3/31/14

Addy: An American Girl Story

Addy's story was adapted into a stage play that was performed in Seattle in 2008. I wish I'd known about it; I could have seen it! I lived in Seattle during its run. It sounds like it was very well-done. Here are links to reviews about the play:

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: http://www.seattlepi.com/ae/article/On-Stage-Addy-s-history-lesson-tugs-at-the-1234382.php

Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.com/html/theaterarts/2003673046_addy20.html

3/30/14

Shadows on Society Hill

Published in 2007; author Evelyn Coleman; illustrators Susan McAliley and Jean-Paul Tibbles

Plot

The book wastes no time getting into the action: on the first page, Addy shoves a man out of the path of a galloping horse, saving him from injury. He offers her ten dollars as a reward, enough to pay for a full year's tuition of schooling for Addy. But she politely refuses, saying she was only doing the right thing. The man, Mr. Radisson,  is undeterred, and offers her father, who has now joined them, a job with his construction company, starting with renovating the house Mr. Radisson just inherited from his late uncle. The Walker family can even live in the smaller house on the property. Things are looking pretty good for the Walker family...except that they're massively out of place in the well-to-do area. While they're moving, a police officer even stops them, accusing them of stealing the belongings they're carrying.

Addy and Sam talk about the incident later that evening. Sam points out that there are a lot of good things to focus on, like the job and the house--the first time the family has ever really had a house. He gives Addy a necklace that holds a protection stone. He's had it since he saved a boy from drowning years ago. Uncle Solomon gave it to him. Sam figures Addy deserves it now, and he says it will protect her from any danger or worry. Addy's especially happy to have the protection stone late that night, when she thinks she sees a ghost in the mansion. Could it be the deceased uncle?

There's not much time to worry about a ghost. Soon Mr. Radisson's mother arrives from Virginia, making no effort to conceal her distaste for "coloreds." Mr. Radisson cuts her off, but she's made quite the first impression. Later on, Mr. Radisson admires a dress that Mrs. Walker sewed for Addy...and hires her to alter the wedding dress his fiancee will wear at his upcoming wedding (she's using his mother's dress)! His fiancee, Miss Elizabeth, is a wonderfully kind woman, providing a nice contrast to Mrs. Radisson. She even gives Addy one of her couture dresses and invites her to a concert. Meanwhile, Mrs. Radisson has noticed food disappearing. She's convinced that "coloreds" are behind the thefts. Some of the food was in a basket that Addy discovers has a false bottom and inside the hidden compartment is a paper with strange markings on it.

Determined to find out what's happening, Addy stakes out the area. She sees an older woman scurrying about the property and follows her to a tool shed, where she sees the woman write a note in lemon juice. Addy doesn't get the courage to enter the shed until after the woman's left, but when she does, she sees that note is addressed to her! She eventually figures out that by holding the note near a flame, she can read the lemon juice message. The woman is asking for help, and terrified about something. Addy follows the note's instructions and meets with the woman, Miss Tucker, who turns out to have been a Union spy during the Civil War, and is now in hiding because Confederate sympathizers (like Mrs. Radisson) might want to do her harm. The deceased uncle kept her secret, but then he died suddenly and the woman doesn't know who she can trust. She's been sneaking around during the night, unwittingly playing the part of Addy's ghost. But with Mrs. Radisson around, Miss Tucker can't safely leave her hiding place. Addy agrees to bring her food when she can.

Then things take a turn for the worse. Miss Elizabeth sees the necklace from Uncle Solomon, and all of a sudden she can't stand the Walker family. She accuses Addy of stealing not only the food that Addy now knows Miss Tucker took, but an expensive necklace. Addy denies the rumors, but when the necklace surfaces in an area Addy was, Mr. Radisson tells the Walkers they have to move out in a week. Mr. Walker will have to find a new job as well as a new house, which will doubt be in poorer condition than where they are now. And Esther is ill, so a drafty apartment will be especially hard on her.

Addy's sure that she can find out why Miss Elizabeth suddenly hates her family if she looks in her room. She intends to be in and out in a flash, but gets distracted by a quilt that's almost identical to one Auntie Lula made AND a protection stone with Uncle Solomon's mark. Miss Elizabeth and Mr. Radisson find Addy and order the Walkers out. Just then Esther's illness ramps up with frightening speed. She appears to be dying, and very quickly. Addy quickly gets Miss Tucker, and Miss Elizabeth puts aside whatever grudge she has and the two women bring Esther back from the brink. As things calm down, Addy realizes the problem: Miss Elizabeth was trying to get rid of the Walkers because she knew Uncle Solomon. She must have been part of a slave-owning family, and was trying to hide that from Mr. Radisson, who, as an abolitionist, would never want to marry her.

But it's more than that: Miss Elizabeth is actually a former slave, passing for white. She's Uncle Solomon's niece. With everything out in the open, Mr. Walker can keep his job and the family can keep their house. Miss Tucker will also be allowed to stay until her safety is secured. Whether Mr. Radisson and Miss Elizabeth will marry remains to be seen; they need to get to know each other for real first.


Looking Back

The historical sections gives an overview of the civil rights struggles that former slaves and their descendants faced for over a century, from the Abolitionist movement before the Civil War to Martin Luther King Jr and beyond.


