Sherri Smith’s Orleans (pgs. 70-159)

“The next night Mama Gentille let me join the big kids when they dance with her ‘round the fire.

She call it religion, say she call down spirits that make you feel so good, like you been lifted up to heaven.  The kids say Mama a priestess.  That how she keep us safe from hunters and trouble from the tribes.  I don’t know what it all means, but if it mean I can get away from the gentleman and his needles, I do it (Smith pg. 97).”


In this passage Fen describes Mama Gentille and what the children think of her.  From the passage it seems that the younger children believe that she is some kind of religious leader, who uses her powers to protect them from the evils of the outside world, however the reality is much more sinister.  From Fen’s story you can see that Mama is effectively the Madam of a brothel that allows for the forceful taking of blood and features children as an additional “attraction”.

According to the children, the group is not bothered by blood hunters or tribesmen. They attribute this to Mama’s spiritual powers, but in reality it is more likely that those who would bother them are simply willing to become customers rather than actually raid Mama’s establishment.  For anyone who actually wanted to take blood Mama offers “fresh” victims that have not had blood taken yet, a specific blood type, and she will even provide a space for her customers to do with as they please.  So it would seem that a customer would get a better “experience” than a thief.

Mama Gentille is a rather interesting character in that her brothel is not just a brothel, but also a cult.  The members of her group that we see speak about her reverently, almost like one might speak of a prophet.  They say she takes care of them and protects them and in return they do the same for her.  This coupled with the belief that she has spiritual abilities makes for an image that closely mirrors that of a fanatical religious cult.  Except in the case of Mama Gentille she isn’t after the money of the member of her “congregation” but their blood and bodies which she is perfectly willing to sell and exploit for her own gain.


-Justin Wright


7 thoughts on “Sherri Smith’s Orleans (pgs. 70-159)

  1. This passage in particular really stood out to me because of how Mama Gentille was described, but what the implications of this description were. She manages to get away with acts of complete barbarism due to the circumstances surrounding the situation in the story. Learning about characters who make things like this happen is disgusting, yet it illustrates that something like this is totally within the realm of possibility given the context.


  2. I think the section of the book this was taken from, while horrifying, is also very important. It shows readers what this world has become. Yes there are bad people, but up until this point they are obviously bad, but Mama Gentille uses an alluring facade to lure innocent children to her cult to be exploited soon after. It makes the world created by Smith in the novel a little more terrifying for readers to think about and shows that human depravity knows no limits and that there is little more than societal norms holding it back.


  3. I agree, I think the children see Mama Gentille as a religious leader as well. When describing Mama Gentille, Smith uses the word “priestess”, which made me think of the word priest. Also, she says spirit and heaven, both religious words. The children feel safe around Mama Gentille, like most people feel knowing they have a god or guardian angel. Some religions are also known as a cult, just like Mama Gentille’s brothel. Another good point you brought up was how the members of the brothel speak of Mama Gentille. It is extremely similar to how some people talk highly about a prophet. You picked up on a lot of religious references within the block quote you chose.


  4. This is a very interesting section of the book because it shows that Mama Gentile is a religious leader. The children are following her blindly. It seems that there is a lot of dark magic involved with the cult. “If it can keep me away from the needles, I do it” is a very significant quote because it shows that the children will do what is needed to stay away from the dangers. This is very similar to many other religions where people will follow blindly to escape from dangers.


  5. Interesting that you say that Mama Gentille’s brothel acts like a cult. There is a thin line between a prophet and a cult leader but the word “brothel” is not one that usually fits with the other two words.
    It is true that she is willing to sell and exploit the blood and bodies of the congregation for her own gain. However, she also provides protection from the bloodhunters. I guess in post-apocalyptic times, morality is rather grey.
    Considering that blood is a scarce and valuable commodity, I wouldn’t be surprised that something like this would happen. This situation reminds me of a black market for donor organs.

    Jiapeng Zhao


  6. This is interesting because as you stated in the last paragraph, Mama Gentille is infact exploiting these children for the use of their blood. She represents this cult that has such a negative connotation to it, yet the children see her as such a leader who they feel honored to be around her. I find that many people who end up being a leader are treated this way because certain extremist group’s religion can really blind them from seeing the way that their “spiritual leader” can actually be harming them. This is similar to leaders in middle eastern countries like Osama Bin Laden who was seen to be a disciple by the citizens in Saudi Arabia, so they followed him, loved him, and supported him because they through religion, they were truly convinced. This could be very dangerous because so many people get power this way, much like Mama Gentille.


  7. This is definitely a horrifying yet interesting aspect of the book thus far. Mama Gentille uses the facade of being a priestess to be able to exploit these children for profit. The language used in the passage, referring to “calling down spirits” and dancing around a fire also put me in the mind of voodoo myths, another example of the author invoking the myths and customs of New Orleans culture and reimagining it in this futuristic, dystopian setting.

    -Marjorie Eyong


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