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by Margaret McMullan

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In her fourteen years living in a Chicago housing project, Cashay has never ridden in a taxi cab, seen the city lit up at night, or set foot in a museum. She’s not pretty, or graceful, or bubbly like her little sister, Sashay. She gets her family by on a couple of dollars and food stamps every week.

No, Cashay has never felt much like a treasure.


In her fourteen years living in a Chicago housing project, Cashay has never ridden in a taxi cab, seen the city lit up at night, or set foot in a museum. She’s not pretty, or graceful, or bubbly like her little sister, Sashay. She gets her family by on a couple of dollars and food stamps every week.

No, Cashay has never felt much like a treasure. “Your name doesn’t signify who you are,” Cashay tells her sister.

But that was before Sashay was killed. Before her mother started using again. Before her mentor, Allison, showed Cashay a bigger piece of the world, and encouraged her to finally, finally step into it.

A name may not signify who you are, but in this poignant coming of age story by acclaimed writer Margaret McMullan, readers will find that indeed, Cashay is an exception to her own rule.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Anita Barnes Lowen
Cashay watches out for her younger sister, Sashay. Cashay's supposed to be in 8th grade but she flunked last year "because this way I stay in school with Sashay, and year after next we'll go together to Freemont High School." That, though, is not going to happen. Sashay is dead; shot walking home from school by T-Rex, one of the local punks, the one with the gold front tooth. Cashay is trapped in her grief, her guilt and her anger. Her mother is using again; "it's like she's turned into another person" and one that is not there for her daughter. A school counselor suggests an after-school program, a program that matches kids with mentors who come from all over the city. That is where Cashay is hooked up with Allison, a white stockbroker who comes into her life and introduces Cashay to a much larger world. There are trips in taxicabs, visits to museums, and lots of information on the stock market (Allison's passion). The market, Cashay thinks, is a lot like her life—a roller coaster, full of uncertainties, but Cashay is a girl with more than enough determination and smarts to make her way through those inevitable ups and downs. This book is a page turner that readers will find hard to put down. It is recommended. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen
VOYA - Francisca Goldsmith
Sisters Cashay and Sashay are walking home to their Chicago housing project from another day at school when Sashay is shot and killed in the street. McMullan takes sufficient time to introduce readers to these sisters through Cashay's credible narrative voice. The grief the living eighth grader feels is both palpable and compelling. Readers follow Cashay as her internal and external experiences take her into new relationships and seeing old ones through the prism of both stark reality and ongoing grief and anger. The novel derails, however, two thirds of the way along, when the plot speeds up and a series of events and relationships are telescoped to fit within what seems to be an artificially allotted space: parental drug abuse leads to the birth of an addicted baby brother and Cashay lands a job and gets a high score on a magnet school test. Thus a promising examination of how Cashay relearns to live—and learns about a broader world than what she and Sashay shared—becomes truncated by a wishful ending in which even Cashay's realistically quirky mentor, a white stockbroker, is satisfied by the oversized magic hand dealt in the denouement. Reviewer: Francisca Goldsmith
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—When 13-year-old Cashay's beloved younger sister is accidentally killed in a drug-related shooting and their mother relapses into drug addiction, this African-American resident of Chicago's notorious Cabrini Green housing projects seethes with resentment and anger. Enter Allison, a white stockbroker who agrees to mentor the teenager. Their relationship benefits both participants, as Cashay slowly begins to heal, and Allison learns to open up her heart to others. This short, accessible novel is predictable, with a curious lack of tension during scenes that should be very scary, but also with moments of humor ("We're reading stupid books—books about white people who lose pets") and of touching pathos ("He was born just so he could cry"). It is peopled with stock characters, oversimplifies the world, and puts its protagonist through all the stages of grief in a mere 166 pages. However, there is no mistaking the ring of authenticity in Cashay's voice and in the details of life in modern-day Cabrini Green (or what's left of it).—Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Using a metaphor that's as topical as it is unusual, 13-year-old Cashay compares the ups and (mostly) downs in her life in Chicago's Cabrini Green projects to those in the stock market. She makes that connection after Allison, a big-hearted stockbroker, comes into her life as a mentor in the wake of several devastating events-including but not limited to the relapse of her mother into drug addiction and the shooting of younger sister Sashay, to whom she was so close that she deliberately flunked seventh grade to stay in the same school. Happily, Cashay is not only gifted with epic resilience, but surrounded by supportive adults. So by the end she's on the way to coming to terms with her grief and anger; earned acceptance to a challenging magnet school; moved in with an aunt after her mom gives birth to an addicted preemie; and even helped to nab the local hoodlum who killed her sister. Along with the street-lit-style plot (if not language), Cashay's spirited voice and non-frothy prose will draw both confirmed and newer fans of inner-city drama. (Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 2.90(d)
700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Margaret McMullan is also the author of the adult novels In My Mother’s House and When Warhol Was Still Alive. Her work has appeared in such publications as Glamour, the Chicago Tribune, and Michigan Quarterly Review. She is a professor and the chair of the English department at the University of Evansville in Indiana.

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Cashay 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
criesofcarrots More than 1 year ago
I am being kind when I say that Cashay (a character named after a box of tampons that was sold between the 1930s-1940s) is a truly horrible book. I found it to be very amateurish, predictable, boring and racist. This book isn't fit to be used to line my bird cage with. As a black mother from the so-called inner city, I really wanted "Cashay" to be a good read and an inspiring novel -- one that I could confidently share with my young teen-aged daughter as an example of the "new" white awareness of black experience and family life. Instead it was an awful novel, a throwback to the "old" racial stereotypes of the pre-Obama years. Despite the promises made on its cover that it was to offer a powerfully convincing portrait of a mother-daughter relationship in a Chicago housing project, "Cashay" indulges in the worst kind of stereotyping one could imagine: a hopelessly drug-addicted and promiscuous mother (Do all black mothers shoot up? Do all of them really have children out of wedlock with numerous men? Do all black men really abandon their families once they become fathers?), a drive-by shooting that takes the life of Cashay's sister Sashay (do black mothers invariably rhyme the names of their children?), a violent drug-dealing criminal who kidnaps "Cashay" in order to rob her white mentor (are all back men to be seen as gun-wielding robbers who use and abuse black women?), a central character who wishes she were white so that she could then be "pretty" (do all black girls secretly envision white females as embodying the norm of beauty?). No, this was not the kind of novel by a white author that I wished to share with my daughter -- not by a long shot! I certainly didn't expect from this book the kind of insight into black experience that a reader gets from Toni Morrison. At the same time, I was not expecting, either, the wholesale minstrel show that "Cashay" turned out to be. To me, the most insulting aspect of McMullan's novel was its unquestioned assumption that Cashay could only be "saved" by white women: certainly not by her aunt or her own mother (who, remember, was too busy taking drugs to attend to her children), but by a white nun, a white school counselor, and a white "mentor." But then this is a "white" book, after all. A book not simply written by a white woman -- which is fine and in itself no cause for complaint -- but a book written by a white woman for white readers about the hopeless plight of black people living in the inner city, unless, that is, they happen to have the good fortune to be rescued from themselves by the intervening (and in the nun's case, heaven-sent) agency of white saviors who know what is best for them. "Driving Miss Daisy," move over please for "Driving Miss Margaret"!