Jewell Parker Rhodes, the award-winning writer of novels that describe for young readers two of the most horrific disasters since the year 2001, speaks at free events this week.
Rhodes’ stories “Towers Falling” and “Ninth Ward” address the 2001 terror attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans in August 2005 and left unimaginable human misery in its wake.
“She has this wonderful and funny way of speaking,” said Claire McElroy-Chesson at Village Books, who heard Rhodes at a conference in Padadena. “Everyone in the audience was rapt.”
McElroy-Chesson said Rhodes handles the difficult subject of 9/11 with a gentle touch, leaving young readers with a hopeful message.
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“It’s really an uplifting story, despite the subject,” McElroy-Chesson said.
Rhodes, who is a professor of creative writing and American literature at Arizona State University, has won several awards, including a Coretta Scott King Honor for “Ninth Ward” – which also was named a Notable Book for a Global Society and a “Today Show” Al’s Book Club for Kids selection. “Towers Falling,” published in July 2016, was named one of the best young adult books of the year by Seventeen Magazine and the Nerdy Book Club.
Rhodes speaks free from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bellingham Public Library and from 3:30-5 p.m. Thursday at Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher galleries.
She speaks about “Towers Falling” free from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave., and about “Ninth Ward” free from 3:30-5 p.m. Thursday at Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher galleries, 250 Flora St. The talks are best for children 8 and older.
Rhodes’ visit coincides with the Whatcom Museum’s photography exhibition “The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City,” in the Lightcatcher’s second-floor gallery through May 14. Participants are invited to view the exhibition free before Rhodes’ talk on Thursday.
As part of her visit, Rhodes will speak to students in two Bellingham schools and has donated her $1,000 speaking fee to local Title I school libraries, serving students from low-income families. The money will be used to buy books that celebrate diversity, equality, and community, Whatcom Museum officials said in a statement.
Rhodes’ visit is a collaboration among the Bellingham Public Library, Friends of the Bellingham Public Library, Village Books and the libraries at Western Washington University.