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It may have taken them an extra year or two to do it, but the Washington sisters finally graduated high school. But, now what? Keeba and Teesha are still hanging out on neighborhood benches with no future plans. Then an older friend convinces the sisters that they too have a skill - braiding hair - and that they just might be able to make some money from it. Suddenly, everything changes and the future looks pretty solid . . . until greed, jealousy, and politics turn the sisters' world upside down.
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Janet McDonald (1953-2007), a lawyer, was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to her previous young adult novels set in Hillbrook Houses, Chill Wind, for which she received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award, and Spellbound, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, she is also the author of the adult memoir Project Girl.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Twists and Turns
Twists And Turns1Music thumped the walls like fists, pounding inside the Washingtons' apartment. Edwina Percy Washington was away at yet another weekend church function. And once again her daughters hadn't been able to go with her. Cramps, they said. As she always did, Mrs. Washington told them to rest, say their prayers at night, and invite only girls over if they wanted company And as they often did, Keeba and Teesha said, "Sure, Ma," and threw a loud, boisterous party with boys from all over Hillbrook Houses.Although a year younger, Teesha had graduated high school right alongside her sister. Teesha herself was a year behind, but Keeba had been held back a couple of grades and was the oldest graduate in the class. You'd never know it from their marks, but the Washington sisterswere bright, each in her own way. Teesha liked anything with numbers--math puzzles, arithmetic board games, or just playing with a calculator. Keeba preferred imitating characters she saw on TV and in movies and could repeat their lines by heart. They simply weren't motivated to study, or even to attend class regularly. It was as though something else was beckoning to them. Still, they'd managed to get their diplomas and both of them were proud.Finishing school wasn't all they were celebrating, though. Their smartest best friend, Raven Jefferson, was home for the summer from college; their nerdiest best friend, Toya Larson, had been accepted into a computer training program; and their overall best friend, Aisha Ingram, was making mad cash doing TV commercials. Hillbrook girls were on a roll.The living room was bathed in pink from lightbulbs the sisters had colored red with magic markers. On the kitchen table sat Mrs. Washington's new punch bowl, which Keeba had taken from its box and filled with grape Kool-Aid. Around the bowl were placed a half dozen oblong glass platters, dishware their mother said was reserved strictly for church dinners, now piled high with bright orange Cheez Doodles.Earlier in the day, Teesha had gone to the grocery store to buy food for the party. Determined to stretch the weekend grocery money as far as she could, she saw little sense, once she'd found her favorite item on sale, in buying anything else. Pointing to the expiration date, thecashier had asked if Teesha was sure she wanted the six jumbo-paks. Most definitely, Teesha said. After all, Cheez Doodles didn't get old.For her part, Keeba had done the cleaning. In a manner of speaking, that is. She threw some water on the dirty dishes, kicked some magazines and newspapers strewn on the floor under the couch, and ran her hand over the furniture, collecting giant fluffy dustballs that she tossed out the window.
The party was pumping. Everybody was in a sweat, even with the windows open, and voices filled the night. People had gathered in a circle as the sisters and their main girls boogied through a series of old-time, played-out dances."The Worm!" shouted Keeba, sliding her neck from side to side. Teesha danced over to her sister, mirroring her moves. Then Teesha called for the Bounce. Like a gym class doing shoulder raises, the teens bounced their shoulders up and down in rhythm to Missy Elliott's smooth beats."Ah-ight, y'all," shouted Aisha, "check this out, the Electric Slide on wheels!"On her skates, she took three steps to the left and three to the right, leaned backward, then bent forward into a front wheel spin, all without missing a beat. Kids lined up behind her and soon the entire living room was electric-sliding."Damn, Aisha, you rock!" exclaimed her ex-boyfriend, Kevin Winker"Nah, brother, she rules," said her current boyfriend, Max Payne."My girl Ai can do on skates what I can't even do on my feet," said Raven as she stumbled into the forward dip, almost falling. Her fiancé, Jesse Honoré, caught her just in time.Not to be outdone, since the party was supposed to be for her too, Toya broke away from the line dance to do her specialty, the Booty. Rolling her hips back and forth, she eased down in slow motion and rose up again to the chant of "Go, Toya! Go, Toya! Go! Go! Go!"Bodies rocked and rolled in rhythm, and in the middle of the writhing mass Keeba was working her hips against a boy in an FDNY cap. For the party, Teesha had put a lot of effort into getting Keeba's hair exactly right: braided to the base of her neck, the rest left to hang loose down her back. The boy dancing with her wanted a touch."I don't think so, Arkim Hamilton. You out your mind? Nobody puts their hands on my hair but my sister," declared Keeba."Wassup with that? It ain't like the cowboy never touched that horse's tail.""What?! No, you didn't say my braids came off no horse, Arkvark! This hair is pure human."Arkim was doubled over laughing."You always think you funnier than you ain't," she said.Keeba swept her hair over one shoulder and walked off. She was laughing too, but she .wouldn't let Arkim see her doing it. He was so stoopid! A horse! Nobody had invited him anyway He just always showed up because he lived upstairs."Then let me touch that bootylicious," he called after her.
