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We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire
Cover of We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire
We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire
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From the author of the acclaimed Blood Water Paint, a new contemporary YA novel in prose and verse about a girl struggling with guilt and a desire for revenge after her sister's rapist escapes with no...
From the author of the acclaimed Blood Water Paint, a new contemporary YA novel in prose and verse about a girl struggling with guilt and a desire for revenge after her sister's rapist escapes with no...
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Description-

  • From the author of the acclaimed Blood Water Paint, a new contemporary YA novel in prose and verse about a girl struggling with guilt and a desire for revenge after her sister's rapist escapes with no prison time.

    Em Morales's older sister was raped by another student after a frat party. A jury eventually found the rapist guilty on all counts—a remarkable verdict that Em felt more than a little responsible for, since she was her sister's strongest advocate on social media during the trial. Her passion and outspokenness helped dissuade the DA from settling for a plea deal. Em's family would have real justice.

    But the victory is short-lived. In a matter of minutes, justice vanishes as the judge turns the Morales family's world upside down again by sentencing the rapist to no prison time. While her family is stunned, Em is literally sick with rage and guilt. To make matters worse, a news clip of her saying that the sentence makes her want to learn "how to use a sword" goes viral.

    From this low point, Em must find a new reason to go on and help her family heal, and she finds it in the unlikely form of the story of a fifteenth-century French noblewoman, Marguerite de Bressieux, who is legendary as an avenging knight for rape victims.

    We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire is a searing and nuanced portrait of a young woman torn between a persistent desire for revenge and a burning need for hope.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover

    Chapter One

    “You can’t react.” Mom smooths her hair for the forty-­seventh time since we parked in the public garage a block away from the courthouse. Now we sit in the freezing car. Waiting. “No matter what. All the cameras—­”

    “I know.”

    “Don’t snap at your mother, Marianne.”

    I watch the slice of Papi’s face in the rearview mirror. The fresh gray at his temples, the new lines around his eyes.Weary would be a specific word choice.

    They’re so afraid, my larger-­than-­life parents. Shrinking into themselves for nearly a year, layering on armor that doesn’t even protect them. Retreating when they should have been on the front lines. With me.

    My fury begins to unfurl, deep down. If I stay trapped in their inaction, it will spill out, blazing hot, and scorch them until their skin blisters, the seats of this ancient car melt, the whole thing burns down.

    “I have to stretch my legs.”

    I bolt from the car before they can object.

    They would object. They want to keep me close, muzzle me,don’t write your columns about the case, Marianne, don’t be so outspoken, Em, don’t, don’t, don’t.

    Outside the car, I’m free of their crushing inaction but I’m boxed in by the dark, low ceilings of the parking garage, the stench of furtive smoke breaks, urine, and gasoline seeped into concrete that’ll never be washed clean.

    I walk toward the hazy light of the exit to the street. Every step I take away from the car, I know my mom is fretting. We’re supposed to wait for Layla! Walk in together. United front!

    But the slick sidewalk grounds me, the damp air, the concrete and steel fading into skies that are yet another shade of gray. This is my Seattle. I dig a dollar out of my pocket and hand it to the guy huddled in the opposite corner of the parking garage entrance.

    Mom can still see me from the car. And I can see the courthouse down the block. It was imposing at first. Now, after so many months, I yawn at the building. The way my sister’s tabby always yawned his ambivalence about human existence. Until he got hit by a car, at which point he was probably less ambivalent.

    Across the street, a guy immersed in his phone looks up, leers. Does he recognize me from the trial coverage? Or is he a dime-­a-­dozen dirtbag?

    I hold his gaze until he looks away.

    Dirtbag, then. The trial never looks away.

    Even after it’s over—­so soon, it will be over—­its gaze will linger.

    A car pulls into the garage and I catch a glimpse of Layla’s hijab, bright orange in the dull beige of her ancient station wagon. Nor pulls in right behind Layla, as though the victim advocate took her job so seriously she escorted my sister all the way from campus. Really, we’re all here at the same time by horrible circumstance.

    Papi climbs out of our car and heads around to open Mom’s door like he always does, but she bursts out on her own.

    “Good morning.” Layla’s voice echoes in the parking garage and I flinch at the slam of her car door. “How are we doing?”

    Papi gives her a tight smile and nod, but Mom can’t rip her eyes off my sister’s car. She’s fighting every instinct she has to race over, throw open Nor’s door, and yank her out into her arms. I know, because I’m doing the same thing.

    “We’re okay,” I say. “How are you?”

    Layla gives her familiar smile, the one we’ve seen...

About the Author-

  • Joy McCullough writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her family. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate. Her debut novel, Blood Water Paint, was longlisted for National Book Award and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award. Her debut picture book, Champ and Major, was a New York Times bestseller.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 4, 2021
    McCullough (Blood Water Paint) uses the legend of Marguerite de Bressieux, a medieval French noblewoman who avenged her sexual assault by going into battle against her attackers, to view the story of Em Morales, a biracial (Guatemalan and presumed white) Seattle high schooler reeling after her sister Nor’s brutal rape at a fraternity house. When Em’s attempts at social justice surrounding the event cause Nor harassment at college, Em begins writing Marguerite’s story through free verse as a way to express her anger at the patriarchal structure that seeks to silence both Em and Nor. With the help of nonbinary medieval enthusiast Jess, Em explores parallels between Marguerite’s and Nor’s experiences. When Em uncovers a painful family secret and becomes consumed by her research, she withdraws from those around her. In a moving back-and-forth between Marguerite’s verse story and Em’s prose recounting, McCullough questions chivalric codes of the Middle Ages and today’s meet-cute expectations. Though extended metaphor use can feel labored, McCullough emphatically confronts the toll that sexual violence takes and deftly questions who gets to control history’s narrative. Kobabe’s black-and-white illustrations border the poems, reflecting illuminated manuscripts. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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