Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

4.2 35
by A. Elizabeth Delany
     
 

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Warm, feisty, and intelligent, the Delany sisters speak their mind in a book that is at once a vital historical record and a moving portrait of two remarkable women who continued to love, laugh, and embrace life after over a hundred years of living side by side.

Their sharp memories show us the post-Reconstruction South and Booker T. Washington; Harlem's Golden

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Overview

Warm, feisty, and intelligent, the Delany sisters speak their mind in a book that is at once a vital historical record and a moving portrait of two remarkable women who continued to love, laugh, and embrace life after over a hundred years of living side by side.

Their sharp memories show us the post-Reconstruction South and Booker T. Washington; Harlem's Golden Age and Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Paul Robeson. Bessie breaks barriers to become a dentist; Sadie quietly integrates the New York City system as a high school teacher. Their extraordinary story makes an important contribution to our nation's heritage—and an indelible impression on our lives.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I felt proud to be an American citizen reading Having Our Say...the two voices, beautifully blended...evoke an epic history...often cruel and brutal, but always deeply humane."—New York Times Book Review

"The Lord won't hold it against me that I'm colored because he made me that way! He thinks I am beautiful! And so do I even with all my wrinkles!"—Bessie Delany, at age 102

"This Jim Crow mess was pure foolishness. It's not law anymore, but it's still in some people's hearts. I just laugh it off, child. I never let prejudice stop me from what I wanted to do in this life."—Sadie Delany, at age 104

"This book is destined to become a classic! The Delany sisters—leave to us the best of legacies-two sets of dancing footprints for us to  follow all our days ahead."—Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves

"An unforgettable testimony to the dignity and courage of African-American women."—Shirlee Taylor Haizlip

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this remarkable and charming oral history, two lively and perspicacious sisters, aged 101 and 103, reflect on their rich family life and their careers as pioneering African American professionals. Brief chapters capture Sadie's warm voice (``Now, I was a `mama's child' '') and Bessie's fiestiness (``I'm alive out of sheer determination, honey!''). The unmarried sisters, who live together, tell of growing up on the campus of a black college in Raleigh, N.C., where their father was an Episcopal priest, and of being too independent for the men who courted them. With parental influence far stronger than that of Jim Crow, they joined professions--Sadie teaching domestic science, Bessie practicing dentistry. In 1920s Harlem they mixed with black activists and later were among the first to integrate the New York City suburb of Mount Vernon. While their account of the last 40 years is sketchy, their observations about everything from black identity to their yoga exercises make them worthwhile company. Freelancer Hearth, who wrote an initial story on the sisters in the New York Times in 1991, has deftly shaped and contextualized their reflections. Photos. 35,000 first printing; first serial to American Heritage; BOMC alternate. (Sept.)
Library Journal
When Sadie and Bessie Delany were 104 and 102 years old, respectively, they told their life stories to journalist Hearth in a remarkable contribution to oral history. As the daughters of a freed slave who became America's first elected black Episcopal bishop, the sisters' careers-in education and dentistry-took them to New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Memoirs like this beg to be told aloud. Narrator Iona Morris does not attempt to characterize the voices; instead, her energetic reading captures the sisters' vigor and sense of humor. An interview with the Delanys and Hearth recorded exclusively for this edition makes a nice bonus. One caveat for libraries, though: the cassette casings are held together with glue rather than screws, making in-house repair difficult. Nonetheless, this belongs in most libraries.-Nann Blaine Hilyard, Fargo P.L., N.D.
Kirkus Reviews
In a memoir that's as much a historical record as a testimony to two extraordinary women, the Delany sisters recall their remarkable lives, spanning more than a century of the African- American experience. Daughters of the nation's first black Episcopal bishop, Sadie and Bessie Delany, born in 1889 and 1891 respectively, are a living record of the seismic changes that have affected black America since Emancipation. Their father was born in slavery; their mother was the daughter of an "issue-free negro" and a white Virginian farmer who, though prohibited by law from marrying his beloved Martha Logan, treated her and his children as his lawful family. Raised in the sheltered environment of St. Augustine's School near Raleigh, where their father was the principal, the two girls were expected, like their eight other siblings, to excel both academically and morally. An idyllic childhood was followed by the introduction of Jim Crow legislation that soon made life in the South intolerable, prompting the sisters to move to Harlem. In New York, Sadie graduated from Pratt and became a high-school teacher, while Bessie, graduating from Columbia, became a dentist. The two were soon prominent in Harlem, befriending the black elite (Booker T. Washington, Cab Calloway, Adam Clayton Powell) and actively fighting racial discrimination. Today, looking back, they continue to reflect the wisdom, humor, and feistiness that enabled them to triumph over racism and sexism—the latter, in their opinion, not as corrosive as the former. The Delanys aren't optimistic about the future of race relations, believing that the momentum of the civil- rights struggle was taken away by the Vietnam War. An upliftingand delightful introduction to two splendid women of remarkable good sense and grace—and a fascinating chapter of history as well. (Thirty b&w photographs—not seen) (First printing of 35,000; first serial to American Heritage)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780440220428
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/28/1994
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
299
Sales rank:
128,662
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 11.04(h) x 0.95(d)
Lexile:
890L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

What People are saying about this

Clarissa Pinkola Estes
This book is destined to become a classic!
—(Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run With The Wolves)

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