Synopses & Reviews
"Reading Dedra Johnson's Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow, I was fully in the presence of the mind, heart and soul of a richly rendered, fascinating fictional character. I knew I was also in the presence of the brillian voice and sensibility of a major new American writer. This is an important novel by a true artist."--Robert Olen Butler
"Dedra Johnson has caught something wonderful in Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow. She writes brilliantly about childhood, New Orleans, the intricacies of a vexed family life. Sandrine is a remarkable debut novel that will catch your heart."--Frederick Barthelme
Despite being a straight-A student and voracious reader, eight-year old Sandrine Miller is treated as little more than a servant by her mother, who forces Sandrine to clean house, do chores and take care of her younger half sister, Yolanda. On top of the despair of her life at home, Sandrine must confront growing up against the harshness of life in 1970s-era New Orleans, where men in cars follow her home from school and she is ostracized because she is a light-skinned black girl. The only refuge Sandrine has against her bleak world is spending summers with her beloved grandmother, Mamalita. After Mamalita’s death, Sandrine realizes that she must escape from her mother, from New Orleans, from everything she has known, if she is to have any kind of future. In the tradition of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow is a brilliant debut from an important new African-American voice in literary fiction.
A native and current resident of New Orleans, Dedra Johnson received her MFA from the University of Florida, where she was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow was a runner-up for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award in 2006.
"This aching debut explores a girl's coming-of-age in poverty-drenched mid-1970s New Orleans. Eight-year-old Sandrine Miller lives like a servant to her mother, Shirleen, a low-wage typist, and her mean-spirited grandmother, Mother Dear, both of whom keep Sandrine overloaded with chores despite her homework and eagerness to keep up good grades at school. Sandrine's main escape is visiting her father and his mother, Mamalita, in the country for the summer, but her dream of moving there is crushed when Mamalita dies, and her busy country doctor dad leaves Sandrine in the noncare of his girlfriend, Philipa, whose dotty daughter, Yolanda, is, to Sandrine's bookish disgust, more interested in boys than her education. Indeed, Sandrine feels wronged, especially by her mother, who holds Sandrine's light skin against her. As she grows, Sandrine finds empowerment in knowledge of her body (taught to her by an older classmate, Lydia, whose step-dad molests her) and the recognition that learning is her only escape from the defeating cycle of early pregnancy, poverty and general futility. There are echoes of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Sandrine, with her fierce price, is an instantly likable underdog." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Set in 1970s-era New Orleans, "Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow" is the disturbingly powerful and uplifting story of a young African-American girl named Sandrine, whose only refuge against a world of poverty, racial discrimination, and parental abuse are the letters she writes to her dead grandmother.
In the tradition of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, the next great female African American novelist.
About the Author
Dedra Johnson teaches English at Dillard College in New Orleans. Her short fiction has been published in Bridge Magazine and Product 9, and she is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Florida-Gainesville. Sandrine's Letters to Tomorrow, which is her first novel, was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition 2006.