Pemba’s Song: A Ghost Story or What I Read When I Was Sick #1

Last week I was sick with the worst cold I have ever had in my life, so I spent some time reading several books while I struggled back from the brink of death. The first was Pemba’s Song: A Ghost Story by Marilyn Nelson & Tonya C. Hegamin.

Pemba’s mad because her mother has forced her to move from Brooklyn to “Nowhere, CT” because she got a job teaching. Pemba is an interesting character. When she isn’t e-mailing or trying to get a signal on her cell so she can call her boyfriend Malik or best friend Raysha, she’s writing poems in her journal. Once they move into their house, Pemba has lots to write about: (1) Mr. Abraham’s research on the Colored School and (2) The ghost of the slave girl (Her name is Phyllys.) who keeps talking to her.

Yep. It looks like Pemba is psychometric. Mr. Abraham is there every step of the way as Pemba discovers how she can help Phyllys’ soul rest.

After reading the book, I was left with a few questions:

1. Why did Phyllys care so much about revealing what Master John did to Master Hart? It seems like her focus would have been more about what was done to her;

2. What does Colchester’s School for Colored Children really have to do with the story? Is it just a device to bring Pemba closer to Mr. Abraham? and, finally;

3. Is Pemba’s poetry supposed to be reminiscent of rap or some other “free form”?

Neat collaboration: Marilyn Nelson wrote Phyllys’ parts and Tonya C. Hegamin wrote Pemba’s.

Note: I got Pemba’s Song from the Chesapeake Public Library because I just learned that Hegamin is a new black YA author. Most of my scholarship focuses on emerging black women writers.