Misc

This book is dedicated to "to my daughter Latrayan (Sankofa) Mueed, who pushed me through this process. [And] to Peg Ross, you are the editor authors dream would appear. How happy I am you're in my life."

This book takes place in the winter of 1866.

The cost of Addy's education at the Institute for Colored Youth is consistent. 

3/27/14

Addy's Summer Place

Short story collection published in 2006; author Connie Porter; illustrator Gabriela Dellosso, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, Dahl Taylor, John Thompson, and Jane Varda

Plot

Mr. Walker has been away, working for a railroad company, and the company gives him passes for his family to visit him at Cape Island for the Fourth of July holiday. The train ride is exhilarating, and Addy is happy to see her father again. They have fun with some leisure time, enjoying ice cream at Banneker's (the only place that will serve black people), and a walk in the woods, where Mr. Walker notes that someone's been stealing from his traps. Addy takes Esther to play in a nearby creek, and a young white boy makes conversation with them--until his older sister reprimands him severely for talking to "those people" and yells at Addy to learn her place. Addy is angry with the girl, and secretly wishes her ill will. But the very next day, Addy spies the girl stealing a rabbit from her father's trap. She chases the girl, who drops the rabbit and escapes from Addy. Addy follows, and finds where the girl lives, in a rundown shack with at least one abusive parent and another child (a baby). The family, though white, is far worse off than Addy's, who at least have some money and their love for each other. Addy surreptitiously places the rabbit where the girl will see it, and leaves, pondering their disparate circumstances.

Later that day, Addy, Esther, and Mrs. Walker go wading in the ocean. Addy is grateful for her family, and for the ocean, which is big enough for everyone to enjoy, regardless of their race, income, or social class.


Looking Back

When Addy traveled to Cape Island, she was faced with segregation the whole way. Even waiting for the train: African-Americans had to stand on a different part of the platform, separated from the whites-only waiting room. Certain cars on the train were also whites-only, and in 1866, only one hotel in Cape Island allowed black people to stay in it. Many businesses were also whites-only. Eventually, vacationing African-Americans built their own places to stay in or be entertained. As more freed black people earned and saved more money and segregation laws lessened, more were able to get away for a while and enjoy vacations.


Misc

My short story collection once belonged to an Amanda C., who signed her name on August 29, 2006.

Sam's not on vacation with the rest of the family, but it's not specified why. Probably he couldn't get time off work.

3/25/14

High Hopes for Addy

Short story collection published in 2006; author Connie Porter; illustrator Gabriela Dellosso, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, Dahl Taylor, John Thompson, and Jane Varda

Plot

Things are changing quickly for the Walker family. With the three adults working and Addy collecting tips delivering dresses, they have enough money to move from the boarding house to an apartment. Though she'll miss being just upstairs from the boarding house residents, Addy's excited for the breathing room the apartment will allow. Esther looks up to her big sister, and often gets into Addy's things in hopes of imitating her, sometimes damaging them. Addy's looking forward to doing her school in peace, especially when Miss Dunn reveals that she's recommending Addy and Harriet to the Institute for Colored Youth, where Addy can learn to be a teacher. However, when she and Harriet congratulate each other on reaping the fruits of their hard work, Addy learns the school costs ten dollars a year (more than two months' wages for her family), more than her family can afford. She stuffs the letter about it into her school bag, not wanting to let her family know, and tries to not be jealous of Harriet, who truly isn't rubbing anything in--she can't because Addy hasn't revealed she's not going--when she talks about how wonderful the school will be.

So Addy is stunned when her parents announce to the boarding house residents that they're staying until the end of the year, to save money so they can send Addy to ICY. Esther found the letter when she went through Addy's things, and gave it to her parents. They're so proud of their daughter that they think nothing of waiting on the apartment for bit, to give her such an opportunity. Addy hugs her sister, grateful this time for Esther's hero-worship.


Looking Back

The Institute for Colored Youth was the best place for black children to get an education. Students started at eleven, and continued through high school. They learned many things that would help them in their future lives, from teaching to trades. Fanny Jackson Coppin was the principal from 1869 to 1902, an impressive feat for not only a former slave, but also a woman (remember women couldn't vote until about two decades after she retired). In the first year under her leadership, the number of girls enrolled in ICY doubled. Coppin encouraged the students to pass their knowledge on to others, especially by becoming teachers in the South, where slaves found themselves suddenly free but with no education, surrounded by a war-torn region steeped in poverty (most of the fighting was in the South). She was an inspiration for countless students.


Misc

My short story collection once belonged to an Amanda C., who signed her name on August 29, 2006. I'd been married for almost two weeks at that point.

"If one wants to learn a thing, teach it to another." I love that sentiment from Coppin.

There's a subplot about kite flying, where Addy tries not to be jealous of Harriet's store-bought kite compared to the dingy one her father helped her build. Her kite flies better than Harriet's, who graciously congratulates Addy and asks for advice on kite-flying, which Addy just as graciously offers.