Lately, Keeba had skated less and eaten more than her sister, Teesha, who had transformed her "booty body" into a lean, sexy physique. But Keeba wasn't jealous. If she saw her sister preening at the mirror, she'd push her aside to admire her own image and would break into her favorite line from the Sir Mix-A-Lot rap classic, "Even white boys got to shout, Baby got back!"It didn't matter that Teesha smirked and said Sir Mix-A-Lot was so over. What did bother Keeba was when her sister treated her like she was stupid, going "Duh!" every time she said something that might be a little wak. Being older, she wanted her kid sister to look up to and even admire her, at least a little bit. But Teesha did take up for her whenever anybody else dissed her, which was cool.
Max was deep into Keeba's dance moves. "Don't hurt nobody Kee!"Noticing where Max's eyes were fixed, Aisha snatched him around."I'ma hurt you in a minute if you don't stop eyeballingKee's butt. Remember that movie where the lady poured boiling hot grits on her man because he was creeping with somebody else? Ah-ight then, watch ya back." She kissed his cheek.Max shook his head. "That wasn't a movie, Ai. That was what really happened to that old R&B singer Al Green.""Oh yeah, that's right! Well anyway, you better get out the cocoa butter 'cause them grits gon' burn."Meanwhile, Teesha was getting her own groove on. Dancing in the center of a group, her hair styled by Keeba in a crown of thick, loose twists, Teesha looked very much the part of reigning queen. She gave herself the role of keeping their parties in line and her subjects in order.A few rude people had something nasty to say about the food, but she let them know straight up where to find the nearest McDonald's. And when a couple of boys complained she never had anything "for the head," she directed them to the bedroom where the pillows were. It was one thing to let people bring their own liquor, but other stuff was too crazy. At lot of kids went downhill fast messing with drugs. And anyway, she wasn't about to give the Housing Authority an excuse to put. them out of the projects. Despite the limited munchies and the drug ban, Teesha felt the evening was a hit and that she and her sister were still at the top of the project party scene.
But not everyone was having a good time. An unlikely pair stood next to each other in the kitchen. One of thetwo, Ashley Honoré, was decked out in a turquoise silk blouse and black silk slacks. A recent graduate from an exclusive women's college on her way to business school, Ashley had never been in the projects before and would have kept it that way had her younger brother, Jesse, not dragged her there. He planned to marry Raven, a Hillbrook girl, and wanted his sister to get over her snobbery issues about project people. Beside Ashley, swimming in gigantic red jeans and a matching sweatshirt and wearing slip-on gold teeth, was Kevin's girlfriend, Shaniqua Page. She was tossing her blond extensions and glaring. Ashley spoke directly into the project girl's ear to make herself audible above the music."Why you gotta scream in my ear?" snapped Shaniqua. "I ain't deaf!""Sorry. The song's a little loud.""What song? Ain't no song playin'. That's rap.""Oh. Whatever. I was just saying I'm somewhat out of my element here. Are you from this neighborhood too?""Hell no, I ain't from these punk-ass projects. I'm from the Fort.""The Fort?""Sho'nuff! Fort Crest lays 'em and slays 'em, we yokes 'em and smokes 'em!"Ashley raised her eyes to the ceiling as if making a silent plea."Uh-huh. Okay. Well, I'm here with my brother, Jesse, who's with his ... uh ... date.""You mean that girl Raven? They s'pose to be hookin' up, right?""Please." Ashley sighed. "Don't remind me. Yes, they're getting married. Anyway, this scene is so new to me. We're not from the area." She was beginning to feel lightheaded. She'd skipped dinner, expecting there'd be lots of home-cooked food, which she had looked forward to as a nice change from eating out all the time. But ages had passed and nothing had been brought out."Is there going to be something to eat later? I'm starved! And this drink is so sweet it has to be a diabetes risk. I mean, there's nothing in it but sugar, with some water and purple coloring. It's like drinking grap...
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Book Description Thorndike Press, 2004. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # SONG0786266643