They say I was born with a caul, a skin netting covering my face like a glove. My mother died birthing me. I would've died, too, if Mama Ya-Ya hadn't sliced the bloody membrane from my face. I let out a wail when she parted the caul, letting in first air, first light.Lanesha and Mama Ya-Ya live in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. If you are old enough to remember Hurricane Katrina, you probably also remember the Ninth Ward was flooded after that storm which destroyed houses and killed people.
Every year on my birthday, Mama Ya-Ya tells me the same story. "Lanesha, your eyes were the lightest green. With the tiniest specks of yellow. With them eyes, and that caul, I knew you'd have the sight." Mama Ya-Ya smacks her lips and laughs. Afterwards, we always have cake. Chocolate. Today, I'm twelve. I've eaten three pieces of cake.
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes was chosen for the online African-American Read-In and Discussion, which I wrote about earlier. In my next posts, I'll answer some (if not all) of these questions posed by the discussion leaders:
Vasilly @ 1330v (Monday)
- The Ninth Ward is one of the newest additions to the magic realism genre. As you read Lanesha’s story, how did you feel about the fantastical elements such as Mama Ya-Ya’s visions or the ghosts that lingered throughout the neighborhood?
- This was the first book I’ve read that dealt with Hurricane Katrina and some of the issues surrounding it like Mama Ya-Ya and Lanesha being too poor to evacuate before the storm. Have you read a book that dealt with this hurricane before? Whether or not you have, how did the storm’s role in the book feel to you? Could you imagine it and its aftermath as you were reading or was it vague?
- Last but not least, what did you think of Lanesha?
- Many times when I read novels, I find myself moved by its rhythms and tempo that I associate with a particular genre of music. That being said what genre of music does Ninth Ward bring to mind? (Sometimes it helps to visual it)
- The setting of New Orleans could be considered a character in its own right. How well do you think the author developed this central piece of Ninth Ward? Is there anything you would've changed or wanted more of?
- Doret's interview with the author.
- Lanesha talks a lot about symbols in the book. She mentions words, numbers and math as symbols. I found other symbols in the book; what symbols did you find? What did they mean to you?
- My grandmother was like a second mother to me. My sister and grandmother both had 6 fingers. I was in the NOLA train station that summer before the hurricane hit and I’ll always remember the beautiful murals in that building. I cannot think of a deeper way the story relates to me, thankfully my coming of age was nothing like Lanesha’s. How does the story relate to you?