3/23/14

Addy's Little Brother

Short story collection published in 2006; author Connie Porter; illustrator Gabriela Dellosso, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, Dahl Taylor, John Thompson, and Jane Varda

Plot

Sarah Moore's cousin Daniel and his parents are staying with her family. His parents escaped to Canada years ago, where Daniel was born, and now with slavery outlawed, they've returned to the US. Daniel's very quiet, and Addy figures he must be shy. But he really opens up around Sam, who takes the twelve-year-old under his wing. He even gets Daniel a job with him at a commercial stable. Soon he's spending so much time around Daniel the Addy begins to resent Daniel. She thinks that Sam is ditching his sisters in favor of a "brother." She finally confronts Sam about it, and he explains that Daniel had a brother Sam's age who was a Union soldier, but he died in battle and his body was never recovered. Sam isn't hanging out with the brother he never had, he's helping a grieving boy. Addy understands, especially when Sam points out that Addy treats Sarah like a sister but obviously would never want Sarah to replace Sam or Esther. Addy gets to know Daniel and the three quickly start swapping puns, bonding over their love of bad jokes.


Looking Back

In free states, churches quickly became the place for all sorts of religious and secular social gatherings for African-Americans. The services tended to be lively, full of uptempo worship songs and fiery sermons. Churches hosted socials, quilting bees, friendly competitions, political rallies, debates, recitals, and raised money to help newly-freed slaves before, during, and after the Civil War. Church members could belong to many charitable and social organizations, strengthening ties to their communities.


Misc

My short story collection once belonged to an Amanda C., who signed her name on August 29, 2006.

3/21/14

Addy's Wedding Quilt

Short story collection published in 2006; author Connie Porter; illustrator Gabriela Dellosso, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, Dahl Taylor, John Thompson, and Jane Varda

Plot

Mr. and Mrs. Walker married twenty years ago in a simple "jumping the broom" wedding, but being slaves, their marriage wasn't legally recognized. Now free, they're going to have another wedding, with a ceremony and a celebration and an official marriage license. Addy doesn't have enough money to buy them a wedding gift, but she does have access to fabric scraps, left over from her mother's dressmaking work. M'dear keeps Addy company while she quilts the fabric, and offers advice (before M'dear went blind, she'd sewn some scrap quilts). Her teacher, Miss Dunn, also helps by writing her parents' names and wedding date (January 28, 1866) in fancy script on some fabric and teaching Addy how to embroider over the words. Harriet sees what's going on, and at first the girls laugh together about the idea of marrying the immature boys in their class. Then Harriet makes some hurtful comments about Addy's parents' wedding twenty years ago being meaningless and heavily implies that their living together and having children since then is scandalous. She disparages the jumping the broom tradition, saying it's a ridiculous slave notion that should be gone now that slavery is outlawed. Addy defends her parents, but wonders why they're having another wedding if the first one also counted. Addy's mother reassures her that there's nothing to be ashamed of; she and her father simply want to have the wedding they couldn't in slavery, with all the vows (see below) and jumping the broom.


Addy works on her quilt during recess, and decides to applique a broom onto it. Harriet makes some more snide comments, but after the discussion with her mother, Addy knows how to handle it. She tells Harriet that she's welcome to have her own opinions, and she can keep them to herself. The broom tradition is important to Addy's parents, and they will appreciate its inclusion on the quilt. Miss Dunn agrees, adding that while slavery is no longer, they don't have to completely ignore it, and it would actually be unwise to do so.


The wedding is a simple ceremony with a small party after, but it's all beautiful and meaningful. Addy realizes that she's completely happy even though Uncle Solomon and Auntie Lula aren't there to see it, because they were able to enjoy her parents' first wedding. Her parents are amazed and touched by the quilt, and Addy decides she'll add one more applique: a church, so that both weddings will be represented on the quilt.




Looking Back

Although marriage was illegal in the South during slavery, many couple still referred to themselves as husband and wife. They have their own customs (like jumping over a broomstick together) to signify their union. Many slave owners turned a blind eye to the illegitimate marriages, believing that strong family ties would make the slaves happier and less likely to try to escape. Some slave owners even helped, organizing celebrations and bringing in white ministers to perform to the ceremonies. However, the vows didn't include the standard "til death do us part" because slaves couldn't guarantee that they wouldn't be separated by their owners. After slavery was over, many couples renewed their vows and got marriage licenses, happy that their unions were officially recognized.



Misc

My short story collection once belonged to an Amanda C., who signed her name on August 29, 2006.

Some of the fabric Addy uses in the quilt is from a shirt of Uncle Solomon's.

Personally, I consider myself married because of the rites performed in the religious ceremony (we had a nuptial mass in a Catholic church seven and a half years ago) and the piece of paper the marriage license is on to be redundant--I care that I'm married in the eyes of my church, not in the eyes of the government. However, I was never told I couldn't get that piece of paper if I wanted to, and have never been treated as property like slaves were, so I'm not really comparing apples to apples here.

.

3/18/14

Changes for Addy

Published in 1994; author Connie Porter; illustrators Bradford Brown, Renee Graef, and Geri Strigenz Bourget

Plot

It's getting cold as winter hits Philadelphia. Addy's family has just gotten a letter from a freedman's camp (which helps newly freed slaves) that Uncle Solomon and Auntie Lula were there with Esther, but left a month ago, heading for Philadelphia. Addy wants to go look for them right away, but her parents point out that an elderly couple with a toddler would make slow progress: she should at least wait for morning.

