This is one of the sections I couldn’t fit into my essay in The Guardian about my mother’s illiteracy, poverty and fierce pride:
My mother was sullen as Daddy drove us all to the Neshoba County dump to do something that damaged the fierce pride of a smart woman who had never attended school a day in her life. The sun was dropping low in the sky, suggesting that the scorching Mississippi day might get a little cooler before her dreaded duty ensued.
Mama, with her jet-black hair disheveled, stared out the passenger window of the turquoise Chevrolet. My father and his brothers, all younger, had managed to keep the car running so he could continue his restless jaunts around the dry county, from odd jobs, to illegal beer joints to some bootlegger’s house. He was a hard worker when he worked, but he couldn’t stay in one place long.
Daddy soon turned into the county dump near Dr. Leigh’s dogtrot house where we had lived for a bit and he had broken her arm a few years back. I was in the backseat next to Ma Coates, Mama’s quiet mother with the dark complexion and an always-stern face who, since her own abusive husband had died in 1960, would live for weeks or months with one of her grown kids. She couldn’t read, write, do any math or even dial the telephone. She often landed with my mother, her only daughter, and she and I were buddies, although I talked more. [Read more…]