurricane Katrina, it's told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl. In addition, it's fictive writing, which means that it takes a real-life event and creates details that may or may not be completely accurate in an effort to tell a descriptive story. Although I enjoyed reading about Mama Ya-Ya's mysticism since it is an important aspect of Southern culture around New Orleanes, others may be turned off by the fantastical elements within this text. Basically, if you're looking for a nonfiction account of Hurricane Katrina, you won't want to read this one, but if you're looking for another creative perspective, then give it a try.

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