School Library Journal
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Gr 6-10-This story offers a smooth blend of historical fact, suspense, and magic. In August 1969, Haitian-born, orphaned Ruba Cleo moves to Pass Christian, MS, to live with her grandmother. Despite the woman's stern Christian disapproval, Ruba clings to her belief in the ancestral lineage and power of the Dahomey Amazon women whose blood is in her veins. From her recently deceased Haitian grandmother, Ba, the 16-year-old learned chants, spells, and herbal potions that empower her to face destructive forces. When she encounters hostility and racism in the local community, her warrior psyche impedes her understanding of her grandmother's fears and struggles. However, as Ruba learns about Freedom Summer and the sacrifices of the civil rights workers, she begins to recognize and appreciate the warrior spirit in others. When Hurricane Camille slams into the Gulf Coast just as a white boy holds her and her family at gunpoint, Ruba musters her spiritual and emotional powers to save their lives and realizes that her training and perspective can be adapted to any time, situation, and place. Ruba's vivid descriptions and her reflective observations and lyrical letters to Ba belie early admission that she is learning and practicing English. Although the simultaneous timing of a gunpoint assault and the arrival of one of the century's worst hurricanes seems far-fetched, Ruba's tumultuous battle with the mystical stormwitch is compelling and liberating. Like her Mississippi cousins, readers will find Ruba an intriguing adolescent mix of cultural pride, emotional insecurity, and stubborn determination.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Gr. 7-10. In this forceful blend of fantasy and historical fiction, a girl calls on the magic of her African ancestors to fight racism and dark spiritual forces. In 1969, after her beloved grandmother Ba is killed, 16-year-old orphan Ruba moves from Haiti to coastal Mississippi, where her other grandmother lives. Ba trained Ruba in the fierce, powerful ways of their descendants, the Amazon warrior women from Africa's Dahomey, but Grandmother Jones thinks Ruba's spells, conjuring, and dances are Satan's Tools. Against her grandmother's protests, Ruba struggles to use her Amazonian powers to fight racist Klansmen and even a hurricane powered by a ruthless spirit. Long passages about Dahomey history and lore threaten to overwhelm the suspenseful action. Still, the details are fascinating. Some readers may be confused by Vaught's wild blend of history and magic (an author's note helps sort out what is real), but teens will easily relate to Ruba's desire for empowerment, her rage, and the provocative questions about justice, race, and the role of violence in creating change. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2005 Booklist