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Chill Wind

Chill Wind

4.6 3
by Janet McDonald

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A tough and funny project girl manages to make that chill wind blow away

The good life, according to Aisha Ingram, is easy. It's hanging with friends, dancing, listening to music, whatever . . . but it doesn't include worrying about the future. Chilling out is her mantra until she receives a sixty-day termination-of-welfare-benefits notice. Without her


A tough and funny project girl manages to make that chill wind blow away

The good life, according to Aisha Ingram, is easy. It's hanging with friends, dancing, listening to music, whatever . . . but it doesn't include worrying about the future. Chilling out is her mantra until she receives a sixty-day termination-of-welfare-benefits notice. Without her monthly food stamps and assistance checks and with no help from the father of her two children, Aisha's life threatens to become a little too "chilly." The clock is ticking and she doesn't have many options, but one thing she knows for sure: workfare is not for her. There's no way she's going to scrub subway cars or sweep city sidewalks. Aisha tries to come up with other ways to get money, but things don't look good. Soon another notice comes: only thirty days left. Then she sees an ad on TV for BIGMODELS, and she figures she might as well check out the agency. After all, she is pretty enough. But just when it looks like Aisha's problems might be solved, things grow crazy again.

In Aisha, Janet McDonald has created a larger-than-life heroine who finds and succeeds at what is right for her.

Chill Wind is the winner of the 2003 Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe New Talent Award.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“McDonald writes with such honesty, wit, and insight that you want to quote from every page and read much of this story aloud to share the laughter and anguish, failure and hope, fury and tenderness, of black project girl Aisha Ingram . . . The truth of the characters and their talk and the energy of the neighborhood . . . will grab readers from everywhere.” —Starred, Booklist

“The language is real and believable and evokes life in an urban setting. Determination, familial love, and courage are the themes examined.” —School Library Journal

“McDonald deserves kudos for her gritty, unsentimental portrait of day-to-day life in the projects.” —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Returning to territory first explored in Spellbound, McDonald here shifts her focus to Aisha, the high school dropout who was pregnant with one child already. The author once again uses a third-person narration to create Aisha's authentic voice and unique perspective, but the novel's solutions ultimately seem too simple. Aisha, now 19, has reached her five-year lifetime limit for receiving welfare and must enter workfare or "get kicked to the curb." Determined not to do any of the "slave jobs" she's been offered, she searches for another solution, such as pretending to be mentally ill or trying to convince her kids' father to marry her. She eventually realizes there aren't any "lucky breaks around the bend for a project girl on welfare with no schooling," and she goes to work patrolling the subway. Conveniently, she gets chosen to be in commercials. Her mother quits drinking, and this, coupled with her sudden bonding with her sister, add to the improbable ending. Readers get a strong sense of Aisha's world-the projects, her battles with the welfare system, her friends and their families-and the ribbing between friends reads genuine. But, in the end, with things coming so easily to Aisha, readers will be left wondering what she has learned along the way. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
With her welfare benefits running out and no help from her children's father, 19-year-old Aisha is forced to examine her options. She remembers the words of her friend Raven (the central character in the author's Spellbound [Farrar, 2001]): "-nowadays they kick you off welfare after five years. So you won't be chillin' for long." While Aisha's alcoholic mother continues to offer some help and occasional baby-sitting, the teen procrastinates. She determines that workfare isn't for her, and eventually decides to answer an ad for "BIGMODELS, Inc." Despite an argument with the agency's receptionist, she manages to impress the president of the company. Bullish yet naive, Aisha stops at nothing to find and succeed at what is right for her. Well-drawn secondary characters move the story along and the plot develops at a comfortable pace. The language is real and believable and invokes life in an urban setting. Determination, familial love, and courage are the themes examined and while the fairy-tale ending isn't particularly believable, teens will find it satisfying.-Janet Gillen, Great Neck Public Library, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When her welfare benefits dry up, Aisha, a 19-year-old black single mother with two children and no high school diploma or work history, has to figure out a way to support herself and her family. Although not precisely a sequel, MacDonald picks up a secondary character from Spellbound several years later, again wowing the reader with her authentic voice and invigorating dialogue. When the reader last saw Aisha, she was "chillin'," living with her mother and daughter while the system picked up the tab. Now, she has a son as well as a daughter, but still no education, husband, or marketable skills. After a prolonged, somewhat repetitious setup, during which Aisha tries feigning mental illness to keep her benefits, then fruitlessly appeals to the father of her children and various relatives for support, she realizes that she's on her own. Aisha, who is short and fat but quite comely, decides to try her hand as a plus-size model. Although her big mouth and bad attitude initially get her into a heap of trouble, she eventually lucks into an incredible job, gaining a measure of fame and fortune. Aisha does mature in the course of the story, taking responsibility for her situation, relinquishing her pugnacious posture, and making peace with her abusive, alcoholic mother (who unexpectedly gives up the bottle), but the unearned Hollywood ending doesn't jibe with the rest of the story. Nonetheless, MacDonald deserves kudos for her gritty, unsentimental portrait of day-to-day life in the projects.

