The Color of My Words

The Color of My Words

by Lynn Joseph


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Américas Award Winner

“An achingly beautiful story.”—Kirkus (starred review) “Eloquent.”—Booklist (starred review) “Lovely and lyrical.”—School Library Journal

This powerful and resonant Américas Award-winning novel tells the story of a young girl’s struggle to find her place in the world and to become a writer in a country where words are feared.

Seamlessly interweaving both poetry and prose, Lynn Joseph’s acclaimed debut is a lush and lyrical journey into a landscape and culture of the Dominican Republic.

The Color of My Words explores the pain and poetry of discovering what it means to be part of a family, what it takes to find your voice and the means for it to be heard, and how it feels to write it all down.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780064472043
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/23/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 46,942
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.32(d)
Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Lynn Joseph was born in Trinidad and is the author of many picture books for children about her island home, including A Wave in Her Pocket, An Island Christmas, The Mermaid's Twin Sister, and Jump Up Time: A Trinidad Carnival Story. This is her second novel about the Dominican Republic, following her acclaimed book The Color of My Words, winner of the Américas Award. She has two sons, Jared and Brandt, and resides in New York and Bermuda.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sometimes you have no control over what will happen next, as I discovered the year I was twelve years old'but sometimes you do. And when you do, that's when it is time to take charge because you sure don't know when the chance will come again.

Wash Day

Saturday is wash day for Mami and medown by the river that flows to the sea.We carry the baskets high on our hips. We juggle the soap, the scrub board, and clips.

Our friends wave hola as we slippery-slide On river—age stones to the other side.Where sun rays glimmer on a whisper of shade.And Mami and me tie our hair up in braids.

Then WHACK! I smack the clothes on the rocksto scare out all dirt and grassy spots.Mami scrubs them up and down,and we both swirl them round and round.

Sparkling white, and river cleanthe clothes smell like fresh-air dreams.We clip them safe to bushes and treesto dry in the sun and flap in the breeze.Later, under the moon's blue lightMami and me smooth the wrinkled clothes right.We fold them into neat little squaresAnd take them back home for all to wear.

Wash day was the day i'd get Mami all to myself. For me it was the best day of the week. Unless it rained. Then I'd have to keep on sharing Mami with everyone, especially Papi, who sat on the porch and never moved. Mami had no time to pat her hair down, let alone share private thoughts the way we did on wash day.

At the river's edge, I'd tell Mami all the special things I had thought about during the week. If I wrote a new poem, I would recite it to her while we dipped our hands into the cool water. Itwas just me and her and the river. No other hands, no other ears.

Mami was the only person who knew I wanted to write books when I grew up. I knew it was a strange thing to want to do, because we sure didn't know any writers around here. In fact, Papi told me that in the República Dominicana, only the President could write books.

I think it's true. I went to the libreria and I saw a lot of books by President Balaguer. I told Mami this during one wash day. We were pounding the clothes with rocks, and I gripped mine hard as I beat the dirt out of Papi's overalls and my brother Guario's waiter uniforms.

Mami didn't say anything. She just kept turning her sheet over and over as she pounded away. Finally she looked up and said, “Ana Rosa, there always has to be a first person to do something.”

I think Mami was telling me that there was no reason why I couldn't try and be the first writer who wasn't President of our Island. Either that or she was hinting that I should run for President, and then if I won I could write what I wanted.

Sometimes Mami's words are a puzzle. I have to spin them around and around in my head as if I am doing a mental merengue. Sooner or later I figure out the dance, but sometimes I wish she would just say what she means straight out.

Papi might sound as if he is talking in a puzzle, but I always know exactly what he means. Like when I asked him if I could have a notebook just for writing my poems in. He said, “Muchacha, your head is getting bigger than your hat.”

When I told Mami this on our next wash day, she laughed. But I could tell the laugh was only in her throat and not in her heart.

“Your papi says funny things sometimes, carino,” she said. “He's a dreamer.”

“A dreamer?” I asked. “How can you say that, Mami? All Papi does is sit on the porch and drink rum.”

Mami's hand shot out faster than a lizard under a rock. I felt the pain on my cheek before I realized what had happened.

“You have no hair on your tongue, chica. Be careful!”

