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Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review: Fifth Born by Zelda Lockhart

In honor of Black History Month, I thought I'd share a talented writer and her books with you. Zelda Lockhart, of Hillsborough, NC, was the region's 2010 Piedmont Laureate and is the author of Fifth Born, which was a 2002 Barnes & Noble Discovery selection and won a finalist award for debut fiction from the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Foundation.

Last year, I had the honor of taking a writing workshop at Salem College taught by Zelda Lockhart. She is a vibrant woman and it shines through in her writing. 

Fifth Born is a sensitively written, yet disturbing story of a little girl who is a victim of her self-destructive family and their sexual abuse. Each character in the book is rich with personality, secrets and desires. Odessa is a tough little girl, made that way through much suffering. Her family seems determined to destroy itself, but Odessa endures and makes a thrilling discovery about herself in the end. It was quick read, although not an easy one. I believe Odessa and other characters will stay with me for a while. 

"I listened, rocking now, to music from the funeral: 
What -- can wash away -- all my sins 
Nothing -- but the blood -- of Jesus... 
And I saw in my mind Grandeddy wringing the program, Granmama's obituary scraping over the crusty insides of the hands he had cut up with a fishing knife, but there were no bandages. 
Death, blood, Jesus, my cousin Neckbone standing over Granmama singing "Go Tell It on the Mountain," words and images put together like puzzle pieces that made a picture of logic for Mama and the neighbors, but in my brain they swam around like tadpoles trying to find a place to settle."

NC Author Zelda Lockhart
Lockhart has several other works of fiction, poetry and essays. Her serial novella, The Evolution, can be found in the archives of's Open Book series. Her most recent novel, Cold Running Creek, is a work of historical fiction that won a 2008 Honor Fiction Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

If you enjoy this novel, you may also like Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, and, of course, Lockhart's second novel, Cold Running Creek. 

Zelda Lockhart
Fifth Born
Cold Running Creek

Other book reviews by me:
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith
Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy
The Mitford Years by Jan Karon


  1. You just keep giving me more books to read, Kristi. Thanks. ;)

    I'm adding it to my list. If you have a copy, bring it to ur next get together!

  2. Indeed I do! It is signed with a personal note, so you gotta be good to it, as I know you would. ;)