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.34(d)
820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chill Wind

Chill Wind


Aisha stood in the middle of her room holding the letter, spacing out. She could hear her mother Louise laughing at something on television, no doubt stretched out on her bed as usual. It seemed like ages ago that her mother worked in a laundromat, washing and folding clothes. Something else seemed like ages ago too. Aisha remembered dissin' her best friend Raven, also a dropout and teen mother, for wanting to make something of herself. She'd advised Raven to "chill," like she was doing, and just let the system take care of her. Now Raven's words came back like an ice cube dropped down her blouse. "I don't want to be like you. Anyway, nowadays they kick you off welfare after five years. So you won't be chillin' for long."

Two years later Raven was a sophomore in college engaged to her son's father, and Aisha was a nineteen-year-old mother of two holding a "60-Day Notice of Benefits Termination."Aisha's daughter, Starlett, had just turned four, and little Ty was barely two. Her mother Louise had warned her about making babies "with nothing coming in," and her so-called man Kevin seemed to think promises bought food and clothes for their kids. Her part of the rent was due at the end of the month, and the last thing Aisha wanted to hear about was her workfare options—scrubbing graffiti off city-owned property, working with the city's Clean Sweep Team, or joining the Zero-Tolerance Subway Youth Patrol—all for some piddling, temporary "transition" allowance. Raven's words came back again: "They kick you off welfare after five years." What was she going to do? With no diploma, no skills, and two kids, Aisha Ingram's chilled life had suddenly gotten a little too chilly.

Unlike her friends who had some kind of reason to leave school—usually pregnancy for the girls and prison for the boys—Aisha had cut short her education out of simple boredom. "I woulda bailed outta kinnygarden if they ain't had them def cookies," she liked to joke. As for one day maybe going back to school, she'd say, "Ain't took to it then, cain't take to it now."

Before motherhood, Aisha's life was all about being out. Chilling out, hanging out, making out, or just bugging out. And Kevin Vinker, a long-waisted mama's boy with big eyes and hair cut in a fade, was always at her side. Aisha lay back on her queen-size bed and remembered the good ol' days with Kevin, before Starlett and Ty came on the scene.



"Wassup, Miss Ingram. Ai home? We s'pose to be going to Coney Island." Kevin's untied burgundy sneakers were the same color as his loose-fitting jeans and backward cap, gifts from his mother, a subway station supervisor.

Aisha's mother, whose head reached the boy's shoulder, was dressed for work in a grayish smock adorned with rows of washed-out flowers and an assortment of stains. She squinted to bring Kevin into focus, a beer already in her hand.

"Coney Island?! She too sick to go to school, but she can go running way 'cross Brooklyn to some Coney Island? That girl as useless as her bonehead father, and I done washed my hands of her mess. And what about you, playing hooky all the time like there no tomorrow. Y'all think you know better than grown folks, but mark my words, you gonna end up just like me, making next to nothing in some oven-hot laundrymat washing folk's stank drawers."

Stank drawers. Kevin laughed hard at that one. Miss Ingram was a trip. And mad tipsy that early.

"Now move your narrow behind out my way, before you make me late to the office. That girl's back there in her room with a hot-water bottle, propped on her head like she fooling somebody. I wasn't born yesterday." She hollered down the hallway, "And no, I can't loan nobody a dime!" and hustled off down the stairs mumbling, "They need to fix these broke-down elevators, like folk ain't got nothing better to do with they legs than run up and down steps."

One after the other, Louise had had three children withher husband Louis, all of them, in her words, "good-for-nothings who can't send a dime to they mama." They were all grown when Aisha arrived, an unwelcome surprise. Louis wasn't any happier about the news and immediately announced that he was "done with being the mule" and was going to enjoy what was left of his life—alone. Soon after his wife got back from the hospital, he called for a gypsy cab to come get him and climbed in with four large trash bags stuffed with his belongings. For Louise and her new baby girl he left an "only for emergency" phone number scribbled on a brown scrap torn from a grocery store paper bag. That's when Louise began accepting Miss Barry's invitations to "come by and have a drink with a lonely old lady," and neighbors began whispering about how the Ingram family was going downhill. The Ingrams were actually two families: the one Aisha grew up in as an only child wondering where everybody went, with a mother who was often ill, cranky, or plain drunk, and the one her sister and twin brothers had been raised in by a playful mother and a hardworking father.

"Be careful at the fourth floor, Miss Ingram!" called Kevin behind her. "Somebody peed, and it's all wet." Still chuckling, he closed the apartment door behind him and hurried down the hallway to his girlfriend's room.

Copyright © 2002 by Janet McDonald All rights reserved

Meet the Author

Janet McDonald (1953-2007) is the author of the adult memoir Project Girl. She is the author of three books set in the Brooklyn projects: Chill Wind, for which she received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent; Spellbound, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; and Twists and Turns, an ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and lived in Paris, France.

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Chill Wind 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first start to read it, the book sounded a little boring...But when I continued to read it,the book was so good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very good. It shows you what can happen when you set your mind to accomplish your goals. I liked the way the author captured the character and language of young, black females today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a great, it only took me one day to read this book.