She and Sam go looking for them, checking local hospitals. On the way home, Addy stops by her friend Sarah's. There, she learns that Sarah must quit school to help her mother take in laundry; the family is destitute. Addy is devastated. She and Sarah had made plans to apply to an education program that would help them become teachers themselves one day, but Sarah's family needs the extra income. Addy makes plans to visit Sarah often, and work on bits of schoolwork with her when possible. She even gives Sarah a slate for a Christmas present.

Over the next few weeks, Addy and Sam continue their search. As Christmas draws nearer, they're both busy with work (Addy delivers the dresses her mother and Mrs. Ford sew) but still find time wherever they can. One evening she stops by the church to light candles for her missing family members. It's not long before her prayers are heard: right there at the church, she sees Auntie Lula with Esther.

Addy leads the pair home, where the reunion is bittersweet. Mrs. Walker in particular is overcome with conflicting emotions, finally able to see and hold her daughter for the first time in over a year, but also realizing that her daughter doesn't know her. Auntie Lula also breaks the news that Uncle Solomon died shortly before they reached Philadelphia. But she tells everyone that he was at peace, finally a free man. Auntie Lula produces Addy's old doll, Janie, from her things and asks Esther who gave it to her. She says, "My sister, Addy." So while the two-year-old can't be expected to remember her immediate family, she clearly has been taught who they are, and that they love her. The family is able to celebrate the fact that Uncle Solomon died after achieving his life-long dream, and starts to get reacquainted. But two days before Christmas, Auntie Lula also dies.

Addy is broken up with sadness that she tells her mother she can't read the Emancipation Proclamation at the church's New Year celebration, as has been planned. Her mother counsels her that while they have lost significant things--two beloved grandparent figures, a year of Esther's life--they have to remember that they're all connected still. And the future is looking better and better. She encourages Addy to stay strong and to hope, and with her mother's advice, Addy agrees to read the Proclamation, to honor all the people who worked for freedom. After the celebration, Esther finds Addy in the crowd and holds her hand, indicating that she trusts Addy. Addy asks Esther where they're going, and the toddler replies, "Home." Addy agrees; they're going home together.


Looking Back

The historical section talks about the racial disparity that existed after the end of slavery, and how it's been gradually worn down over the years...and is still being worked on today.


Misc

This book is dedicated to "my editor, Bobbie Johnson--thanks for helping bring Addy to life."

The dress-making store where Addy's mother works gets a sewing machine.

I think Addy's stories evoke the most emotion in me, definitely more than the stories of the other characters I've read. Maybe the stories about Marie-Grace and Cécile or Caroline will though; time will tell.

3/15/14

Addy Saves the Day

Published in 1994; author Connie Porter; illustrators Bradford Brown, Renee Graef, and Geri Strigenz Bourget

Plot

Addy and her parents are working to raise money so that her father can go back to the plantation area to search for Esther and Sam. They're going to raise fruits and vegetables to sell. While they're working the plot of land, Addy's wealthy classmate Harriet stops by to make some elitist comments, even rubbing in the fact that her uncle served in the military with distinction, while Addy's brother only might have joined and no one even knows where he is. A few days later the church starts organizing a fair to raise money for freed slaves looking for their families. There Harriet dismisses Addy's idea of a puppet show and then selling puppets, but everyone else likes it and picks it over Harriet's idea (and a few others, although I don't know why they couldn't also do the pie-eating contest someone suggested). Addy crosses the line from happy to prideful, which her parents ask her to try to temper. They know it's difficult for Addy to see how easy Harriet's life is, but they don't want her filled with jealousy and hate. She promises to try, and the news that her father will be able to search for Sam and Esther sooner than planned helps her mood.

But while the church group prepares the puppets (made from spools from the seamstress store where Addy's mother works), Harriet is intentionally antagonistic to Addy. They end up fighting, and to teach them a lesson, the woman in charge of the children assigns Addy and Harriet to perform the puppet show together. The morning of the fair, Addy finds Harriet alone in the church crying. It turns out her uncle was killed. Addy comforts her, and the gravity of the situation gives the girls some perspective, allowing them to make up. Addy suggests that her friend Sarah could take Harriet's place if Harriet isn't up to doing the puppet show, but that the group could use Harriet's lightening quick math skills when they start selling the puppets. Harriet agrees, and the girls head to the fair.

The puppet show and the sales go very well, and they make a lot of money for their cause. Which makes it all the more depressing when the money disappears. Addy is sure it was a girl who was hanging around suspiciously, acting like she had something to hide and carrying a large bag. She and Harriet take off after her, and Addy is able to get the bag from her. The girl escapes, but when the reverend of the church opens the bag, he finds three money boxes inside, totaling about $50 (around $750 today). Despite the excitement, Addy is happy to go back to manning the puppet show. She and Sarah have their puppets tell each other riddles. Suddenly, an audience members answers, saying even his little sister knows that one. Addy jumps out from the behind the stage. It's Sam! He's in a soldier's uniform, and it turns out he lost his left arm fighting, but he's in Philadelphia, reunited with Addy and their parents. Now they just need to find Esther with Auntie Lula and Uncle Solomon.


