Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.
Miss Riki’s Review:
I devoured this book in one sitting. Coming from Jewell Parker Rhodes, I knew the writing would be excellent and the prose absolutely elegant in every way, but I never expected to go on the emotional journey that this book took me on. Knowing the book is about Hurricane Katrina had me prepared for something devastating, but despite the obvious tragic ending, this novel is full of hope.
Lanesha is a smart, insightful young lady who has a deeper spiritual connection with the world around her than most. She is resourceful and bright in overcoming the worst of odds as her home is flooded. I fell in love with Lanesha and with Mama Ya-Ya, who is the ultimate in maternal figures, despite the fact that she is not Lanesha’s birth mother. The beauty of Ninth Ward is in the elements of magical realism that allow Lanesha to both connect with Mama Ya-Ya as well as cope with the ultimate loss of her community.
Besides being just a story about the incredible ties of family, it is also a story of the interminable spirit of friendship. Lanesha and TaShon are amazing characters that forge an unbreakable bond through their fight for survival. They never give up on each other, despite any previous misgivings, and I cheered out loud for their success in overcoming incredible adversity.
Ninth Ward is riveting, with brilliant characters and a vivid description of setting. It is a beautiful combination of historical accuracy and magical realism. Read it out loud to your children or sit back and enjoy it yourself. Jewell Parker Rhodes is a master storyteller.