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Fifth Born

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  840 ratings  ·  70 reviews
When Odessa Blackburn is three years old her beloved grandmother dies, and so begins her story, set in St. Louis, Missouri, and rural Mississippi. As the fifth born of eight children, Odessa loses her innocence at first when her drunken father sexually abuses her, and then again when she alone witnesses her father taking the life of his own brother.
Fifth Born is Zelda Loc
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 19th 2003 by Washington Square Press (first published 2002)
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I happened to finish this book on the same day that I started attending training sessions for my upcoming internship at an agency that supports victims of domestic violence. I was surprised by how often Odessa and her family came to mind throughout the training-- the horror of what happens to them in this novel is really only surpassed by the knowledge that it isn't fiction for many, many people. A difficult but powerful read that I would recommend to anyone interested in child/family welfare.
I found this book to be a very disturbing read, in that the subject matter was quite heavy to digest. Although Fifth Born was a rather well written and quick read, I was disappointed by the way in which it ended, and wish that author Zelda Lockhart could have expanded more upon it. The reader is introduced to the main character Odessa, portrayed as a meek and sensitive child throughout the entire novel. It would have been great to see Lockhart capture a more content and strong minded Odessa with ...more
Apr 23, 2008 Shawanda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Shawanda by: My mother
The book 5th born was a book that i just ordered the other day. My mother asked me to read the book she told me that she thought that it was not a good book but we like different things in life so i might like to book when i picked the book up i found out that it was not at all a good book i wanted to put it down but i cant stop reading a book once i start it so i finished it.As i read on the book got interesting it began to teach me things about life that i myself never want throw but other peo ...more
Maya B
This was a very heart breaking story. The things that Odessa went through as a child made me very sad. I felt the author gives readers a glimpse of what some children unfortunately have to endure in life.
Odessa's voice is s clear and honest in this book that it is hard not to really care about her and her situation. This book is about a family and their secrets. The problem is, Black women and little girls went from being play things for White men during slavery to being play things to black men after slavery. But when men will rape their own flesh and blood, their daughters, sisters, and/or nieces or even grand daughters, where is the justice. Exp. when the mothers just stand by. They don't eve ...more
This is one of the most twisted books I've read in quite a while. Spanning generations of incest, cruelty, abuse, neglect...the matriarchs left me stunned and I wanted to kill all of the men in the family. Focusing on a little girl trapped in one of the worst family's you'll ever encounter, this book is like a punch to the gut. All you can do stand by and watch what happens. You will feel helpless and infuriated as the main character pulls you deeper and deeper inside her pitiful tale. And, just ...more
Dee Cherry
Fifth Born was a deep, touching look at the childhood of Odessa Blackburn. This novel was compelling & heartfelt as Odessa's pain was released throughout the pages. Although neglected at times, Odessa continued to seek love from her parents. Even though some parts were difficult to grasp, this was a well written story as the content & storyline held my attention. Good read.
Desera Favors
OMG!!! All I can say is I loved this book, although it made my heart sick, I admired Odessa! No child should ever EVER experience what she went through, just unnecessary pain. If there was ever any one that should die mercilessly it was low down dirty Loni, I think he was let off the hook and that is the only reason I rated this book 4 stars. I will give more details on my thoughts after my book club discussion next week! SMDH the book had me actually yelling at it! BTW I check this book out on ...more
This was a well written book and really the ending made it a very great book. I felt like it was a such a heavy subject matter and the mood was sad and depressing. Zelda Lockhart knows hows to bring the characters to life along with the environment. In most cases of the book I felt transformed into the story. Its interesting how Ms Lockhart kept the point of view from young girls perspective showing the reader the innocence of it all. So while this book is a page turner, well written, very easy ...more
This is definitely one of the saddest books I've read. Yet this book was still remarkable. I loved the protagonist. Actually, I felt sorry for her. No child should ever have a story like that to tell. Strangely enough I loved how it ended.
I didnt so much like how the last 4 or 5 chapters was all dialog. I think the author could have been a bit more creative in telling that story than 40 or so straight pages of dialog. I did love all the imagery, simile and color references. I Cant wait to read
Chapter by chapter, Zelda Lockhart strips away each hideous layer of a damaged child's life until she arrives at the hard core that holds the beautiful truth. Lockhart's brilliant writing pushes even the squeamish reader to step into a horrible world that the author amazingly stepped out of. FIFTH BORN is fiction, but it is the child of the writer's experiences.
Interesting but sad, would not recommend.

