Friday, March 2, 2012

Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Hurricane Katrina remains a landmark event in the lives of everyone who lived through it or even observed it from afar. It affected all of us in the United States, to one degree or another. Of course, most of us who do not make our home in New Orleans or the other areas directly impacted by Katrina can have no idea what those residents went through. There are some who understand, having lived through their own disasters, but the majority of us are in blessed ignorance.

Lanesha, born to a teen mother who died in childbirth, has been raised for all of her twelve years in New Orleans' Ninth Ward by Mama Ya-Ya, the midwife who helped bring her into the world. Lanesha may have been disowned and ignored by the uptown family of her mother, but Mama Ya-Ya has always made sure she feels loved and cared for. The wise woman has encouraged her and taught her in the use of her special gifts and made sure that she had all she really needed.

Mama Ya-Ya has her own special gifts, and she dreams of the hurricane several days before it hits. Her dreams leave her confused, and she retreats into herself, leaving Lanesha to continue preparations for the coming storm. For her part, Lanesha's love for Mama Ya-Ya fills her with a courage she didn't know she could have and a resourcefulness she never dreamed she possessed. With the help of a new friend, she manages to survive the flooding of the Ninth Ward with her spirit intact and a new depth of confidence.

Jewell Parker Rhodes has given us a moving story of the power of love, the gift of friendship, and the ability to recover from that which we thought might break us.

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