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“Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes is a deceptive book in that it is not actually about Hurricane Katrina. The novel, which is set in New Orleans in the days preceding and through the disaster, is really a remarkably thoughtful and exceptionally written coming of age story centered around a young African-American girl named Laneesha. Rhodes uses the backdrop of the storm, but what she really focuses the readers attention on is strength of character, questions of belonging, ideas of family and, most of all, hope in oneself and others. In the midst of all these things is a special brand of magical realism that incorporates the mystery and spirit of the city of New Orleans. The reader is catapulted into life within the ninth ward and into Laneesha's story so that when the storm hits, we believe in the journey that unfolds for Laneesha and her family. While Hurricane Katrina plays an important role in the book, its effect is limited by the way in which it acts as a catalyst for Laneesha's movement toward adulthood. If you are looking for a novel that lays blame about the devastation of New Orleans' Ninth Ward, this is not it. If you are interested in a novel that captures the essence of New Orleans and its people while simultaneously illustrating how tragedy makes us stronger, Ninth Ward is a must read.”
— Tara Baldridge, 57th Street Books, Chicago, IL