Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Drowned City by Don Brown and Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

It's strange to be old enough that events I vividly remember from my lifetime are now the subject of graphic novels, historical fiction, and the media. Hurricanes are not a part of my life, but after Hurricane Katrina I was taking a Modern African American Literature class and one of the books was the classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, so we spent a lot of time thinking about Katrina. 

Drowned City is a non-fiction graphic text that reads more like a news report than a novel. There are no characters, just real people like George W. Bush FEMA's Michael D. Brown. There is no narrative arc, just the details of the hurricane and a sad post script about the Ninth Ward. The book is incredibly well-researched and felt like a smaller version of the Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond exhibit at the Louisiana State Museum. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and perfect for the subject matter and tone. 

Turning 10 is magical for children. There is something about those double digits that make kids feel more grown, more responsible, more ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, Armani's 10th birthday coincides with Hurricane Katrina, and she is forced to tackle a reality she's not ready for. When the neighbors leave word that she should tell her parents to evacuate, Armani keeps it to herself because she's afraid of her birthday party being ruined. By the time it's clear that the hurricane is not going to blow over, it's impossible for her family of 8 to leave in her father's small truck. They hunker down in the house and try to survive. While the plot is overly convenient at times, and Armani's overuse of similes feels like a forced attempt to convey a Southern voice, it's an intensely emotional novel that is worth a read. While it is absolutely a novel about Hurricane Katrina, it's also a novel about growing up, family, compassion, and forgiveness.  

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