Daddy Says

Daddy Says

by Ntozake Shange
Annie Sharon and Lucie-Marie, daughters of two African-American rodeo stars, have been raised by their loving but remote father, Tie-Down, since their mother, Twanda, was killed by an out-of-control horse. The girls feel their mother's absence terribly, especially now that they are beginning to get older, but Tie-Down misses her too much to talk about her. Now


Annie Sharon and Lucie-Marie, daughters of two African-American rodeo stars, have been raised by their loving but remote father, Tie-Down, since their mother, Twanda, was killed by an out-of-control horse. The girls feel their mother's absence terribly, especially now that they are beginning to get older, but Tie-Down misses her too much to talk about her. Now Tie-Down has started dating Cassie, and the girls resent her intrusion into their lives. But after a close call at the rodeo, it is Cassie who finally brings this family together.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This novel set in Texas offers an insider's view of the African-American rodeo scene, with mixed success. Shange (for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf) vividly conveys the excitement and danger of trick riding and ably expresses the void felt by Cowboy "Tie-Down" and his two daughters, 12-year-old Lucie-Marie and 14-year-old Annie Sharon, after his rodeo-star wife is killed by a temperamental horse. However, at times the author strains too hard to evoke emotions and local color; often her characters' dialogue comes off as cliched ("Well, you two are Daddy's rough, tough ridin' cutie-pies, that's for sure. And I love you way down deep in my soul"), especially in contrast with the sisters' more serious exchanges. Tension mounts within the family when Annie Sharon suspects that Tie-Down's new girlfriend, Cassie Caruthers ("a slip of a woman, not much bigger than a minute") is trying to fill her mother's boots. Hoping to draw her father's attention back to his family and his renowned late wife, Annie Sharon takes ill-conceived risks on horseback. As might be expected, the results prove disastrous. Annie Sharon realizes that she has gone too far only after her father becomes seriously injured while trying to save her life. The story provides enough action to keep pages turning, but the heart-felt moments are too few. Ages 10-14. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Shange is a well-known, well-respected author of literary novels for adults and has also written a biography of Muhammed Ali for young people. Her first novel for teens unfortunately does not live up to the reputation of her other work. The story of a black family that owns a ranch and whose members are all rodeo riders, this novel seems not to know just what it wants to express. The mother, Twanda, died when she was thrown off a dangerous horse. Her husband and two daughters are trying to move on with their lives several years later. The father, Tie-Down, is not very communicative with his daughters Lucie-Marie and Annie Sharon, who want to know more about a mother they barely remember. Tie-Down becomes romantically involved with Cassie, a friend of Twanda's, and his daughters are unhappy about it. There is the predictable resistance on the part of the girls to allow Cassie into their lives. Lucie-Marie, who was just a toddler when her mother died, capitulates first, after being allowed to ride Cassie's horse. Annie Sharon is more difficult, however, not even changing her mind when Cassie nurses her wounds after Tie-Down has physically disciplined his daughter with his belt. The problem with this book is that Shange does not tell enough about the characters for the reader to get a sense of who or what they are. As a result, one never seems to get close enough to any of the characters to care what happens to them. Except for the realistic descriptions of rodeo events and techniques, there is not much here to attract the average young person. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Simon & Schuster, 192p,
— Marlyn Roberts
Children's Literature
After the death of their rodeo-going and-riding mother, Annie Sharon and Lucie-Marie have their reservations about whether their mother truly loved them at all. They are both coming of age, especially Tie-Down, who has trouble articulating the loss. While they grapple with their own identities and the need for security and assurance, each African-American sister grapples with her emotions in an individual way. Any adolescent who has suffered a loss or felt in search of "something" to make herself whole will easily identify with these two. Not everyone will identify with the rodeo tradition that characterizes the lives of the girls and their daddy. It is by choosing this lifestyle as a backdrop for the story that the author creates a unique situation, and it is a situation that should appeal to the curiosity of the book's readers. Well-established as the writer of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, this author knows how to begin at a slow pace and build a crescendo of tension and drama into the story. She is in no hurry. At the same time, there is an emotional urgency that moves the reader across the pages as if, by continuing to read, the girls will be all right and the family left intact by the end of the tale. This book provides a welcome counterbalance to the frequent need for easy entertainment and a shallow canned story line. 2003, Simon & Schuster,
— Susan Schott Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Lucie-Marie and Annie Sharon's mother, a rodeo champion who valued winning above her life, died in an accident years earlier. The novel begins on the family's East Texas ranch with the girls bickering and moves from this comparatively lighthearted exchange into deeper issues and out of them again. Their father, Tie-Down, wants his girls to accept his new love, Cassie, even as he admits he is still grieving for his wife. There is an exciting description of events at a rodeo, with colorful characters and friends vividly drawn and yet all this verve is somehow wasted in this narrative that has no central character or focus to hold readers. Annie Sharon seems to be central for a good part of the book, but the adult voices compete, as does Lucie-Marie's. Tie-Down loves his children, but doesn't hesitate to use his belt so harshly that he raises welts. Cassie tells him clearly that this is unacceptable, but it continues and the topic is dropped. Equally bewildering is the treatment of the wildness of the horse Moncado, which stomped the sisters' mother to death. As both girls feel winning is powerful, Annie Sharon tries to prove she is the horsewoman her mother was by riding the rogue horse. Somewhat belatedly, Tie-Down begins to teach his daughters how to tame him, which begins in one short afternoon and is then left unresolved. Despite strong characters and a lively setting, this novel is disjointed and unsatisfying, which is a shame, since Shange is clearly capable of portraying rivalry and competitive spirit realistically.-Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Shange�s second effort for children deals with longing, memory, and ambition; unfortunately, the quality of writing is not up to the expected brilliance of the author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Lucie-Marie, 12, and Annie Sharon, 14, live on a ranch in East Texas with their father, Tie-Down, a rancher and rodeo rider; their mother, also a rodeo rider, was killed in a rodeo accident long ago but is still sorely missed. As Tie-Down begins to spend time with a new girlfriend, the girls become jealous for their father�s attention�on their own behalf and in defense of their mother�s memory. Both girls are skilled riders, but Annie Sharon pushes the limits of safety�to connect with and emulate her mother, to get her father�s attention, and for love of the sport. However, many of the big emotional issues are confusing: for example, does Tie-Down ignore the girls only now that he has a new girlfriend, or has he always been distant? The answer is inconsistent, which detracts from the potential emotional realism and understandable pain of either scenario. A constantly shifting narrative viewpoint dilutes individual depth and richness of character and the writing as a whole is stiff and awkward. While this could be enjoyed by rodeo and horse fans�roping, bronco busting, and barrel racing are described in detail�and fills a niche by portraying African-American girls in a western context, actively riding rodeo, as literature, it fails to score. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 8.74(h) x 0.72(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