Looking Back

With the end of slavery, America suddenly gained about four million new citizens. Plus there was a wave of immigration from other countries. The country was recovering from the war, and couldn't afford to help many of the people. The new citizens moved into the cities to find jobs, many of the jobs industrial. The cities were soon crowded and polluted, which made the hot summers even more difficult to get through. People who could afford it would vacation out in the country, and those who couldn't visited city parks when they could. There they could get some fresh air, enjoy the plant life, and swim a bit.


Misc

This book is dedicated to the author's nieces and nephews.

3/12/14

Addy Studies Freedom

Short story collection published in 2006; author Connie Porter; illustrator Gabriela Dellosso, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, Dahl Taylor, John Thompson, and Jane Varda

Plot

Philadelphia is buzzing with happiness and relief. The war is over, and everyone is hopeful about the future. Addy is especially excited because her parents are going to take a train down south (without concern about being forced into slavery again!) to find Sam, Esther, Uncle Solomon, and Auntie Lula. The family will be together again! Everywhere Addy goes, she's smiling: whether it's writing an essay on freedom for her homework assignment, heading to supper, or doing errands for her mother.

But it's on one of those errands that her smile disappears: when Addy goes to pick up meat from the butcher for the church's celebration the coming weekend, she learns that President Lincoln is dead. And not only dead, but assassinated. The war only ended on Sunday, and already there's concern it will restart. The joy is gone from people's faces. Church that weekend is a sermon about Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery to the Promised Land but never entering himself. People dress in dark, somber clothes, preparing for the funeral procession coming through Philadelphia on Saturday. Addy and her father go to the viewing (her mother is sick), and Addy reflects that while Lincoln freed the slaves, he won't be able to continue his work to make them equal; segregation still exists.

The lines for the viewing are enormous, and the crowds get belligerent from time to time. During one bout of shoving, Addy is separated from her father and briefly lost, until a white man gets her out of the way of the surging crowd. He helps Addy get back to father, and for the first time Addy's ever heard, a white man calls her father "sir." Addy and her father finally make it to the State House for the viewing and have a moment to pay their respects. As they walk home, Addy thinks about the man who helped her, and other white people who have treated the Walkers with dignity and respect, like the two people who hired her parents and the woman who helped her and her mother to freedom. Not everyone views her as an equal, but more and more are on the right track.


Looking Back

Five days after the Civil War ended, Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head. Lincoln died the next morning (Booth was shot dead April 26, when he refused to surrender; eight co-conspirators were convicted; four of them hanged). The country mourned their president, and many former slaves feared the war would resume and slavery be reinstated. But aside from the South being too destitute to continue the way--a big reason for its ending--people united in their grief, not only for Lincoln but also for those lost during the war. Only a few years later, in 1870, the fifteenth amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, ensuring that all men could vote, regardless of their skin color or former slave status (women didn't get the vote until the 1920s). That's pretty fast for an amendment. Part of it was fueled by the fact Republican candidate Ulysses Grant--commander of the Union troops in the Civil War--only narrowly defeated Democrat Horatio Seymour, and the Republican party saw that allowing all men to vote would increase the party's power. But people also wanted to honor Lincoln, as it was an important issue to him. In fact, Lincoln's desire for African-American suffrage was one of the reasons Booth murdered him.


Misc

My short story collection once belonged to an Amanda C., who signed her name on August 29, 2006. I'd been married for almost two weeks at that point.

3/9/14

Happy Birthday, Addy!

Published in 1994; author Connie Porter; illustrators Melodye Rosales, Renee Graef, and Luanne Roberts

Plot

It's now March. Addy and her parents have moved from the room above Mrs. Ford's seamstress shop to a boarding house run by Mr. and Mrs. Golden. Mrs. Walker still works for Mrs. Ford, and Mr. Walker has a job delivering ice. This leaves Addy alone a lot of the time, so she's thrilled when Mr. Golden's mother moves into the boarding house and befriends Addy. M'dear, as the woman asks Addy to call her, is a fascinating woman. One of the first things they discuss is that Addy's birthday is around this time, but, having been born a slave, she doesn't know it. M'dear encourages Addy to pick a special day for it. The two quickly become close; Addy enjoying hearing M'dear's wisdom, and M'dear (who doesn't get out much due to age and blindness) enjoys the company.

About a week after they meet, M'dear runs out of a prescription and Addy offers to pick it up. She and her friend Sarah discover the nearby pharmacy is closed, so Addy decides they should take the streetcar to another one a little ways away. Sarah's nervous about that, because so many streetcars are whites only, and even the non-segregated ones--where the girls wouldn't allowed to ride inside--can be dangerous for black people. They make it safely to the pharmacy, but the clerk treats them very rudely. He reminds Addy of how she was treated on the plantation. And when they try to return, there's a fight between a streetcar conductor and a black man who's tired of waiting (because African-Americans are only allowed on the outside platform there's "no room" despite the inside being wide open) which starts to escalate, forcing the girls to walk. M'dear gets the story out of Addy and Sarah, and consoles them. Addy takes the words to heart, and encourages her father that someone will see that he's a skilled carpenter and hire him. Sure enough, Mr. Walker gets a job shortly after.

