NOLA Gals (Barbara Rebbeck)
Barbara J. Rebbeck is a teacher and writer who lives in Royal Oak, Michigan. She has degrees from Eastern Michigan University and Oakland University in French and English. She has published poetry, fiction and professional articles. She is a past-president of the Michigan Council of Teachers of English and a former Director of the Oakland Writing Project. She especially likes to get her students excited about writing about their own lives. Barb’s father was born in London, England so she loves to visit there as often as possible. Her dad always said she was more British than he was. She has been to England for very special events such as the royal wedding of William and Catherine and the Queen’s Jubilee where she could be found in the crowds along the streets. She has a huge collection of British royalty china and figurines from the era of Queen Victoria through little Prince George. She loves going to the theater and is also a movie buff. She is very interested in the history of her family; the Brits on her dad’s side and the French on her mom’s side. But her favorite time of all is spent with her many nieces and nephews. She recently adopted a little kitty named Gracie-Willow. Sound familiar? Yep, she named her after her character Grace, one of the NOLA Gals.
Essence LaFontaine and Grace Woodson don’t know each other, but soon Hurricane Katrina will blow into their lives, forcing them together into a different kind of storm—a storm swirling with the winds of bigotry and prejudice. Can the girls find their way to the light behind the clouds?
New Orleans: Essence watches her neighbors prepare to evacuate, but her stubborn grandma refuses to budge, jeopardizing the lives of both her granddaughters, Essence and her little sister, Chardonnai, while their mother works as a nurse at a local hospital.
Houston: Grace listens to her iPod and sighs when her mom urges her to finish her summer reading, but Grace can think only of her forbidden MySpace page.
Katrina strikes with a fury and although Essence and Chardonnai are rescued, their grandmother Mimmi stays behind with their skinny poodle, George. After terrifying hours in the Superdome they board a bus for the Houston Astrodome along with other victims of Hurricane Katrina, including a man named Harold, who Essence strongly suspects is her long-lost father.
After Grace is suspended from St. Catherine’s for her disobedient behavior, she accompanies her father, a psychologist, to the Astrodome to help with the evacuees.
So Grace begins her essay for English class, her attempt to describe her day with the pitiful Katrina victims. She sees before her the lessons of her required reading, To Kill a Mockingbird, and at a loss as to what to do, she begins to read the book aloud to a tattered group including Essence and her new family of fellow survivors.
With the city of New Orleans devastated, the Woodson family allows Essence and Chardonnai to live with them and both girls begin school at St. Catherine’s. But, like a hurricane, trouble is brewing.