From: Chapter 1

Lucie-Marie held the rope loosely in her hands, trying to make her lasso feel like an extension of her body. She aimed for the bedpost, imagining the post as a frisky young calf. She missed. Lucie-Marie dragged the rope back along the floor to try again.

Late-afternoon sunlight streamed through a window, bright orange and lavender, as the twelve-year-old did her best to snare the bedpost. Long shadows and humming cicadas held the small East Texas ranch house hostage as the summer day neared its end. The rope disappeared into the reflected colors of the sunset, missed the post, and fell to the floor.

Lucie-Marie pulled the rope back and fastened her determined fingers around it again. This time, for sure, she would settle the noose around the bedpost and prove to her older sister, Annie Sharon, she was ready for some serious calf-roping. But before she could get her fingers set just right, Annie Sharon snatched the rope away. With one swift movement, she lassoed the elusive bedpost.

"What'd ya do that for?" Lucie-Marie shouted. "I was gonna get that one. You never give me a chance to do anythin'!"

"How do you expect me to stand by and do nothin' when I taught you everythin' you sposed to know, and still you can't get the hang of it? Now, come over here, and I'll show you one more time." Annie Sharon shoved Lucie-Marie to a different spot in their bedroom, a different angle from the bedpost. She situated her sister's fingers on the rope so it would glide through its loop without a hitch.

