Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fantasy + History + Disaster Fiction = Whoa.

Stormwitch by Susan Vaught

Hurricane Camille, fantasy, historical fiction, the Civil Rights movement, Dr. King, African history, Freedom Summer, Amiri Baraka, Jim Crow, Amazon warriors, the KKK, and voodoo. All in one book. Written for a YA audience. I read this book straight through in a two hour sitting, and then my head exploded out of sheer admiration.

Then I put my head back together again so I could tell y'all about it.

The year is 1969, and 16-year-old Ruba is forced to leave her beloved Haiti after her grandmother, Ba, dies. She moves to Pass Christian, MS to live with her paternal grandmother, who tells her not to wander too far from home and to keep her head down when she talks to white people. In Haiti, Ruba was a storm warrior alongside Ba; together, they conjured, danced, and drove back hurricanes and controlled the weather. Ruba is descended from Amazon warrior women - she doesn't keep her head down for anyone.

Ruba's confidence, pride, and power attract the attention of local Klansmen, who are determined to teach the "juju girl" a lesson. But Ruba scarcely has time to contend with them because there's a storm in the air, and her senses tell her it's an evil one that could kill them all unless she stays to fight it. You all know of it as Hurricane Camille.

Vaught does a good job of characterizing the differences in ideals between older and younger African-Americans, and in allowing the generations to learn from one another. At the beginning of the book, Ruba thinks Grandma Jones is a complacent fool, but as she learns more about the role Jones played during Freedom Summer, she begins to reconsider. Likewise, Grandma Jones's attitude towards Ruba and her firebrand friends also changes throughout the course of the book.

Crossing fantasy with historical fiction, Stormwitch is a truly inventive, ambitious, and impressive novel that can be enjoyed by adults and young adults alike.

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