I swallowed my tears and beat the clothes harder. Wash day had never been a day of sharp words and slaps. I felt as if Papi was a rock falling down from the hills and into our river. After the big splash, there was nothing but silence.In daylight, silence is louder and angrier than at any other time. There are no sweet measures of silence such as night's stars, or evening's sunset, or morning's growing light. There is only bright, hard silence and it sounds louder than drums.

I glanced over at Mami. She was dipping the clothes into the river. “Look, Ana Rosa,” she said. “Look at the river.”

I looked. The water rushed around Mami's brown knees and through her blistered red fingers, leaving wet kisses on her skin.

“It'll never pass this way again,” she said. “Off it will go down to the sea, where it will foam with the waves and swim with the fish and glide ships along on steady or rough courses depending on its mood. Around and around the world it will go, this water that slips by me so quickly. Far from the República Dominicana, far from me, but always under the same sky and sun.”

I had never heard Mami say so much at one time. I looked closely at the river but I could not see all that she saw in it.

“You are this river, Ana Rosa,” she whispered. “But you must flow softly around the rocks on your way to meet the sea. There you can do as you wish.”

Mami's words were gentle. But her brown eyes were slits of worry like moon slices on a dark night. There was no happiness in the smile she gave me.

Many days and nights I thought about Mami's words. But no matter how I turned them or shook them or chased them from my mind, they always came back telling me the same thing. Mami was scared.

