Joyce Carol Thomas
a novel for young adults

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Amber Westbrook had always been different in curious ways -- more sensitive, more fiery, more knowing than anyone else in her close-knit California family. But nothing, not even the sweetness of her first taste of love, could erase the shock of the secret she discovered one piercingly clear day -- a scrap of an old letter that fragmented her life.
Only the awesome power of a deadly earthquake would make her confront the deepest parts of herself, and realize the values that make the difference between who she was, and all she could be.
Joyce Carol Thomas continues the moving saga that began in her prize-winning novel Marked by Fire with a new generation and special heroine as rare and beautiful as the gem that gave her the name -- Amber!
excerpts from WATER GIRL:
page 23

The next day Grace's words were still ringing in Amber's head: "The more you read, the more you need to know."

Her mother had been so right, she thought as she sat at the dresser braiding her hair, impatient to get to her books. This reading was gettting to be addictive. She couldn't wait to read what happened next. If it was left up to her, she'd leave her hair standing all over her head. At least that's what Grace claimed. Sometimes Amber was forgetful of herself.

She was trying to read a book on the Japanese concentration camps and braid her hair at the same time.

"I need three hands!"

The scratch on the screen door. "Wade." She had asked Wade to go with her to Susie Yamashita's house.

Instead of finishing the braid -- she had about two inches to go -- she threw a rubber band around the frizzly ends and rushed to the door.

"Ready?" he asked.

"They took old folks, babies, everybody with black straight hair and Japanese surnames and threw them behind barbed wire fences," she told Wade as they passed the tomato patch, the wheat field, the statues of hay waiting to be stored in the barn. "Locked them up like pigs in a pigpen."

page 51

She could not deny the evidence of her own ill treatment. And it was not found in one of her books or in Ebony magazine but in this single sheet of paper kept hidden in this dark attic.

As she studied the yellow paper the rage and pain distilled into a tiny drop of liquid. Then the single jeweled tear slid down her face and silenced her moving lips.

And then, as if by reflex, as though she had a hold on something hot, some yellow flame, a burning insult, that echoed the outrage of every persecuted group and slammed her head with a pain reminding her of the one she felt for the Blacks, the Jews, the Japanese, the Indians, her grip loosened, her hand opened swiftly, and the paper fluttered to the floor.

Her mind could not easily deal with the discovery. She focused on a golden narrow-toed shoe, everything else in her vision's periphery blurred. She was crushed. A compacted chest. No breath. A half-hypnotized invalid. What was that sound? It was coming from way up high. You can't get any higher in this house than this. Is it raining? Why, it never rains in the summer. When she peeked through the attic slats, it was only raining sunbeams. Yet on the ground, where the sunbeams splashed, the red petals of June roses had fallen like red petals of rain.

Text © 1986 Joyce Carol Thomas. Cover © 1986 Avon Books.
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