Joyce Carol Thomas
a novel for young adults

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She grew up -- Abyssinia Jackson did -- under a vast Oklahoma sky shaded with pecan trees and dotted by endless rows of cotton-pickers cotton. She had the gift of song, a storyteller's talent, the love of her parents, and the affection and pride of her community.
Then a tornado hits and drives Abby's family apart. A deranged neighbor targets her for a campaign of vengeful terror. And a physical assault all but breaks her will.
In this beautifully written first novel, Abby emerges clearly as a young woman who faces pain, laughter, anguish, and joy with the dignity of her heritage and the determination of her spirit.
"I believe this to be an important first novel. Joyce Carol Thomas's characters enact the verities of human life: romance, apprehension, loss, and hope, and they perform on the author's real life stage." 
excerpts from MARKED BY FIRE:
page 111

On the way back to the cabin, the air hung like heavy curtains around Abby. It was so hot she felt like she was standing next to the oven on baking day. Where her eyes spied open earth, the clay seemed scorched. Where the earth was carpeted the grass grew green from the sudden summer rainstorms that came and went so abruptly. This hot evening the sky was smudged with red. The searing sun was a red stove eye in the Oklahoma sky.

Abyssinia felt singed by the sun's flame. She thought about the Chickaskin River's wet invitation. A cool baptism for her parched skin.

She swam in the Chickaskin to relieve herself from the hot judgement of the sun. She swam back and forth across the meandering stream. After a while she rested and stood up in the shallow part, her sundress sticking to her body. She thought she saw the shadow of a person moving between the cottonwood trees that bent over the mirror of the water. She wiped away the moisture drops trickling down her face. She shook her head and blinked water from her eyes. It was only a flock of shrikes flying playfully from tree to tree.

In the distance she could hear the lonesome call of the Southern Pacific train. Trains, planes, and buses reminded her of her father. When is he coming back? she wondered.

page 168

Abby placed one leg out the window and, clutching the youngest child to her chest, jumped free of Trembling Sally's grasp.

The crazy, hollowed eyes of the woman stared at the free Abby. Then her torch lit the bedroom curtains. Fire danced on the bed, burning the crazy patch quilt, the feather mattress, and the feather pillows. But the fire was not satisfied.

Now the wicked fire demanded more. Its violent, ruby mouth kissed Sally. Sparks leaped up her clothes and sizzled.

The crimson flame licked at the pitiful woman, turning her hair to black straw. Abby sucked in her breath and shuddered. She guided the children's heads away from the horror.

In the distance they heard the disappointed barking of the dogs returning home without their rabbit.

Snow-bearded planks and ice crystals fell between blankets of fire. Snapping, sizzling, frying, the fire dazzled the snow, and the ice bit into the flame with chattering teeth.

Text © 1982 Joyce Carol Thomas. Cover © 1982 Avon Books.
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