Touching Snow

by M. Sindy Felin

Thirteen-year-old Karina is a first-generation Haitian girl living in Chestnut Valley,... read more

Thirteen-year-old Karina is a first-generation Haitian girl living in Chestnut Valley, a community her mother chose to escape the dangers of living in nearby New York City. Looming large over everything and everyone in Karina’s family is her brutal stepfather, whom she simply calls “the Daddy.” The Daddy regularly dishes out “beat-ups” to Karina and her sisters for small, everyday transgressions. One night he flies into such a severe rage that he nearly kills Karina’s older sister. Karina’s mother won’t call the police or take Enid to the hospital. Already working long hours, she can’t support the family without the Daddy’s income, and attention from authorities may also draw attention to members of their extended household who are in the country illegally. A haunting look at family violence and issues that complicate the lives of immigrant families is never unbearably heavy, for several reasons. First, it is told in flashback a year after the terrifying events unfold, so readers have knowledge that Karina is okay. Second, there are good things happening in other parts of Karina’s life, most notably her developing relationship with a girl named Rachael, the white, wealthy daughter of the community center director who is helping the Daddy in a misguided attempt to be sensitive to cultural difference. Karina and Rachael don’t agonize over their sexuality or what same-sex attraction means—they’re just happy to have found each other. Karina’s relationship with Rachael gives her the intimacy and friendship she has been craving, and helps fuel her strength and determination to defend herself and her family from the Daddy’s rage. The grace of Karina’s honest voice shines in M. Sindy Felin’s exquisitely beautiful novel. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2008

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