Just Us Women
Jeannette Caines ~ pictures by Pat Cummings
Harper & Row, 1982
After being sent on a mission to seek out vintage African American children's authors, I made my way to the library this morning and found plenty. Now, I can safely say this book will NOT be a vintage kids' book my kid loves for no other reason than it is about girls, but when has that stopped me before? What I do know is this book makes me wish a) I'd had a girl, b) my aunt was still alive and c) I could hug my mom right now. Except for the fact that both the author and illustrator are African American (as are the characters), the story is basically colorblind. It's the tale of a drive and day with the wonderful Aunt Martha as told by her niece.
Saturday morning is jump-off time. Aunt Martha and I are going to drive all the way to North Carolina in her new car. Aunt Martha says, "No boys and no men, just us women."
What follows is like my dream day. As a young girl from the south, driving from South Carolina to North Carolina was always my favorite thing to do. I remember a time my mother and I took that drive in the summer of 1986... we stopped on a back road and found a chained gate that said "Private Property... Columbia Pictures". We looked at each other... thinking "No, it couldn't be!", and my mother (being the badass that she is) helped me jump the fence. Sure enough, we found ourselves on the abandoned lot where Spielberg filmed The Color Purple. It was all there... the house... and down the road was the church and the juke joint. It's still my mother's favorite movie, and I remember standing out in the sun with her there as she cried and cried.
It was a magical day... and the rest of it was probably filled with all the same things this book has. There's fried chicken and chocolate cake wrapped in wax paper. There's thrift shopping at roadside markets and peach shopping at farmer's markets. There's picture taking and a stop at a fancy restaurant... followed by foraging for wild mushrooms. (Well, OK, we didn't forage for mushrooms, but we did go to an all-you-can-pick gladiola farm and fill the car!) Seriously, I am inspired to hop in my Subaru right now and enjoy the beautiful day outside. Told in green, orange and blue (my favorite color combo!), this book evokes so many memories of my own childhood, I know I'm gonna force the boy to read this more than a few times before it heads back to the library.