And shortly after that, Addy decides on the perfect day for her birthday: April ninth. What prompts her? With General Lee's surrender at Fort Appomattox, the Civil War is over. The Goldens and Addy's parents help her have an impromptu party, celebrating not only her birthday but the end of the war. Now their chances of reuniting with Sam and Esther are even better.


Looking Back

The historical section gives an interesting perspective into Meet Addy. When a slave woman gave birth (attended by other slave women who were experienced in childbirth), they were expected to get back to work very quickly. Older children or elderly slaves tended to the infants, although depending a woman's work she might be able to carrying a young baby with her in a sling. As they grew up, the children played with each other and often with the white plantation children. Around the age of eight, they were put to work, and by the time they were teenagers, they were considered adults and given the workload--and punishments--of an adult. Addy was nine in her first book, very recently pressed into service, and Sam would have just started "adulthood." Gives even more meaning to their (understandable, of course) resentment.


Misc

This book is dedicated to the author's parents.

Unlike the previous four characters, Addy's first three main books were published in a different year from her next three.

In the opening scene, Addy, Sarah, and her father talk about how hot it is, but then there's a picture of Addy and her father both wearing heavy coats. Also, how hot is it usually in Philadelphia in late March?

3/6/14

Addy's Surprise

Published in 1993; author Connie Porter; illustrators Melodye Rosales, Renee Graef, and Luanne Roberts

Plot

Christmas is on its way, and with it, cold weather. The room Addy and her mother live in is drafty and cold, but it's home. They're saving up what little money they can to buy a lamp; the candlelight just isn't enough. Addy's contributing the tips she gets delivering the dresses her mother and Mrs. Ford sew. Addy wishes the rest of her family could be with them, especially at this time of year. She knows her mother misses the others terribly, and wants to give her something special for Christmas. She sees a beautiful red scarf in a secondhand store, just right for her mother, and saves half her tips to buy it, putting the other half in the lamp fund.

One Sunday at church, the minister tells the congregation about boat coming, with a group of newly-freed slaves. He reminds the people how difficult it was for them when they arrived, suddenly free and with hardly anything to their names. Addy and her mother agree that a lamp can wait; they'll give the meager funds to help those with even less. Addy goes to the pier with Sarah Moore to greet the new arrivals, just as Addy herself was greeted a few months before. She helps a family with a baby, carrying the little one to the church. Her heart aches for her baby sister, and hoping that someone can help the rest of her family get to freedom the way Addy helped people today, she donates the money for the scarf to the church's freedman fund.

Little surprises crop up as the holiday approaches. Mrs. Ford invites Addy to stay downstairs in the shop and sew with her mother, instead of being relegated to the cold room above. Addy's thrilled to be able to spend time with her mother. One day a woman storms in with a dress Addy's mother had toiled over, insisting it was made poorly because it doesn't fit her daughter (who seems to have grown since her last fitting). Mrs. Ford stands up for Mrs. Walker, proclaiming her the best seamstress she's ever seen. The woman returns the dress, and Mrs. Ford hems it and takes it in to fit Addy. She lets Addy have the part she cut off the bottom, and Addy makes it into a scarf even more beautiful than the one she couldn't buy.

Christmas morning, Addy gives her mother the scarf, and receives a doll to replace the one she gave Esther. She and her mother head out for the church's Christmas celebration, where they're overwhelmed with the extravagance of everything. Addy takes it all in, hopeful that next Christmas her father, Sam, and Esther can be there to celebrate too.

While watching a children's play, Addy sees a familiar silhouette: it's her father! He was separated from Sam almost immediately after being sold, but he was able to make it to Philadelphia for Christmas. The three Walkers head home, where they find that Mrs. Ford has left a kerosene lamp for a present. Addy's father fixes the window, and they settle down for some of Mrs. Walker's sweet potato pudding. The family isn't complete yet, but it's getting closer.


Looking Back

Christmas during the Civil War was a scant affair for most people. There were few families who hadn't lost fathers, brothers, or sons in the fighting, and many were separated from each other. The war also caused the prices of even necessities to skyrocket, meaning that gift were not only hard to come by, but sometimes food as well. The North wasn't as bad off as the South--most of the fighting was in the South--and more families there had the means to celebrate, but everyone who did celebrated fairly simply. Soldiers on the front lines had even briefer Christmas observances.

The historical section also mentions two other holidays important to African-American culture: Kwanzaa, a celebration that runs from December 26 to January 1 to honor African heritage, and Juneteenth, held on the nineteenth of June to commemorate the date that many slaves learned of the Emancipation Proclamation.


Misc

This book is dedicated to Tia Porter, the author's niece.

It just occurred to me that Addy's mother had to sew by hand. She mentions sewing with a needle and thread by candlelight, and while the sewing machine was invented in 1790, it wasn't widely used right away, and there wasn't an American manufacturer until 1845. The Laura Ingalls Wilder book Little Town on the Prairie mentions them as very recent imports to the Dakota Territory in the 1880s; it's unlikely that a dressmaker would be able to afford one during the war years.

