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I'm looking for a Katrina-related novel to read with high school freshmen. Any idea if this one would keep their interest? How intense is the sexual content?

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Sarah The prose is really dense in this book, and it is mostly a work of tension and implied violence. So . . . probably not a great match for 9th graders. At least, it would not be a match for the 9th graders at my school. Also, while Katrina is sewn into the novel, I would not categorize it is a book ABOUT Katrina.
Carrie A The physical aspect is fairly limited, but the main female does learn she is pregnant and can identify the father. For the girls I talk with (as a physician) little of what is included will be surprising. This book offers a new way to look at Katrina (or any natural disaster) as it focuses on a single parent, African American family, living in poverty. The family unit, particularly the children, are strong, cohesive, and intelligent. I think the the discussions would be interesting and insightful.
Sam Mace Personally, I'm grateful I went to a school that had books like Grapes of Wrath taught in sophomore English. You might have parents give you grief, which is unfortunate. It is a challenging book to read for sure, but it's disappointing that kids today are considered unable to handle this sort of subject matter. I don't think that was the case in my high school in the early 80s. One other idea, in conjunction with a book, is have them watch the amazing film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which carries some of the same themes as Ward's book Salvage the Bones and very much is about Katrina.
Gayle Faherty Sensitive students would have a real problem with this book. Not worth the risk but you should read it yourself as it's excellent!
Meran You should present this book to them. Sure, it's hard, but that's because it's ~real. It'll bring up good, necessary questions, maybe change some attitudes towards those less fortunate. And of a different race, and culture.
Susan Q I agree that this book would not be suitable for many high school groups, especially 9th graders, but it work well with classes of kids who live lives similar to those in the novel even though the language might be tough for them. They would be motivated by the description of the way these teenagers handled extremely difficult situations.
James (JD) Dittes Adam Johnson's short story, "Hurricanes Anonymous" is a remarkable read about Katrina--but not really cut out for 9th-graders. As an 11th-grade ELA teacher, I think there is so much vivid nonfiction writing on Katrina, I would probably start there. Literary descriptions of hurricanes begin and end with the scene in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes were Watching God. You might consider an excerpt.
Karen I just finished this book as it was assigned to my daughter’s 12th grade AP English class. The content of the story is very dark, sexual, bloody, and tragic in addition to being a family strength and survival story that has a lot of heart. My daughter could handle this at 17 but it would have gone over her head at 14. Katrina is the back drop and not the main theme. It builds more like a character that doesn’t even enter the story fully until the last two chapters.
Rachel Barr It has been a few years since I read this book. Surprisingly, I didn't remember until I visited this site that the book is set against the backdrop of a hurricane. The themes that stuck in my memory were unrelated to natural disaster. How I could have forgotten the storm is downright bumfuzzling. The story is filled with portents of the impending hurricane, its immediate fury, and then the catastrophic aftermath with which the main character and her family contend.

There is one brief episode in the story that contains a sexual encounter which I would anticipate as a sticking point for some parents. However, the way it came across to me, the main character is remembering the moment when she is taken advantage of by a young man that she admires. It's not a randy scene. It is one that conveys how subtle sexual abuse and even rape can be - the main character is remembering such an incident, but she hasn't yet realized that what has played out is not her fault, much less that she is the victim of an unprovoked assault. Rather, she sees it as an awkward, disappointing incident which got her into trouble - she is now pregnant at 14, and there is no one to support her physically or emotionally.

Although it was 50 years ago, I still remember quite a bit of what I was reading in ninth grade. I would have particularly relished this book - and I'll warrant I would have still remembered that the story is set against the backdrop of a hurricane. It truly is a great literary work with unforgettable characters and events pertinent to any student coming of age.
Michelle Not many people addressed the sexual content. Our son showed us on page of sexual content and it was very explicit and we couldn't believe the book was being read in class. I just don't understand how this is appropriate.
Kate Thank you for all your input, book friends! I'm set now. :)
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by Jesmyn Ward (Goodreads Author)
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