Going along with this month’s theme of Family, today’s featured book is about three African-American sisters who are uprooted from their middle class life and placed in low income housing across the street from an elite private school. Petrified Flowers is a YA novel written in verse by Joiya Morrison-Efemini.
My family likes to watch a lot of documentaries. One we watched in 2018 had a huge impact on us. It is entitled Class Divide and it highlights a private school in New York City that sits directly across from public housing. The documentary haunted me. Iris and her sisters were conceived as I contemplated the issues of race and class in America.
About the book:
Tragedy uproots Iris and her sisters, all named after flowers, from the solid ground of middle-class life and plants them, unsupervised, in the rocky terrain of low-income housing. In a world where rain falls only on the privileged, Liam, a student who attends the elite private school directly across the street, proves refreshing as a summer gale, gushing joy into the sisters’ lives. Further nurtured by Ma Moore, a church elder who sprinkles the Flower sisters with spiritual wisdom, Iris embraces her Heavenly Father with steadfast urgency.
But when a student takes a hopeless leap from the school roof, Iris withers under the scorching realization that everything she thought she knew about privilege—and God—lies crippled. Petrified Flowers is the anthem of one African-American girl straddling three worlds. It is a song of hope, a triumph of faith, and a resounding refrain of the Father’s eternal love.
it rained on their side of the street
but not ours
Dahlia and I sat idle,
too hot to breathe
We straddled a seesaw,
Me digging my flip flop heels
into recycled rubber.
Her suspended mid-air,
The two of us panting and dripping
at Brooks Street Park.
Wishing we could beam ourselves
thirteen blocks north
to Spriggs Park
where our sisters played.
Wishing we could dip our toes into homemade concrete
and melt into abandon
with the rest of the Flowers.
We had disregarded Mom’s orders
to remain inside.
Dahlia was supposed to be confined to her bed.
I’d been roped into nursing her flu.
Instead, we persisted—
I in reclaiming the childhood that had abruptly ended
and Dahlia in growing up.
Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum.
I was too old for the game, but not for the wishing.
If wishing could actualize
the sweet, juicy pieces
we sang of,
maybe we could sing Daddy back
and exhume Mom.
But, our voices cracked
from singing too long.
Our expectations ran dry
from hoping too hard.
Then we heard a murmuring. Hope.
We both stopped singing
to the other side of the street.
liquid sheet descended.
We seized scanty drafts in fits and waves;
even still, we accepted the
of their respite
from the unbearable hot spell.
It literally rained on only one side of the street.
The injustice fumed.
Steam surged from the concrete as it poured—
Acrid on parched tongues
the immoral aftertaste of so many entitlements
permitted just over there.
We weathered still.
on the outskirts of beautiful lives.
About the author:
Joiya Morrison-Efemini is the author of THE NOTES THEY PLAYED (2017), THE IMPOSSIBLE (2019), and DARKER SISTER (coming 2021). She lives in Marietta, GA with her hunky husband and four phenomenal kids.
Author media links: