GENRE: Contemporary Middle Grade
Fourteen-year-old Clementine is only allowed to leave the cabin she shares with Mama and Daddy when she helps bury the bodies of Mama’s many miscarried babies. A tumor takes root in Mama’s belly and after Clementine helps place Mama next to the dead babies, she’s left alone with Daddy. Alone, until Daddy brings a new sister to live with them.
I don’t have much that is just mine.
I have a rag doll in a yellow dress that
Mama made for me when I was small.
The doll, Annie, has blue eyes and brown hair,
just like me.
Her face is smudged with dirt,
but my face is clean.
I don’t go outside much.
It isn’t safe, and Daddy gets angry.
I have a belt made from leather that
Daddy gave me when I was small.
The belt is dark brown with little flowers
carved into it.
Mama makes most of my clothes,
so the belt is something special,
but I don’t like it.
If I go outside without permission,
Daddy hits me with that belt.
I am Clementine.
The only people I know are Mama and Daddy
and some people from books.
Mama has a trunk full of books.
She calls them peace-offering books.
For every fight, every raised fist, every flowering bruise,
Daddy presents Mama with a book.
Those little paper apologies crowd her trunk,
Whispering the words that Daddy will never speak.
My mama’s young
Said she was about 13 when she had me; that makes her 27 or so now.
A baby having a baby,
Told me she didn’t know what to do with me.
Hadn’t ever been around any other babies.
For a long, long time, hadn’t been around anyone except Daddy,
Daddy is older
Tall, covered in ropy muscle
Strong, leaving bruises on mama’s face and body
Quiet, saying things only once, and you’d better listen when he talks.