The minister at Addy's church instructs the congregation to read along with a Bible passage. The Bibles are provided, and it's clearly not a liturgical church like I'm used to (I'm Catholic), so I don't know whether that makes sense. I've been to Protestant services with my friends where we read along with the pastor, but literacy rates today are much higher than they were among populations of former slaves. I wonder if would be realistic for ministers to have people read along. Maybe it helped them learn to read.

There's a really touching moment when Addy's father realizes she knows how to read. He's overcome with emotion, proudly telling her he always knew she was smart.

3/4/14

Addy Learns a Lesson

Published in 1993; author Connie Porter; illustrators Melodye Rosales, Renee Graef, and Luanne Roberts

Plot

The book opens shortly after the previous one left off. Addy and her mother have just arrived in Philadelphia. Someone is supposed to meet them to help them get settled, but Addy and her mother don't see anyone who might be looking for them. Finally, another mother-daughter pair arrive, having gotten the name of the boat wrong. Sarah Moore and her mother usher Addy and her mother to their church, where a welcome lunch is set for newly-escaped slaves. Mrs. Moore is even able to find a job for Mrs. Walker, as an assistant to an abolitionist seamstress, Mrs. Ford. Mrs. Ford also gives the Walker women the room over her shop. It's small, but it's home. Soon after, Addy gets to go to school for the first time in her life. Sarah helps her learn her letters and numbers, and is a very patient teacher. Addy's teacher assigns her to sit with another girl, Harriet, who has the care-free life Addy dreamed freedom would bring her. Harriet is also very smart, enough to intimidate Addy. Sarah doesn't like Harriet, saying she's stuck-up and thinks she's better than anyone poor, and will try to take advantage of Addy's naivete. Addy, however, looks up to Harriet. But because she wants Harriet to think well of her, Addy is hesitant to ask her for help, and worries she'll fall even further behind with her schooling.

One day after school, Addy arrives home to find Mrs. Walker distraught. Mrs. Ford has left three packages for her to deliver, and Mrs. Walker can't read the addresses, nor does she know her way around the city. Sarah's able to help, and Mrs. Walker laments that she must learn to read or get a new job. Addy has a flash of insight: she'll teach her mother what she's learning in school, and in doing so reinforce her own lessons. They practice math using the beans they cook and use biscuit and cookie dough to form letters.

Addy's still enamored with Harriet, so when Harriet invites Addy to walk home with her group of popular friends, Addy's elated. When she catches up to the girls, they all dump their books in her arms. Apparently she has to be the "flunky" as a sort of initiation/hazing thing. Something about seems wrong to Addy, but she's so eager to please that she goes along with it and Harriet invites Addy to her home the next day to study for the spelling bee, which will be held the day after that. So after school the next day, Addy accepts the pile of books and walks with the girls, disturbed by their classist gossip. When they reach the seamstress shop, the girls abruptly take their books and leave, explaining that they've already finished studying. Addy realizes that Harriet and her friends were treating her like a slave. She goes to bed ashamed.

The next morning, Addy awakes to find that her mother has secretly sewn her a new dress for the spelling bee, using the remnants of the bolts of fabric from the shop. Mrs. Walker is proud of her daughter, and wants her to look her best. Addy's sad to see Sarah miss a word early in the bee, and almost misspells the same word on purpose out of loyalty to Sarah...until Harriet whispers something nasty about Sarah's appearance (her clothes are old and worn since Sarah's family is poor). Addy wants to show Harriet that poor former slave can hold her own. It comes down to Harriet and Addy, and Harriet misspells principle (S in place of C). Addy gets it right, and wins a little pin which looks wonderful on her dress. The teacher dismisses the class for lunch, but Addy lingers at her desk. Sensing what's troubling her, the teacher encourages Addy to talk to Sarah. Addy apologizes and Sarah accepts, and they renew their friendship. 


Looking Back

During America's infancy, it was rare for people of African descent to get a decent education, regardless of free or slave status. Schools were segregated by race, and the non-white schools were far inferior. Things got worse in the 1830s, when some slave states passed laws prohibiting slaves from learning to read or write, for fear they would learn about freedom in the North and forge documents indicating they weren't slaves. Some were still able to learn anyway: some white people would ignore the laws, or slaves might trade for lessons or hide near schoolhouses to learn what they could by eavesdropping. Even in the free North, schools were still segregated (and some remained that way for over a hundred years, until Brown v. Board of Education). The schools available did their best with what resources they had, their students eager to learn.


Misc

This book is dedicated to Mr. Zimmerman.

If I for some reason found myself in the 1850s or 1860s, I would love to be able to help escaped slaves like the characters in the book do.

Harriet is described as light-skinned compared to Addy, and comes from a family of free blacks rather than former slaves.

Addy's school is co-ed.

I sew a little, and Addy's mother was lucky to find enough bolt remnants to make a complete outfit, especially all the same fabric. Must have been a few bolts of the same material. Usually bolts have under a yard left on them, and a dress would take a few yards, but not necessarily consecutive yardage; a quarter of a yard here and half a yard there would work.