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The Color of My Words 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
verry sad and absorbing, This is a wonderfull story of a girl with a passion for writing living in dominican republic
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like to read realistic fiction stories keep on reading and find out about the book The Color Of My Words¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿. This book is about a girl named Ana Rosa and her family who lived in a town called Savannah in the Dominican Republic. Her passion was writing. Unfortunaly her family was so poor that they could¿nt afford to buy her a notebook. Ana Rosa did¿nt know how to dance until her father taught her. One day Ana Rosa found out the truth about her past that she would never forget. Later it was announced that the government was going to take over the village of Savannah. Guario her brother, went to fight for his village. Will Guario win the battle for their village? Will Ana Rosa be able to help him? I really liked the characterization that the author Joseph Lynn used in this book, for example Ana Rosa was adventures, because she loved writing different kind of stories. She was curious too, because when she wanted to write on something, she looked for Guario¿s notepad. Another one of my favorite characters is Guario. He was brave, because when the government wanted to take over the village he went to fight for it. He was responsible too, because he always made sure that he had his notepad was secured. Ana Rosa¿s mom was responsible because she always made sure that her kids did everything well. She was sometimes furious too, because one day Ana Rosa lied to her and she got mad at her. I think the author did well in description, for example she described really specific how Ana Rosa felt when she found out the truth about her past. I felt sort of surprised when the government was going to take over Ana Rosa¿s village. I recommend this book to my friends, because my friends like to read realistic fiction books.
rebecca8 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the use of Ana Rosa's poetry to introduce each chapter. This book, at first, appears to be a very young book in maturity but as you continue reading, the book and content matures just as the main character does. The imagery is wonderful and really allows the reader to imagine the situation with pristine clarity.
jrakeandlola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this book really caught my heart especially when anna rosa's brother was shot by the guard. this book was the best book ever.
Hennigar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ana Rosa wants nothing more than to be a writer and is very skilled. Unfortunately her family cannot afford paper for her to write on so she has to use whatever she finds. She is also living in the Dominican Republic where only the president is allowed to author books so she must be careful of what she writes. As the story progresses, Ana Rosa's entire community finds strength in her words. A very moving piece of literature, I would definately recommend The Color of My Words.Reading this book I was able to picture the characters, the Gri Gri Tree, and Ana's community through the highly descriptive language Joseph uses. As Ana struggled with her need to write I connected with her and felt for her. When I was younger I loved to write and wanted to become a writer much like Ana. The difference is that I always had paper and took that for granted. It is hard to imagine a place where a notebook costs the same as two meals for an entire family.It is very important for students to read about multiple cultures within my classroom as well as books by authors of multiple backgrounds. This will help students realize that people of all backgrounds can be writers not just old white males (which is all I seemed to read as a child). This book will definately be a part of my classroom library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kaesy93 More than 1 year ago
This book is about a 12 year old girl name Ana Rosa. She lives in the Dominican Republic. At first she thinks her dad is a drunk father and no good.But she relizes that hes a good guy. He tought her how to dance and all that good stuff. Ana writes poems. She loves to write but she isnt really aloud to write because the country she lives in it is frowned opon. But she doesnt care. Her family cant really be behind her or they could get in trouble. One day she finds her older brother Guario's notebook for work and she decides to write in every page with her poems. The next day her brother is freaking out because he cant find his notebook. He is afraid he is going to get fired. Ana keeps quiet about it til the next day. And secretly her family loves her writings. One day there was a festival going on in her neighborhood they claim to see a monster in the ocean.When the government finds out about this whole thing it goes bad. With a poem, she assures her family that Papi is her only father, good or bad. When the government threatens to take their land, she and her brother Guairo protest. While protesting something happens to Guairo...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book to a friend beacuse a younge girl see the world as if it is the most beautiful thing and she figures that it is just to much to see that she must write it all down. she see her brother looking for the fututer but she see that he is the future. As she tries to get noticed for her writing and to be heard. when she relizes that the power of her words can transfrom anything and some of the things are tragedies of her like lossing her brother and watching him died and she can not do anything to help him .she decied that her punishment is to never write again. When she finds outs that befor her brother die that he asked his parents to promis him that if he is gone befor them that thay eill never let her to stop writing.she stars to write again for him but she does not write article she writes about his life and how great of a brother that anyone one could ever have.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
There were great parts to the book, especially when sentences seemed like individual poems, but I have to say this is one book I won't be keeping.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Color of My Words is an excellent book for teenagers, especially those learning English as a Second Language. Teens identify with the main character and live with her her dreams of writing. As an aspiring writer of books for teenagers, I was very impressed with it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was a groovy book. i was just very surprised to find out that the author wasnt Spanish. i figured that she was writing the book based on her experiences in the Dominican Republic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is about a twelve year old girl named Ana Rose.She is a girl that want some paper but her mother those not have enough money.Then one day she was temped to write so she got her brother's notebook.Then she used the whole notebook.Then she hid the notebook so she won't disappoint her brother.Then her father told her to go dance with him.That she would teach him.Her greatest dream is to part of the community.She loved to write alot and she like to write her stuff in paper but she had no paper.As she struggles to find her own voiceand a way to be heard.Ana Rose realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her-and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book takes place on the Republica Dominicana. Its about a girl name Ana Rosa. She lives with her mom, dad, her brother Guario and her sister Angela. Guario works in a restaurant searching for a future. Ana Rosas dad always sits on the porch to drink. Ana Rosa really wants to have a notepad but her family cant afford to buy her one. Ana Rosa has lots of inspirations all around her and she loves to write. Papi likes to dance salsa, merengue, and bachata but Ana Rosa doesn¿t know how to dance so people cant believe that she is her dads daughter because she cant dance. Her dad tries to teach her how to dance but Ana Rosa cant dance but then once when Ana Rosa came from school her dad took her to the beach Ana Rosa really wanted to know what was wrong but her parents didn¿t told her nothing until her dad took her to the beach to teach her how to dance. Her dad tells her to feel the finally learned how to dance by feeling the sea music and he put a salsa CD. It took a wile to teach Ana Rosa how to dance but she I really like the author style it has lots of similes and its very poetic. It has some figurative language it also has dialogue and action. When the author is describing the an event you can imagine the story in your mind. I really recommend the book because its very beautiful what I more enjoy about the book are the poems I think they are also beautiful. The book its 139 pages long it seems to be long but its really easy the genre could be historical fiction because it could really happen and poetic because it has poems. By Someone who likes to read
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so great and a very intresting story! I highly recommend this book!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing.I always wanted to be a writer myself.And to hear her struggles is amazing.I loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Our school has an after school book club that is for 5th grade students. They LOVED the book. The students chose the book themselves and were very happy with their choice. We gave this book 5+ stars. A great read!!!!!!! Mrs Ferrer, Mrs. Santiago and Mrs.Oslizly
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ana Rosa has big dreams of becoming a writer in a country where the only books published are ones by the president.She faces many troubles but none prepare her for what happens last. A wonderful book.