It is Wednesday, September 10, 2008, and Hurricane Ike is making its way to the Gulf Coast of the United States. Poised to strike disaster-prone Galveston Island as a Category 2 storm, Ike is seen by many as just another low-grade disturbance. But Lauren sees it another way and asks Stacy to risk her high-profile career to ensure the safety of 15 impoverished families.
Stacy Allen, Lauren Kennedy, and Kimberly James are three doctorate-holding African American women living in the Houston metropolitan area. Stacy is a native Houstonian who has returned to teach at the elite and private St. Matilda Adams University. Enjoyment of her career is overshadowed, however, by the rejection she feels from the African American community—a slight that is personified in Dr. Marie Sinclair Brown, who refuses to return Stacy’s phone calls.
Though Dr. Brown keeps Stacy at a distance, she has recruited Stacy’s best friend, Kimberly, to join the faculty of Houston Central University, a historically black university close to St. Matilda Adams. Kimberly leans into Dr. Brown’s mentorship and wisdom to overcome a confidence-crushing graduate school experience while struggling to define her own identity as an academic.
In contrast, Lauren has opted out of academia completely to start a private school in Galveston for elementary and middle school students from impoverished families. Lauren struggles to understand and respect the people and culture of a place that she does not call home, frequently leaning on the expertise of Kimberly and Stacy to grapple with issues of poverty and place.
As Ike begins to disrupt the coastal ecosystem, it renegotiates the boundaries between interdependence and exploitation in the musketeer-like pact. Love, sacrifice, and identity take on new meaning as Stacy heroically journeys from self-centered independence (I think therefore I am) to a communal and other-empowering stance (Because we are I am).