Sandrine’s Letters to Tomorrow
by Dedra Johnson
It took me a chapter or so to really engage this story, but then I couldn’t put it down. Sandrine is an 8-year-old girl growing up a ’70s New Orleans ghetto. Daddy only sees her for a few weeks in summer, and the rest of the time she’s stuck with the worst mom in the world. Shirleen bore her at the age of 15 and resents her intelligence, her light skin color, and her mere existence. Thus, Sandrine grew up in a classic codependent family – carefully balancing getting beaten for doing her homework with getting beaten for cleaning the house. Cut off from any other children or friendly adults, hers is a world of sexual predators encouraged by her mother, abusive in-laws, and the hope that someday, somehow, she can escape. Eventually, she finds rescue from her father, who takes her off to rural and much more tolerant Meridian, Mississippi. If I can find a flaw in this clearly written and engaging work, it’s her father. He clearly knows the danger his daughter lives in, yet he takes his good old time in rescuing her. His delays allow her to be assaulted and nearly raped. All I can say is this – she’s gonna be one messed up adult.
Author Johnson paints a hellish world of poverty and its constant companions – despair and ignorance. While there are people around Sandrine who maintain dignity and honor despite little ready cash, the vast majority have no such recourse, and have nothing to look to for a role model outside of dead end jobs and various degrees of crime. This is no children’s book, but a book about children in the worst possible world in America.
IG Publishing: www.igpub.com