Maria Maria

Book Title Maria Maria
Une histoire d’un orage
(Maria Maria, story of a hurricane)
Author(s) Jennifer Degenhardt
Illustrator(s) Madison White
Other Contributors Theresa Marrama
Published by Self-published
Genre Realistic Fiction
Publication date 2018
#Ownvoices N/A
From the author/publisher’s website
Level 2 or 3

Total Word Count

Illustrations                 YES 
Glossary                       YES  
Guiding Questions      NO  
Context                        NO

Races, Ethnicities, and Nationalities

Languages spoken

Sex and Genders
Female (Main character)


Social classes
Middle Class

Sexual Orientation



Faith is mentioned but no specific religion

Family Structures
Extended family

Body Type

From the author/publisher’s website 

Léa is a 9-year-old girl living with her parents in a little blue house in Sainte-Rose on the island of Guadeloupe. Their life is simple and easy. Both of her parents work and she attends school nearby. The family is very close, especially given that Léa’s grand-mère, whom she loves dearly, lives just blocks away. Life goes along at a beautiful pace, as it does on the island, until a family matter in Connecticut requires Léa’s mom, Stéphanie, to travel there to spend a few weeks helping her sister recover from surgery. Though Stéphanie’s absence is an upset to regular life for the family, the situation is further intensified by the impending arrival of Hurricane Maria, the storm that decimated many islands in the Caribbean. Learn how this family prepares for the coming of the storm and deals with its aftermath. Through these experiences, some of which are tremendous losses, Léa gains knowledge of what it means to be Guadeloupéenne, both as a daughter of the island and in spirit. Teachers: depending on your students, this can be a level 2 or a level 3 book.

To what extent do the illustrations present positive and thoughtful representations of identities?

The Illustrations represent Lea, her grandmother, and her dad. They are hand drawn in pencil. While the vast majority (⅘) of Guadeloupe’s population is Black, it is not entirely clear whether Lea and her family are white, Black, “métisse” (mixed), indigenous, or any other race/ethnicity. They look white. Because of this color-evasiveness, there is a missed opportunity to represent Guadeloupe as a multicultural island.

We understand identities are complex and no single story represents the spectrum of identity-based experiences. Also, a text may address a stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization without relying on it.

Does any stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization affect any positive and thoughtful representations of identities in the text?

Black people are left out of the story, though they represent 75% of the population of Guadeloupe.

This section is for teachers who are working towards sourcing more texts within the four domains of anti-bias education. We are excited about reading all books and we understand that not all books are written for this specific purpose. 

Does this text work toward goals within any of the four domains of anti-bias education as defined by Learning for Justice


Maria Maria follows Léa and her family as they prepare for and live through hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. The novel was originally written in Spanish and the French version takes place in Guadeloupe, an overseas territory and region of France in the Caribbean, which was also on the hurricane’s path. The story alternates first person accounts between Léa, who stays on the island with her father and grandmother, and Stéphanie, Léa’s mother, who has to leave the island in order to support her sister ahead of her surgery in Connecticut, USA.

The characters are depicted demonstrating agency and resiliency as they prepare, survive, and then rebuild. Through the eyes of nine-year old Léa, you see people in her community coming together and watching out for one another. For example, her dad looks after her grandmother and checks in with neighbors (p. 77, p. 84) while her neighbor Madame Violette organizes rescue efforts (p. 84). Additionally, the author thoughtfully describes Léa’s relationship with her grandmother, as the little girl spends every afternoon after school with her (pp. 55-56). Through her grandmother’s storytelling, one also finds out a little more about the Taínos, the first people to live on the island (pp.68-69). 

Right after the hurricane, as Léa takes in the devastation of her community, she makes the following statement: “la pauvreté qui existe en Guadeloupe est évidente.” –“the poverty that exists in Guadeloupe is evident.”(p. 83). However, this statement is not accompanied by any evidence. Rather, the next few sentences describe the effects of the hurricane (trees down, holes in streets, and debris). While 34% of Guadeloupeans live below the poverty line (Insee, 2017), this generalization risks perpetuating a dangerous characterization of the island and its people. 

Given that 75% of the population of Guadeloupe is Black, that the illustrations lean toward whiteness, and that the story avoids bringing up race, it would be helpful for the teacher to supplement the reading with context around the demographic breakdowns of the island, in order to avoid defaulting to whiteness. A similar intervention may be required as far as the language is concerned: the Creole language is also omitted from the story, which may give the impression that Guadeloupe is a French monolingual community. 

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