3/2/14

Meet Addy

Published in 1993; author Connie Porter; illustrators Melodye Rosales, Renee Graef, and Luanne Roberts

Plot

It's the summer of 1864, in North Carolina. America's Civil War has been going on for three years now. Although President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the southern half of the country has seceded to form the Confederate States of America and has ignored the order to free all slaves. Addy Walker, her mother Ruth, her father Ben, her older brother Sam, and her baby sister Esther are slaves on a plantation owned by Master Stevens. One stifling night, Addy wakes up to hear her parents talking about escaping north to freedom. Her father wants to leave right away, but her mother fears that the family will be torn apart and thinks they should wait until the Union soldiers can free them.

The very next day, before her parents can make any decisions, Master Stevens sells Addy's father and brother. Addy hears him discussing the sale as she serves lunch and tries to warn her family, but it's too late. Addy's mother sits her down for a talk one evening, a week later. She and Addy are going to run away the following night. Only she and Addy: Esther is too young to bring without Addy's father and brother to help. Auntie Lula and Uncle Solomon, two elderly slaves who are honorary members of Addy's family, will take care of her baby sister. The next night, Addy gives Esther her rage doll Janie, to keep her company. Although it breaks their hearts to do so, Addy and her mother kiss Esther goodbye, leave her with the couple, and flee into the night.

They leave with a few precious possessions: food, water, men's clothing disguise themselves (including a felt cap for Addy that Uncle Solomon says is magic), a nickel, and for Addy, a cowrie shell that belonged to her great-grandmother, Aduke, who was stolen from Africa. Addy was named for her. Her mother hangs it around Addy's neck on one of Sam's leather shoelaces. After a few nights of traveling, they come to a railroad intersection, a landmark that means a safe house is near. Excited, Addy rushes through the woods right into a Confederate Army camp. In the darkness, the soldier who wakes up mistakes her for the slave boy in their camp. Addy pulls her lucky cap down low to hide her face, gets the water the soldier orders her to, and pretends to go to sleep. When she's sure the soldier is asleep, she creeps off in to the woods again, where her mother is waiting for her, breathless. More carefully, they continue through the forest until they find the house. Nervously they knock on the door, and the owner mistakes Addy for the slave boy as well, until Addy removes her hat. When the woman sees that she has escaped slaves on her doorstep, she ushers them in and springs into action, drawing baths, fixing meals, and getting new clothes for the pair. Very early the next morning, she hides Addy and her mother in a wagon and takes them to the Atlantic coast, where they will take a ship to freedom.


Looking Back

Colonists starting bringing slaves from Africa to the American colonies pretty much right from the start. Some European settlers, like the conquistadors from Spain, had tried enslaving Native Americans, but many succumbed to the unfamiliar diseases that the Europeans brought with them, like smallpox. By contrast, slaves from Africa or indentured servants from Europe were healthier and stronger. Soon the slave trade was established, bringing kidnapped Africans to Europe and the Americas for forced labor. Gradually, slave holders began to realize how very wrong their actions were, and by 1808 it was illegal to take slaves directly from Africa. But the buying and selling of people continued in the southern part of America where business was overwhelmingly agricultural, work that required long hours of back-breaking labor (business in the north was less conducive to slavery; therefore it was easier to convince the people in power to give up free labor).

Tensions between the northern and southern half of the country rose, with the south resisting what it viewed as unfair taxes (agriculture was taxed more heavily that traditionally "northern" trades) and a trampling of states' rights to decide their own laws--namely, the laws regarding slavery. With the election of Republican president Abraham Lincoln, the southern states followed through on their threat to secede. The Confederate States of America was comprised of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia (West Virginia seceded from Virginia; Alabama's Winston County also tried to secede from its state). The Union states were California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin. The Indian, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington Territories were part of the dispute; the north and south wanted them to be free or slave states as would suite their purposes.

The war lasted for four bloody years. Before and during it, slaves made daring escape attempts to get away from the abuse they suffered. Even "kind" slave owners were still forcing people, even children, to work for free. Along the way, escaped slaves were helped by other slaves giving subtle clues (like singing certain songs to warn of heightened security) and by abolitionists (people working to end slavery). In 1865, General Lee surrendered to General Grant, ending the war but not ending the racial tensions, some of which still exist today.


Misc

This book is dedicated to "my grandmothers, Adelle Houston and Mary Jemison Dunn, for the way back to my Addy."

Auntie Lula's skin is pale relative to Addy's, and she has grey-red hair and green eyes. Some slave owners had children with their slaves. Sometimes willingly...

The way Addy and her mother have to leave Esther behind really gets to me. The thought of leaving one my daughters like that is just heartbreaking. Especially when Addy and her mother discuss whether Esther, who's only a year old, will remember them whenever it is that they finally reunite.

The advice that Uncle Solomon gives (to go through every body of water they come by, to make their scent that much less detectable to dogs) has always stuck in my head.

The hole in the cowrie shell that Addy's mother uses to place the shell on Sam's shoelace? Good chance it was from a seastar "drilling" into the shell to eat the animal inside. Unless Aduke punched the hole herself with tools.

Fun fact: I'm related to General Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate troops. He was NOT in favor of slavery; instead fighting out of loyalty to Virginia.