Cover image for Chill wind
Chill wind
McDonald, Janet, 1953-2007.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2002.
Physical Description:
134 pages ; 22 cm
Afraid that she will have no where to go when her welfare checks are stopped, nineteen-year-old high school dropout Aisha tries to figure out how she can support herself and her two young children in New York City.
Reading Level:
820 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.2 4.0 67346.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.5 9 Quiz: 33127 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A tough and funny project girl manages to make that chill wind blow away The good life, according to Aisha Ingram, is easy. It's hanging with friends, dancing, listening to music, whatever . . . but it doesn't include worrying about the future. Chilling out is her mantra until she receives a sixty-day termination-of-welfare-benefits notice. Without her monthly food stamps and assistance checks and with no help from the father of her two children, Aisha's life threatens to become a little too "chilly." The clock is ticking and she doesn't have many options, but one thing she knows for sure: workfare is not for her. There's no way she's going to scrub subway cars or sweep city sidewalks. Aisha tries to come up with other ways to get money, but things don't look good. Soon another notice comes: only thirty days left. Then she sees an ad on TV for BIGMODELS, and she figures she might as well check out the agency. After all, she is pretty enough. But just when it looks like Aisha's problems might be solved, things grow crazy again. In Aisha, Janet McDonald has created a larger-than-life heroine who finds and succeeds at what is right for her.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7-12. McDonald writes with such honesty, wit, and insight that you want to quote from every page and read the story aloud to share the laughter and anguish, fury and tenderness of 19-year-old Aisha Ingram. A high-school dropout from the projects, "with no diploma, no skills, and two kids," she's about to lose her welfare income unless she agrees to the "slave jobs" of workfare. As she tries out various wild alternatives (faking mental illness to stay on disability; working as a "big model") Aisha remembers how she got where she is and her experience with the boy who left her, just like her dad left her mom. Aisha is the wild homegirl in McDonald's first YA novel, Spellbound (2001), and, as in that book, the resolution here is much too easy and contrived. It's the truth of the characters and their talk (without obscenity) and the energy of the neighborhood--a neighborhood too seldom depicted in YA books--that will grab readers from everywhere. There's no romanticism, just a sense of a strong, young black woman, far from "sugar and spice," who screws up big time but finds self-respect with friends and family where she lives. Be sure to check out Booklist's interview with McDonald [BKL F 15 02]. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Returning to territory first explored in Spellbound, McDonald here shifts her focus to Aisha, the high school dropout who was pregnant with one child already. The author once again uses a third-person narration to create Aisha's authentic voice and unique perspective, but the novel's solutions ultimately seem too simple. Aisha, now 19, has reached her five-year lifetime limit for receiving welfare and must enter workfare or "get kicked to the curb." Determined not to do any of the "slave jobs" she's been offered, she searches for another solution, such as pretending to be mentally ill or trying to convince her kids' father to marry her. She eventually realizes there aren't any "lucky breaks around the bend for a project girl on welfare with no schooling," and she goes to work patrolling the subway. Conveniently, she gets chosen to be in commercials. Her mother quits drinking, and this, coupled with her sudden bonding with her sister, add to the improbable ending. Readers get a strong sense of Aisha's world-the projects, her battles with the welfare system, her friends and their families-and the ribbing between friends reads genuine. But, in the end, with things coming so easily to Aisha, readers will be left wondering what she has learned along the way. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-With her welfare benefits running out and no help from her children's father, 19-year-old Aisha is forced to examine her options. She remembers the words of her friend Raven (the central character in the author's Spellbound [Farrar, 2001]): "-nowadays they kick you off welfare after five years. So you won't be chillin' for long." While Aisha's alcoholic mother continues to offer some help and occasional baby-sitting, the teen procrastinates. She determines that workfare isn't for her, and eventually decides to answer an ad for "BIGMODELS, Inc." Despite an argument with the agency's receptionist, she manages to impress the president of the company. Bullish yet naive, Aisha stops at nothing to find and succeed at what is right for her. Well-drawn secondary characters move the story along and the plot develops at a comfortable pace. The language is real and believable and invokes life in an urban setting. Determination, familial love, and courage are the themes examined and while the fairy-tale ending isn't particularly believable, teens will find it satisfying.