This book was an interesting read. I really can't find any words to describe it except for depressing. The main character, Odessa, was frustrating to say the least. All throughout the book she it brutally mistreated, raped, beaten, verbally abused, etc and never once has the courage to defend or stand up for herself. There really was no happy ending. I would not recommend this book because not only was it sad and depressing with no real point or inspirati
This was one of those books I couldn't stop reading and then felt sad when it was over. Lockhart's beautiful prose grabbed me; she tells a powerful, painful story with poetic, raw honesty.
Very sad story. The writing was very good. I felt pulled in from the very first page. This book felt like a roller coaster ride.
Brook Haines
a little too graphic, it makes me appreciate my level of crazy!
I recently read FIFTH BORN for a book club in Oklahoma City. Looking over reviews on this website and at, it seems that many readers felt compassion for Odessa and her plight. I wish that I had felt the same; I do not understand why I did not empathize with the young protagonist. However, I was glad to read that Odessa, as she matures, learns ways to better survive her brutal surroundings. I also think that the author did an excellent job in her portrayal of Odessa heartless mother. L ...more
Kristi Marion
I had the honor of taking a writing workshop at Salem College with Zelda Lockhart. She is a vibrant woman and it shows in her writing. What a lovely, yet disturbing story of a little girl who is a victim of sexual abuse. Each character in the book is rich with personality, with secrets and desires. Odessa is a tough little girl, made that way through much suffering. Her family seems determined to destroy itself, but Odessa endures. It was quick read, although not an easy one. I believe Odessa an ...more
Mocha Girl
Fifth Born is the heart-wrenching debut saga of Odessa Blackburn, the fifth born child to verbally and physically abusive parents, in the tenements of St. Louis, MO. From as far back as she can remember, she has treaded lightly and second-guessed her moves to be the good, obedient child who seeks the love and approval of her parents. However, chaos and neglect reign supreme in the Blackburn household. Her father, an alcoholic and incestuous pedophile, nearly blinds Odessa in one eye during a dru ...more
Author Groupie
Reading through the Monarch Magazine, I came across an interesting article about an author who graduated from Old Dominion, but grew up in St. Louis, MO. When I read further, I discovered Zelda Lockhart and I walked the same hallways in the Batten Arts and Letters Building on campus and shared the same phenomenal professors: Dr. Wilson and Dr. Heller to name a few. Cool! Thus, it was a no-brainer that Lockhart's novel, Fifth Born, moved to the top of my reading list.
The protagonist, Odesssa Blac
Bernice Watson
I hated this book. I guess I am getting sick of these books that pen incest and abuse. My fault, been reading too many books with this as its main topic. I know we live in an imperfect world and that humans are flawed, but for a mother knowing that her child is sexually abused and staying quiet is a bit much for me. I also didn't like the writing style which was more of journaling than a free creative style. I know there is a part two to this story but not interested in reading it!
Donna Bennett
While I thought the writing was clear and easy to read, nearing the last few chapters the storyline would get confusing switching from the voice of Odessa to Ella Mae. Some of the scenes with her brother, sister and cousin was reminiscent to the movie "Crooklyn" by Spike Lee. Odessa's world consists of changing baby diapers, dodging her malicious "Deddy" who molested her twice, and finding her place within a family that harbors secrets. At times, I wanted to choke Bernice, Odessa's mother, for n ...more
Tonya Marshall
This book presented an story of hurt and abuse suffered at the hands of people that are suppose to love and protect you - your family. The main character, Odessa, is a child trying to understand the reason for her family mistreating her and she suffers and witnesses terrible things at the hands of her father. However, the ending is painful but comforting because she is finally able to connect with someone who knows her pain all to well. Good read.
A sad but true story of family curses/secrets that embed themselves in families through generations. At some point I asked myself, when will this madness end. I really wanted Loni to get what he deserved for the harm and pain he had caused soo many women in the family. I wanted Bernice to see Loni for what he was and choose her children over him. I wanted Grandmemma to be alive (until I got to the ending of the book). I wanted Odessa to be free of this awful family that she was a part of. I felt ...more
(FROM JACKET)When Odessa Blackburn is three years old her beloved grandmother dies, and so begins her story, set in St. Louis, Missouri, and rural Mississippi. As the fifth born of eight children, Odessa loses her innocence at firs when her drunken father sexually abuses her, and then again when she alone witnesses her father taking the life of his own brother.
"Fifth Born" is Zelda Lockhart's debut novel, lyrically written and powerful in its exploration of how secrets can tear apart lives and
Tywana Wilson
An interesting read.

It was a good read, but the lack of quotation marks made it tough to recognize when people were speaking.
The book was really well written and it was a fast read. The content, however, is really heavy and I found it hard to find anything in the book that was redeeming. If you're looking for an inspiring novel with a happy ending this book is not for you.
Nafeesah Antwine
It's a good book. Sad. Like most books when the main character is hurt u want them to. Fight back. It's always good when an author can stir an emotion in her readers. For that I say she is very talented. As a psychologist who is a brown woman and knows the devastation of family secrets and sexual abuse I hope people understand that the things detailed in this book happen. All the time. Sometimes we "save" these children today and put them in foster homes. Sometimes these homes are better....some ...more
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Lamont Tanksley
I read this book while I was doing my training as a National Victim's Advocate.

I don't cry much, but wow.

This book is worth reading by anyone in or out of the field. The use of words, the weight of the story, and the pace of the book is exactly what a book on this subject should be like. It is neither preachy, grandiouse, too light, or apologetic.

Character development will pull at your soul. They sprout forward, hold out their hands, and say, "let me show you / tell you something." You have to
This was such a raw gritty story of hate, abuse, deceit and secrets all carried within a family. It had me going through many emotions, sadness, anger, pride for Odessa, sympathy.... I can't image the turmoil such a young child had to endure and although she seemed so meek she took that pain and turned it into strength. This book drew me in and I'd definitely recommend it!
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