Tiger Ann Parker is smart in school and good at baseball, but she's forever teased about her family by the girls in class. Tiger Ann knows her folks are different from others in their small town of Saitter, Louisiana. They are mentally slow, and Tiger Ann keeps her pain and embarrassment hidden as long as her strong and smart Granny runs the household. Then Granny dies suddenly and Aunt Dorie Kay arrives, offering Tiger Ann a way out. Now Tiger Ann must make the most important decision of her life.
Your momma may have a simple mind, Tiger, but her love is simple too. It flows from her like a quick, easy river.
Tiger Ann Parker wants nothing more than to get out of the rural town of Saitter, Louisiana—far away from her mentally disabled mother, her “slow” father, and her classmates who tease her relentlessly. When her grandmother dies, Aunt Dorie Kay asks Tiger to live with her in Baton Rouge. Tiger finally has a way out; she can’t wait to go. But she’s finding that leaving her parents and the only home she’s ever known—changing her entire life—isn’t going to be that easy.
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Sixteen years ago, My Louisiana Sky met its first group of readers. Back then I volunteered at my daughter's school library. Those first readers were fourth-graders who gave me twenty minutes of their weekly book-searching time. The story was in manuscript form and hadn't been sent out to potential publishers or agents. As a novice writer, the sessions with those young students were exciting and important to my craft. Their questions steered me back to the page, eager to clear up any confusion. After My Louisiana Sky was published I continued to get feedback from readers. A few weeks after the book debuted, I received a phone call from a woman who had grown up with a mentally challenged mother. She thought my story was a memoir. After convincing her it was fiction, I hung up with the startling realization that someone I didn't know had read my book.
Soon I began receiving letters from readers. Some told me they wished a part in the plot had turned out differently. Some liked it just the way it was. Many shared how the book had affected their lives. Last month a college student at a book festival told me My Louisiana Sky was one of her favorite books. She said she related to the main character. It was an emotional confession because she, too, had grown up as her mother's caretaker. She's among the readers who convinced me that no matter how old a story is, it has the power to connect with our current life.
Didn't I always know this? After all, I was a lonely seventh grader when I found The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in my junior high library. Somehow I didn't feel so alone, knowing that Mick shared the same longing for being accepted that I did.
More than a dozen years have passed since My Louisiana Sky was originally published. A lot of my readers weren't even born in 1998. I'm still hearing from them. The story may be old to me, but they are finding it for the first time.
This month My Louisiana Sky is getting a fresh look. The transformation stops at the cover. The words and story remain the same. I won't say the same old story because this journey has taught me that opening to the first page of a book is like taking a first step on a trail winding through the woods. The trail may have been carved by countless steps made from former travelers. But discoveries await us. We view the sights believing no one else has ever caught a glimpse of them, as if we are the original travelers. And, for a while, we are. For a while, everything is new.