The Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes is a J Fiction story about twelve year old Lanesha who lives in New Orleans' Ninth Ward with Mama Ya-Ya. Eighty-two year old Mama Ya-Ya isn't a blood relative but she might as well be. She delivered Lanesha and has cared for her all of Lanesha's life. Lanesha's 17 year old Momma died giving birth to her.
Lanesha was born with a caul, a thin, filmy membrane covering her newborn head, and Mama Ya-Ya says Lanesha's kin are scared of her because she has "the sight". Lanesha sees ghosts, has "since she was an itty-bitty baby. Ghosts. Here, now. Always. They're soft, wispy." She can "put her hand through them... and blow hard enough to make them shiver". She's not frightened of these ghosts but others are definitely afraid of her.
New Orleans' Ninth Ward is a close-knit community. People hang out on neighbors' porches and kids play in friends' yards. There's jazz music and smells of jambalaya. Mama Ya-Ya and Lanesha have lived there all their lives.
Mama Ya-Ya can see into the future through her visions and dreams. "This morning, though, Mama Ya-Ya frowned at the mirror like she could see some other world inside it. 'Mr. Death is losing patience. He'll come and ferry me down the Mississippi. I'll put on my feathered hat. Wave like I'm in a Mardi Gras parade' ". This is a forboding of what lies ahead.
Hurricane Katrina is approaching Lousiana and New Orleans. Mama Ya-Ya is weakening and Lanesha must become the strong one to get Mama Ya-Ya, her friend Tashon and his dog Spot, and herself through this terrifying and devastating storm. Ninth Ward is a story of friendship, fortitude, resourcefulness, and love. As an adult I was able to view the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the collapsing of the levees through the eyes of a child.