5.0 1
by Susan Vaught

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It is 1969, and Ruba has just moved to Mississippi from Haiti to live with her Grandmother Jones. This world is very different from her old life, where she spent days beachcombing with Ba, her maternal grandmother, and learning the lore of magic and history that she holds close. But magic isn't welcome in her new grandmother's house. Ruba struggles to understand


It is 1969, and Ruba has just moved to Mississippi from Haiti to live with her Grandmother Jones. This world is very different from her old life, where she spent days beachcombing with Ba, her maternal grandmother, and learning the lore of magic and history that she holds close. But magic isn't welcome in her new grandmother's house. Ruba struggles to understand her strange surroundings and the hate that comes at her from some of the white people in town. It isn't long before Ruba finds herself threatened by the KKK and drawn into the fight for civil rights. But a hurricane barreling toward the coast changes everything, bringing Ruba and her family a measure of justice and a new acceptance.

Editorial Reviews

The death of Ruba Jones's grandmother in 1969 sends her from her beloved Haiti to the small, racially volatile town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. Church-going Grandmother Jones pressures Ruba to abandon her language, customs, and belief in spells and warrior spirits in order to fit into her new community. As Ruba's bold manner and refusal to submit to the rule of white men triggers a firestorm in Pass Christian, the Stormwitch causes a hurricane to head straight for town. The last in a line of Dahomey Amazons, Ruba knows that only her magic and strength will save her community from the mythic Stormwitch. Ruba teaches her people to have pride in themselves and in their history. She declares, "We first have to be loyal to each other and stand together against those who would use us and kill us . . . We have to remember what came before guns and steel. It wasn't perfect, but it was ours." Her conviction brings her family to a better understanding of their history and leads a young Klansman to a realization of their shared humanity. Although this book gives the reader insight into the waning days of the civil rights movement, the realistic and fantastic elements often fail to mesh effectively, and the final confrontation between Ruba and the Stormwitch is anticlimactic, almost absurd. This book may have some appeal for a general audience, but its mix of elements will reduce its appeal as fantasy or historical fiction. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Bloomsbury, 200p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Angela Semifero
Children's Literature
Haitian Ruba feels as though she has been swept up and deposited in a Mississippi life she cannot understand. Her father died in Vietnam and her mother died when Ruba was a small child, so the life of voodoo and Amazon warrior tactics that she had shared with her beloved grandmother, Ba, was all the sixteen-year-old girl had ever known. Now that Ba has died, Ruba has come to live with her other grandmother, Grandmother Jones. Grandmother Jones is an opinionated woman who wants Ruba to wear American-style clothes rather than her African dashikis, to look down when white people talk to her, and to join the church rather than practice her Haitian rituals. It is no surprise that the two strong-willed characters sometimes clash. In 1969 Mississippi, stakes are high for black folks. The activism—and brutality—of Freedom Summer was just a few years ago, and Grandmother Jones remembers the sometimes-fatal repercussions of too much strong defiance. It does not help matters that Ruba's different ways have caught the attention of Rayboy and his Ku Klux Klan wizard father. As if that is not enough, Ruba knows that a big storm is coming; what the forecasters call Hurricane Camille is on its way. Ruba knows that it is the embodiment of a deeper, growing evil that she must fight using all of her Amazonian and voodoo strengths. Tension builds steadily through Susan Vaught's gripping novel. Ruba's continued strength and determination in the face of these societal and environmental threats is engaging. A difficult book to put down, this might be a good choice for teachers who want to address themes of civil rights or cultural differences in the classroom. 2005, Bloomsbury, Ages 12 to 16.
—Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-This story offers a smooth blend of historical fact, suspense, and magic. In August 1969, Haitian-born, orphaned Ruba Cleo moves to Pass Christian, MS, to live with her grandmother. Despite the woman's stern Christian disapproval, Ruba clings to her belief in the ancestral lineage and power of the Dahomey Amazon women whose blood is in her veins. From her recently deceased Haitian grandmother, Ba, the 16-year-old learned chants, spells, and herbal potions that empower her to face destructive forces. When she encounters hostility and racism in the local community, her warrior psyche impedes her understanding of her grandmother's fears and struggles. However, as Ruba learns about Freedom Summer and the sacrifices of the civil rights workers, she begins to recognize and appreciate the warrior spirit in others. When Hurricane Camille slams into the Gulf Coast just as a white boy holds her and her family at gunpoint, Ruba musters her spiritual and emotional powers to save their lives and realizes that her training and perspective can be adapted to any time, situation, and place. Ruba's vivid descriptions and her reflective observations and lyrical letters to Ba belie early admission that she is learning and practicing English. Although the simultaneous timing of a gunpoint assault and the arrival of one of the century's worst hurricanes seems far-fetched, Ruba's tumultuous battle with the mystical stormwitch is compelling and liberating. Like her Mississippi cousins, readers will find Ruba an intriguing adolescent mix of cultural pride, emotional insecurity, and stubborn determination.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Haitian conjuring and American historical fiction boldly weave together weather, magic, religion, and ancestral history. It's August 1969. Sixteen-year-old Ruba's been in Pass Christian, a Mississippi coastal town, for three weeks. She moved there to live with her unfamiliar, Christian paternal grandmother because her maternal grandmother who raised her in Haiti has died. In Haiti, Ba taught Ruba how to conjure winds to fight evil Zashar, a stormwitch with an ancient grudge against their ancestors of Dahomey (Benin). With Ba dead, Ruba's the only warrior woman left. Now Hurricane Camille (possibly the worst storm to make land in American meteorological history) is bearing down, and Ruba knows Zashar's inside it. Meanwhile, Mississippi is rife with racial violence. With a few friends and family around her-including seven-year-old cousin Gisele, who may be the next warrior woman-Ruba faces Zashar, the hurricane, and the Ku Klux Klan. Gritty details of the civil-rights movement and Dahomey (and world-wide) history of slavery form a powerful story that's archetypal, magical, and realistic all at once. (historical notes, list of sources) (Fantasy. YA)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.88(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.91(d)
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Susan Vaught works with young people as a clinical psychologist. She has also been writing all her life. She and her large family live on a rugged, 45-acre mountainous farm in the Smoky Mountain foothills in Tennessee. This is her second book for young adults.

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Stormwitch 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. I like the way this author writes. It is nice to read a good story that is not filled with vulgar words and junk. I also enjoyed her other book L.O.S.T., and look forward to the sequal. Keep up the great writting.