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Billie Jo tells how she knows her father wants to have a son instead of a daughter, but how he loves her anyway , but treats her like one , rough and tough. The opening of the book also describes the dust storms causing trouble on farms. (Farms are a vital part to the rural farming community, for it is a homestead area.) As dust storms swoop in and steal any hope of profit from wheat, the US government makes moves to try to help the area. FDR's New Deal is a series of programs to assist farmers (along with the rest of the country). Daddy takes a loan to try and start a new wheat crop, which Ma advises against, but the dust carries it away and makes more dust.One day while Billie Jo's pregnant mother is making breakfast, her father leaves a pail of kerosene next to the stove and then goes out into the fields. Her mother picks up the pail, mistakenly thinking it is water and makes "a rope of fire". Screaming to her husband, Billie Jo's mother runs out to the fields, with Billie Jo behind her. Thinking the house may catch on fire, Billie Jo runs back inside and throws the can of kerosene out the door. Unfortunately, her mother is running back to the house, and Billie Jo ends up throwing the can of kerosene onto her mother, lighting her on fire. Billie Jo runs outside and began to beat the flames on her mother with her bare hands in an attempt to save both her mother and unborn sibling. Her mother is taken inside and treated by the local doctor, but she never again looks like "Ma" to Billie Jo, for she is unrecognizable through her burns. Billie Jo's own hands are badly burned as well, swollen and dripping pus. One night, Billie Jo's father takes the money allocated to pay for his daughter's future education and gets drunk. Billie Jo is left trying to give water (using immensely burned and swollen hands) to her burned and injured mother.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

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