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Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow

Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow

4.6 3
by Dedra Johnson

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"Reading Dedra Johnson's Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow, I was fully in the presence of the mind, heart and soul of a richly rendered, fascinating fictional character. I knew I was also in the presence of the brillian voice and sensibility of a major new American writer. This is an important novel by a true artist."— Robert Olen Butler


"Reading Dedra Johnson's Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow, I was fully in the presence of the mind, heart and soul of a richly rendered, fascinating fictional character. I knew I was also in the presence of the brillian voice and sensibility of a major new American writer. This is an important novel by a true artist."— Robert Olen Butler

"Dedra Johnson has caught something wonderful in Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow. She writes brilliantly about childhood, New Orleans, the intricacies of a vexed family life. Sandrine is a remarkable debut novel that will catch your heart."— Frederick Barthelme

Despite being a straight-A student and voracious reader, eight-year old Sandrine Miller is treated as little more than a servant by her mother, who forces Sandrine to clean house, do chores and take care of her younger half sister, Yolanda. On top of the despair of her life at home, Sandrine must confront growing up against the harshness of life in 1970s-era New Orleans, where men in cars follow her home from school and she is ostracized because she is a light-skinned black girl. The only refuge Sandrine has against her bleak world is spending summers with her beloved grandmother, Mamalita. After Mamalita’s death, Sandrine realizes that she must escape from her mother, from New Orleans, from everything she has known, if she is to have any kind of future. In the tradition of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Alice Walker's The Color Purple , Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow is a brilliant debut from an important new African-American voice in literary fiction.

A native and current resident of New Orleans, Dedra Johnson received her MFA from the University of Florida, where she was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow was a runner-up for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award in 2006.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This aching debut explores a girl's coming-of-age in poverty-drenched mid-1970s New Orleans. Eight-year-old Sandrine Miller lives like a servant to her mother, Shirleen, a low-wage typist, and her mean-spirited grandmother, Mother Dear, both of whom keep Sandrine overloaded with chores despite her homework and eagerness to keep up good grades at school. Sandrine's main escape is visiting her father and his mother, Mamalita, in the country for the summer, but her dream of moving there is crushed when Mamalita dies, and her busy country doctor dad leaves Sandrine in the noncare of his girlfriend, Philipa, whose dotty daughter, Yolanda, is, to Sandrine's bookish disgust, more interested in boys than her education. Indeed, Sandrine feels wronged, especially by her mother, who holds Sandrine's light skin against her. As she grows, Sandrine finds empowerment in knowledge of her body (taught to her by an older classmate, Lydia, whose step-dad molests her) and the recognition that learning is her only escape from the defeating cycle of early pregnancy, poverty and general futility. There are echoes of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Sandrine, with her fierce price, is an instantly likable underdog. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
The escape attempts of a mixed-race honor student in mid-'70s New Orleans. Sandrine, age 11, doesn't fit in at her Catholic school: too light-skinned to be black, she's too black to be white. Her father, a doctor, has more or less abandoned her to her mother, Shirleen, who treats Sandrine as a full-time, unpaid maid. Sandrine nevertheless earns all As and would be on the Alpha honor role, not the Beta, if the A-list weren't boys-only. She desperately anticipates summer in the country with her grandmother, Mamalita, who introduces her to the pleasant side of domesticity: making pomegranate jam and snapping beans on the front porch. This summer, however, instead of taking her to Mamalita's, her father deposits her-before absenting himself-in Mississippi, with his current wife, overweight, obnoxious Philipa, and Philipa's daughter Yolanda. When Philipa hits her and leaves her with a male acquaintance, who molests her, Sandrine makes her way back to New Orleans, where she's told Mamalita has died. After Philipa summarily dumps Yolanda on Shirleen, Sandrine must tutor the dim, sexually precocious eight-year-old, while fending off the neighborhood perverts, including Champ, who stalks schoolgirls. When Champ assaults Sandrine, Shirleen blames and beats her. (Mama's weapon of choice is a paddle labeled "Sock It To Me.") Sandrine finds a kindred spirit in schoolmate Lydia, a bright older girl sexually abused by her stepfather. When the nuns force the stepfather to leave, the mother disowns Lydia. Stung by Shirleen's favoritism toward Yolanda, Sandrine flees to her father after she learns Shirleen's rational for mistreating her. Sandrine's first-person voice often rings a little too smug, whinyand monotone, and her ultimate idolization of her father is undercut by his cavalier neglect of her at the book's outset. Less insightful than others in this vein (compare with Sapphire's Push or Carolyn Ferrell's Don't Erase Me), this debut displays talent in need (unlike Sandrine) of discipline.

Product Details

Ig Publishing
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.00(h) x 5.70(d)

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Meet the Author

Dedra Johnson teaches English at Dillard College in New Orleans. Her short fiction has been published in Bridge Magazine and Product 9, and she is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Florida-Gainesville. Sandrine's Letters to Tomorrow, which is her first novel, was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition 2006.

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Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow' is the story of a young girl who grew up raising herself in a dysfunctional household. The book provided a perspective look into the childhood of young, light-skinned, African American female dealing with issues such as how she was mistreated as young girl by both peers and family. 'Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow' was an overall good book. It is a story that is very plausible in the African American community. I believe a lot of people, especially older generations, could relate to the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't seem to put this book down. Everything flows perfectly. I will look forward to more books from this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the author bring the person into real life and your heart goes out to her.