Having Our Say

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Dad is having a little bit of trouble coming to terms with the parameters of the blog. I've discussed it with him twice over the last few weeks and the conversations went like this:

Conversation 1 -

Dad: What are you going to do on holidays?

Me: I'm going to read a slightly shorter book.

D: Oh good idea - like a Clifford book.

M: I'm not reading a Clifford book for the blog.

D: Why not?

M: It's a children's book that only has about 20 pages.

D: Oh. But who's gonna know.

M: Ummmm...the readers would know.

D: What about books on tape?

M: No, that's not reading a book, that's listening to a book.

D: Well wouldn't it be easier to just read a book every other day.

M: The project is called A Book a Day.

D: Well why couldn't you just change the name of your website to A Book Every Other Day.

I'm sorry to have to tell you dear readers, that the conversation just continued to slide downhill from there.

Conversation 2 -

D: It's too bad you read Marley & Me before watching the movie.

M: Well actually I like to read the book before watching the movie.

D: No I mean if you had watched the movie first then you wouldn't have had to bother reading the book. You could have cheated with the blog entry and no one would have ever known.

M: I like reading. I want to read all the books - that was the whole point of starting the blog in the first place. I'm not looking for ways to get out of reading the books.

D: Fine, have it your way.

I think for the duration of the year I'm going to restrict our conversations to talking about the weather.

Now for today's book:

" In this remarkable and charming oral history, two lively and perspicacious sisters, aged 101 and 103, reflect on their rich family life and their careers as pioneering African American professionals. Brief chapters capture Sadie's warm voice ("Now, I was a 'mama's child' ") and Bessie's fiestiness ("I'm alive out of sheer determination, honey!"). The unmarried sisters, who live together, tell of growing up on the campus of a black college in Raleigh, N.C., where their father was an Episcopal priest, and of being too independent for the men who courted them. With parental influence far stronger than that of Jim Crow, they joined professions--Sadie teaching domestic science, Bessie practicing dentistry. In 1920s Harlem they mixed with black activists and later were among the first to integrate the New York City suburb of Mount Vernon. While their account of the last 40 years is sketchy, their observations about everything from black identity to their yoga exercises make them worthwhile company."

My sister is visiting from out of town today, so I decided that if I was going to have to half-ignore her then I should at least do it while reading a book about sisters. We spent most of the day reading, and it was a strange feeling because I don't think I've ever been in the same room with her for that many hours before when the t.v. wasn't on. We're champion marathon t.v. watchers when we're together. We watched the entire series of S&TC when she was home for Christmas break one year - 2,790 minutes in 12 days. No one thought we could pull if off, but by cutting out a few hours of sleep and not moving for hours at a time we were able to prove them wrong.

Towards the end of the book Bessie has this to say, "I guess it will be a thousand years - probably never - before a colored person is elected president of the United States." The year she made that statement: 1993. It amazes me so much, that something is going to happen in less than 48 hours that some people never believed possible just 16 years ago. It also makes me feel very sad for the people who didn't live to see this moment.

Today's random fact that you can toss out at parties: In the early 1900's the Hershey company wouldn't hire African Americans to work at their companies, but Nestle's would. Shame on you Mr. Hershey.

Now to end the blog on a nice shallow note, I learned about something from reading this book that I've never heard of before: rent parties, in which people would turn their apartments into temporary nightclubs in order to raise money to pay the rent. Apparently they were all the rage in Harlem during the 1920's and early 30's.