-Janet Gillen, Great Neck Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chill Wind Chill Wind One Aisha stood in the middle of her room holding the letter, spacing out. She could hear her mother Louise laughing at something on television, no doubt stretched out on her bed as usual. It seemed like ages ago that her mother worked in a laundromat, washing and folding clothes. Something else seemed like ages ago too. Aisha remembered dissin' her best friend Raven, also a dropout and teen mother, for wanting to make something of herself. She'd advised Raven to "chill," like she was doing, and just let the system take care of her. Now Raven's words came back like an ice cube dropped down her blouse. "I don't want to be like you. Anyway, nowadays they kick you off welfare after five years. So you won't be chillin' for long." Two years later Raven was a sophomore in college engaged to her son's father, and Aisha was a nineteen-year-old mother of two holding a "60-Day Notice of Benefits Termination."Aisha's daughter, Starlett, had just turned four, and little Ty was barely two. Her mother Louise had warned her about making babies "with nothing coming in," and her so-called man Kevin seemed to think promises bought food and clothes for their kids. Her part of the rent was due at the end of the month, and the last thing Aisha wanted to hear about was her workfare options--scrubbing graffiti off city-owned property, working with the city's Clean Sweep Team, or joining the Zero-Tolerance Subway Youth Patrol--all for some piddling, temporary "transition" allowance. Raven's words came back again: " They kick you off welfare after five years." What was she going to do? With no diploma, no skills, and two kids, Aisha Ingram's chilled life had suddenly gotten a little too chilly. Unlike her friends who had some kind of reason to leave school--usually pregnancy for the girls and prison for the boys--Aisha had cut short her education out of simple boredom. "I woulda bailed outta kinnygarden if they ain't had them def cookies," she liked to joke. As for one day maybe going back to school, she'd say, "Ain't took to it then, cain't take to it now." Before motherhood, Aisha's life was all about being out. Chilling out, hanging out, making out, or just bugging out. And Kevin Vinker, a long-waisted mama's boy with big eyes and hair cut in a fade, was always at her side. Aisha lay back on her queen-size bed and remembered the good ol' days with Kevin, before Starlett and Ty came on the scene.     "Wassup, Miss Ingram. Ai home? We s'pose to be going to Coney Island." Kevin's untied burgundy sneakers were the same color as his loose-fitting jeans and backward cap, gifts from his mother, a subway station supervisor. Aisha's mother, whose head reached the boy's shoulder, was dressed for work in a grayish smock adorned with rows of washed-out flowers and an assortment of stains. She squinted to bring Kevin into focus, a beer already in her hand. "Coney Island?! She too sick to go to school, but she can go running way 'cross Brooklyn to some Coney Island? That girl as useless as her bonehead father, and I done washed my hands of her mess. And what about you, playing hooky all the time like there no tomorrow. Y'all think you know better than grown folks, but mark my words, you gonna end up just like me, making next to nothing in some oven-hot laundrymat washing folk's stank drawers." Stank drawers. Kevin laughed hard at that one. Miss Ingram was a trip. And mad tipsy that early. "Now move your narrow behind out my way, before you make me late to the office. That girl's back there in her room with a hot-water bottle, propped on her head like she fooling somebody. I wasn't born yesterday." She hollered down the hallway, "And no, I can't loan nobody a dime!" and hustled off down the stairs mumbling, "They need to fix these broke-down elevators, like folk ain't got nothing better to do with they legs than run up and down steps." One after the other, Louise had had three children withher husband Louis, all of them, in her words, "good-for-nothings who can't send a dime to they mama." They were all grown when Aisha arrived, an unwelcome surprise. Louis wasn't any happier about the news and immediately announced that he was "done with being the mule" and was going to enjoy what was left of his life--alone. Soon after his wife got back from the hospital, he called for a gypsy cab to come get him and climbed in with four large trash bags stuffed with his belongings. For Louise and her new baby girl he left an "only for emergency" phone number scribbled on a brown scrap torn from a grocery store paper bag. That's when Louise began accepting Miss Barry's invitations to "come by and have a drink with a lonely old lady," and neighbors began whispering about how the Ingram family was going downhill. The Ingrams were actually two families: the one Aisha grew up in as an only child wondering where everybody went, with a mother who was often ill, cranky, or plain drunk, and the one her sister and twin brothers had been raised in by a playful mother and a hardworking father. "Be careful at the fourth floor, Miss Ingram!" called Kevin behind her. "Somebody peed, and it's all wet." Still chuckling, he closed the apartment door behind him and hurried down the hallway to his girlfriend's room. Copyright (c) 2002 by Janet McDonald All rights reserved Excerpted from Chill Wind by Janet McDonald All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.