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The Color of My Wordsby Lynn Joseph
Synopses & Reviews
Sometimes you have no control over what will happen next, as I discovered the year I was twelve years old'but sometimes you do. And when you do, that's when it is time to take charge because you sure don't know when the chance will come again.
Saturday is wash day for Mami and medown by the river that flows to the sea.We carry the baskets high on our hips. We juggle the soap, the scrub board, and clips.
Our friends wave hola as we slippery-slide On river--age stones to the other side.Where sun rays glimmer on a whisper of shade.And Mami and me tie our hair up in braids.
Then WHACK! I smack the clothes on the rocksto scare out all dirt and grassy spots.Mami scrubs them up and down, and we both swirl them round and round.
Sparkling white, and river cleanthe clothes smell like fresh-air dreams.We clip them safe to bushes and treesto dry in the sun and flap in the breeze.Later, under the moon's blue lightMami and me smooth the wrinkled clothes right.We fold them into neat little squaresAnd take them back home for all to wear.
Wash day was the day i'd get Mami all to myself. For me it was the best day of the week. Unless it rained. Then I'd have to keep on sharing Mami with everyone, especially Papi, who sat on the porch and never moved. Mami had no time to pat her hair down, let alone share private thoughts the way we did on wash day.
At the river's edge, I'd tell Mami all the special things I had thought about during the week. If I wrote a new poem, I would recite it to her while we dipped our hands into the cool water. It was just me and her and the river. No other hands, no other ears.
Mami was the only person who knew I wanted to write bookswhen I grew up. I knew it was a strange thing to want to do, because we sure didn't know any writers around here. In fact, Papi told me that in the RepÚ blica Dominicana, only the President could write books.
Mami didn't say anything. She just kept turning her sheet over and over as she pounded away. Finally she looked up and said, Ana Rosa, there always has to be a first person to do something.
Sometimes Mami's words are a puzzle. I have to spin them around and around in my head as if I am doing a mental merengue. Sooner or later I figure out the dance, but sometimes I wish she would just say what she means straight out.
Papi might sound as if he is talking in a puzzle, but I always know exactly what he means. Like when I asked him if I could have a notebook just for writing my poems in. He said, Muchacha, your head is getting bigger than your hat.
When I told Mami this on our next wash day, she laughed. But I could tell the laugh was only in her throat and not in her heart.
Your papi says funny things sometimes, carino, she said. He's a dreamer.
A dreamer? I asked. How can yousay that, Mami? All Papi does is sit on the porch and drink rum.
Mami's hand shot out faster than a lizard under a rock. I felt the pain on my cheek before I realized what had happened.
You have no hair on your tongue, chica. Be careful!
It'll never pass this way again, she said. Off it will go down to the sea, where it will foam with the waves and swim with the fish and glide ships along on steady or rough courses depending on its mood. Around and around the world it will go, this water that slips by me so quickly. Far from the RepÚ blica Dominicana, far from me, but always under the same sky and sun.
You are this river, Ana Rosa, she whispered. But you must flow softly around the rocks on your way to meet the sea. There you can do as youwish.
Mami's words were gentle. But her brown eyes were slits of worry like moon slices on a dark night. There was no happiness in the smile she gave me.
Many days and nights I thought about Mami's words. But no matter how I turned them or shook them or chased them from my mind, they always came back telling me the same thing. Mami was scared...
Poet Lynn Joseph's debut novel explores the pain and the poetry of discovering what it means to be part of a family, what it takes to find a place in the world, and how it feels to write it all down. This critically acclaimed novel about aspiring writer Ana Rosa has won several awards, including the Americas Award.
Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa is a blossoming writer growing up in the Dominican Republic, a country where words are feared. Yet there is so much inspiration all around her — watching her brother search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be part of a community — that Ana Rosa must write it all down. As she struggles to find her own voice and a way to make it heard, Ana Rosa realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her — and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.
About the Author
Lynn Joseph is the author of many picture books for hildren about her island home of Trinida including A Wave in Her Pocket, An Island Christmas, and Jump Up Time: A Trinidad Carnival Story. This novel is her first book about her new island home: the Dominican Republic. Ms. Joseph is also an attorney for the City of New York and is protected by two superheroes, Jared and Brandt.
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