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Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau Paperback – January 15, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

NEA Fiction Award winner Rhodes's first novel brings to life a legendary 19th-century voodoo priestess.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this first novel, which is based on the life of a 19th-century voodooist, Rhodes attempts to place her subject within a feminist context. Brought to New Orleans from the bayou by her grandmother, a former slave, the fictional Marie is persuaded to marry Jacques, a black sailor, in order to escape her mother's fate. Marie's mother was a voodoo queen who was killed because white people feared her powers. Marie leaves Jacques and falls under the spell of John, a voodoo doctor who beats her and exploits her ability to influence crowds. When Marie recognizes and accepts her powerful voodoo heritage, she is able to free herself from John. While Rhodes effectively captures the erotic and racist climate of 19th-century New Orleans, her plot is overwritten and occasionally repetitive.
- Harriet Gottfried, NYPL
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (January 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312119313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312119317
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #372,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Jewell Parker Rhodes is the award-winning author of Voodoo Dreams, Magic City, Douglass' Women, Season, Moon, Hurricane, and the children's books, Ninth Ward, Sugar, and the upcoming Bayou Magic. Her writing guides include: Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors and The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction.

Her work has been published in Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey, China, Korea, France, and the United Kingdom and reproduced in audio and for NPR's "Selected Shorts."

Her honors include: A Coretta Scott King Honor Award, the American Book Award, the National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Outstanding Writing, The Jane Addams Book Prize, a Parents Choice Foundation Gold Award, and the International Reading Association Notable Books for a Global Society prize. Rhodes is the Virginia G. Piper Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at Arizona State.

Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes is the Artistic Director and Piper Endowed Chair of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University.

Customer Reviews

This is wonderfully written novel.
Not going to.bother returning I'm just going to throw it away.
Looking for more than just a good book to read at the beach?
R.E.A.L. Reviewers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By David D. Warner on June 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Kudos to Jewell Parker Rhodes for an extraordinary piece of fiction based, in part, on fact. While some might argue that the picture Ms. Rhodes paints of the three Marie Laveaus is not entirely born out by the historical evidence, let's set the record straight. Take a close look at the title on the cover ... Ms. Rhodes clearly acknowledges that this amazing book is a NOVEL and never claims herself to be the definitive biographer of the REAL Marie Laveau or any of Marie's decendents.
That said, there are several reasons why I believe this book deserves 5 stars. First, the vivid imagery used so eloquently by Ms. Rhodes harkens back to the days of old when ALL history was oral history and story-telling was an art. What she has given us is a passionate tale of female courage in the face of injustice, triumph, tragedy, adventure, mystery and faith -- all packaged in a format that is superbly written and masterfully structured.
In my opinion, with VOODOO DREAMS, Jewell Parker Rhodes shines where most of the current best-selling authors fail. She leaves you begging for more, NOT wishing you'd spent your money at Starbucks.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Candace on November 20, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is wonderfully written novel. Rhodes did a terrific job of dramatizing the legacy of this remarkable woman. Her characters come to life with each page the reader turns.
Whether or not one believes in or practices Voodoo, this book is an insightful and entertaining read. It discusses the beliefs and origin of the Voudon, and provides a glimpse into a world that many try to ignore.
A captivating read and a lyrical novel, I was engrossed in the story of Marie and her legacy. As the title suggests, I found myself having dreams about Marie Laveau.
Candace K
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
Although Jewell Parker Rhodes considers herself a feminist, she has taken the story of one of the most powerful women in American history and turned her into a frightened, insecure child. The Marie Laveau of "Voodoo Dreams" is a weak woman, incapable of standing on her own two feet and is constantly relying on other men to help her. Rhodes chooses to have her Marie seduced and imprisoned by Papa John (although there are no hard facts indicating a relationship between the two contemporaries). As the plot unfolds, her Marie is either constantly wishing to return to the lap of her grandmother or fantasizing about the bed of Papa John, despite his constant abuse and rape. Marie is portrayed as a puppet, forced to perform before a screaming crowd, as Papa John counts the money on the sidelines. Readers who are familiar with the legend of Marie Laveau will no doubt be disturbed by this Marie's cries of "I am only a woman . . . I am not in control." The difference between Rhodes' Marie, and the Marie of Robert Tallant's "Voodoo Queen" is stunning. Although Tallant writes in drier prose, his Marie is a vibrant, powerful, charismatic and inventive woman. Whereas Rhodes' Marie is a sheltered and emotional, crippled by the intensity of her spiritual experiences. If I had read "Voodoo Dreams" first, perhaps I would have been seduced by Rhodes' admittedly beautiful prose. But I read Robert Tallant's "Voodoo Queen" first, and I absolutely cannot stomach the hideous distortion of a great woman into this sniveling little girl. I do NOT recommend this book for those who admire Marie Laveau or enjoy a strong female character. It is well and poetically written . . . but demeaning to the legend of the great voodoo queen, and to the sophistication of the religion that birthed her.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R.E.A.L. Reviewers on March 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Just in time for the Halloween "holiday" celebrated by real and replica ghosts, witches, and goblins, an old story of New Orlean's most renowned Voodooienne, Marie Laveau is a perfect read. Rhodes takes great detail to write a historical sketch on the lives of three generations of Voodoo Queens; Grandmere`, Maman, and finally Marie. All three women are named Marie, but the most revered of them is the last one born. The money hungry and foul tempered John and Marie's sweetheart of a husband, Jacque, serve as love interests to add an interesting twist to the storyline once Marie answers the call of Damballah, the ultimate god in the African spirit world who would only possess the body of a voodoo priestess. Characters like Ziti, Nattie, Bridgette, Louis and Ribauld add spice to the mix of the story line as the reader delves into Marie's life story from childhood to the end of her long "career" as a spiritual healer/vessel for African spirits.

Though the book may appear daunting in length, once I opened up the book, Rhodes weaved a spell on me from start to finish by making me wonder where the history ended and where the fiction began in this book. There are so many mysteries surrounding Marie Laveau's life that I was pleased to have a few questions answered and simultaneously be schooled on some of the history of the religion brought over from the African American homeland. Was/is voodoo just a way for blacks to make money by praying on the hopes of those who believed in voodoo's "dark powers" during a time period when job opportunities were scarce for freed blacks in the late 19th century? Exactly how long did Marie live? These were just a few of the questions that I wanted answered when I picked up this book ...
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