The Loft's Reviews > The Orange Houses

The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin
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Oct 17, 09

bookshelves: ya-realistic-fiction

Jimmi, Mik, and Fatima. Before the hanging:

Jimmi is a street poet. Jimmi is a street junkie. It just depends on who you talk to. If you see him skateboarding and hear him reciting his verse, he’s without doubt a poet. But if you know that he’s already been to a desert war and back at the age of 18, and his ex-girlfriend killed herself, you also know there are memories he just has to block out.

Tamika, who prefers “Mik” that rhymes with Nick as opposed to Meek-a (yuck), is partially deaf. She wears woefully out-of-date hearing aids that she frequently turns down if not off. Blocking out noises is more pleasing to Mik than actually hearing them. Who needs to hear Shanelle’s taunting and threats of violence, Jaekwon’s come-ons, or all the other intrusive noise and harassment. Mik loves drawing and she’s good at it, and she’s not even sure she really wants the surgery that could improve her hearing, even though there’s absolutely no money to be had for that so-called surgery about which her mother keeps dreaming.

Fatima sells newspapers on the street corner by day. She wears a head scarf that partially covers a scar that runs across her cheek. She effortlessly folds beautiful angels out of newspapers. If you look closely while she’s folding, you’ll see she’s missing a few fingers. Fatima, 16, is trying to make it on her own in New York City. She has to. And she especially has to avoid the immigration police.

Mik, Fatima and Jimmi form a friendship that shines right through the orange houses that are not really orange but “beaten brick the color of the sky this drizzly dusk.” Mik and Fatima, introduced by Jimmi, bond over their artistic talents which they share as volunteers at the Veterans’ Administration Hospital.

Until one day…

I loved this book -- highly recommended!

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