This time when Lucie-Marie twirled her rope, no funny-looking shapes sailed through the air. With one throw of Lucie-Marie's arm, she snared the bedpost as she hoped to snare calves at future rodeos she competed in.

"There now," Annie Sharon said. She tossed her head to one side, her ponytail swinging back and forth. She jammed her hands into the pockets of her jeans, and stood waiting for Lucie-Marie to thank her.

"Well, I'm gonna do it again and again till I make Mama proud of me. You know, this is the anniversary of the day she died. I gotta do somethin' to make her proud. She never got a chance to see me rope anythin'. When Mama died, I was only old enough to sit on the back of a sheep, makin' believe it was a real horse."

"Don't you talk about Mama no more, you hear? I don't wanna hear any more about her."

"But, Annie Sharon, she was a champion roper, a tie-down roper, and a bronc buster. Plus, she could race barrels better than anybody. Why can't I talk about her? Twanda Rochelle Johnson-Brown was my mama, and I'm proud of it. Why, by the time she was your age, she could win anythin'. Now, why can't we talk about that?"

"I say let the past be the past."

"Well, that's not sayin' much, considerin' that ever since you could crawl, walk, or talk, it was Mama who had you on the back of a horse. You ignore Mama's guidin' you and make yourself into some kinda newborn heifer. Maybe I should rope you, since you came into this world knowin' everythin' there is to know."

Annie Sharon's jaws tightened, and her hands closed into fists. "Look, I told you, leave Mama out of this talk about the rodeo. I don't want to talk about her at all. Ever!"

"Why not? She's the only mama we got." Lucie-Marie pushed her braids back onto her shoulders.

"The only mama we had, dummy."

"Don't call me 'dummy.' I'm just two years younger than you, is all. 'Sides, you ain't but fourteen." Lucie-Marie's voice dropped almost to a whisper. "I'd give anythin' to know what all Mama taught you."

"Well, you're too late for that. No more of this 'Mama' talk, and I mean it."

"I'm gonna tell Daddy what you did to me, takin' my rope away, and I'm just learnin' how to use it."

Lucie-Marie stomped out to the living room and eased herself down to the braided rug on the floor. Her eyes roved across the many championship belts and trophies won by her mother during Twanda's short life. A story lurked behind every one of her championships. Sometimes Tie-Down, the girls' father, talked about the wild horses Mama broke in. And sometimes he just wouldn't. Lucie-Marie felt cheated because of the way her daddy and her sister kept secret all of their memories of her mother. They treated her like she wasn't entitled to know her mama's challenges and triumphs. Twanda worked the rodeo circuit from Muskogee, Oklahoma, to Midnight, Mississippi. All Lucie-Marie knew was that her mama placed first in more events than any other female on the rodeo circuit, and especially in the events usually reserved for men only. Why did they shut her out?

Lucie-Marie decided not to pay any attention to her sister. She got up and walked over to the shelf above the fireplace. She took down one of her mother's championship belts and fastened it about her waist, ready to go back to her practice of roping the bedpost. The truth of the matter was that her father, Tie-Down, never let her near a real herd of cattle or their calves. Too dangerous for such a little cowgirl, he said. But she took joy in the knowledge that one of these days she'd be old enough to help out like her sister. She knew, of course, that Annie Sharon did not take as much joy in the life they lived as she did. It seemed to Lucie-Marie that Annie Sharon thought of every wild and out-of-control creature as the horse that killed their mother.

"Aw, c'mon, Annie Sharon. Let's put Mama's belts on and go out to the stables. We'll get us some horses and show the world, especially Daddy, that we're the unmistakable daughters of a championship mother. That we can do anythin' she could, 'cause she rides with us. What d'you say? I think it's a grand idea myself. We'll show the world we're made of the same stuff as our mother."

"Lucie, you forget. I got my own medals and trophies. I don't need to live through the success of a ghost. Besides, I've tol' you a dozen times I don't wanna talk about Mama, ever."

Copyright © 2003 by Ntozake Shange

Meet the Author

Ntozake Shange is a renowned playwright, poet (Nappy Edges and The Love Space Demands), and novelist (Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, Betsey Brown, and Liliane). She lives in Philadelphia.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >