Book Review: The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin

Book Review: The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin
I found this book on a list for books about people with disabilities. It includes a girl who is deaf and a veterian with mental illness. Who meet an eligal immigrant and form a strong friendship.
Fatima is 16 from Africa. She is coming to america and work and make money for her sister to join her. She is extremely artistic and can fold paper into animals that seem to come alive.
Jimmy had been in the army for many years until he became mentally ill. Now he roams the streets coming up with inticrate and sometimes confusing poetry.
People try to hospitalize him but he always gets out.
He sees something in Fatima he likes.
Tamika lost her hearing from an infection at five years old. She lives with her mom and nana in a housing project called the orange houses.
She can sign well but her mother barely can. (What is it with deaf people and signing? If it’s not the parents flat out against it, it’sthe child having learned it and then they won’t. I doubt braille has given this much trouble)
Tamika hates her hearing aides because kids make fun of her calling her bug ears. And worse. There appears to be very scary violent gangs at this school. And they’re always trying to be one step ahead of her. Jimmie brings Tamika to meet Fatima and unfortunately her mom pulls up. Tamika and her mother exchange words (what little sign her mom knows) and her mom basically tells her to go home. She doesn’t like Tamika hanging around Jimmy.
Out of the corner of her eye she sees Fatima sign I Love You. And is stunned. That she not only had excellent english but also somehow knew to sign.
Tamika draws Fatima into her home. For all her toughness her mom can’t turn away someone in need and so fatima often has dinners there and becomes a part of the family. More paper art gets created. In one scene the manilla gang comes upone Tamika and Fatima. As they’re about to atack a huge amount of sparkly paper animals rain down from somewhere. A mailbox where Jimmie is perched. Incredibly this small thing is the distraction they need to leave her alone for now. Each chapter of the book up to a certain point includes how long before “the hanging.” And so this is the main point of the book. Tamika gets the M gang in trouble and someone suspended. They plan a big atack. Tamika is very wounded. Jimmie fixes her up and is kept safe in her cave. The gang ambushes them and atempt to hang him. He is freed in time but wounded.
By the end of the book things have shifted in the friendship come closer together. Fatima can now sign pritty well. Due to needing to be sent back to africa she says she will teach deaf children there. Tamika is internally brought to an understanding that she can enjoy rather than being overwhelmed by the sounds of the world through her new hearing aids. And Jemmie continues to just be Jimmie. He sure is a cat with more than nine lives. I liked the use of raw art and poetry as expression. I liked Tamika as a character as though she’s deaf and her issues around geting hearing aides are a part of things it isn’t the whole focus of the book. And I like that she knows sign I just OMG wish her mom would! And I loved how Jimmie was just himself. Trying to go through everyday deciding whether it’s worth it. And being able to keep on going because of the magical friendship the girls have discovered that he knew


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