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Justus Girls

Justus Girls

4.0 3
by Evelyn 'Slim' Lambright

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In the '60s, Peaches, Sally Mae, Jan, and Roach were theJustus Girls -- four blue-collar daughters moving joyously as one in tight, disciplined, lock-step precision, until adulthood pulled them apart.

Now, decades later, a death has brought the remaining three back together one last time.


In the '60s, Peaches, Sally Mae, Jan, and Roach were theJustus Girls -- four blue-collar daughters moving joyously as one in tight, disciplined, lock-step precision, until adulthood pulled them apart.

Now, decades later, a death has brought the remaining three back together one last time.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This novel follows the lives of four black friends from their childhood in Philadelphia to early middle age. In 1959, they got together with six other 9-, 10-, and 11-year-old girls to form a spectacular, well-disciplined drill team that they named "The Justus Girls." The story opens when Peaches, one of the core four, is found murdered on the front porch of her home at age 43. Sally Mae, Jan, and Rasheedah support one another through this tragedy by reminiscing about their past. They start to meet regularly after Peaches's funeral, and they grow closer as they continue to help one another through the crises that they currently face. Justus Girls will have special appeal for high school girls because of its breezy, colorful, and colloquial language, as well as its humor and vivid descriptions of urban teenage life of an earlier generation. In addition, this title would be an excellent selection for the mother-daughter book clubs that have become popular in recent years. It is likely to spark lively discussion about the popular culture of the '60s and '70s, and its influence on hip-hop culture. The impact of the Vietnam War on the eldest members of the baby-boom generation, child neglect and abuse, the effects of substance abuse, the difficulties of single parenthood, the concept of karma, and the value of close friendships are other topics of discussion that this novel will inspire.-Joyce Fay Fletcher, Rippon Middle School, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A rollicking, exuberant debut, peopled with the likes of Monsieur Daddy Baby, Peaches, and Bay Girl, offers a look into Philadelphia's African-American community. Beginning with the mysterious murder of Peaches, found shot to death at 43 on her front porch, the narrative soon introduces three childhood friends reunited at her funeral. Tough Sally Mae, proper Jan, and beautiful Roach, along with Peaches, formed the Justus Girlz, a drill team created out of their need to succeed at something on their own terms. Life later took them in different directions-Sally Mae became a civil rights activist, Jan married and started her own business, after a failed marriage Roach converted to Islam-but when they once again come together they find their youthful bond is strong enough to get them through midlife's new set of challenges. (Widowed Jan is suicidal; Roach is in a custody battle with her former husband.) The story's at its best when re-creating the sights and sounds of black Philadelphia in the late '50s and early '60s. Peaches, a prostitute's daughter, is shuttled off to Uncle Elmo, an upstanding policeman who molests her, then rescued by eccentric cross-dresser Vaa, who makes sure she's safely placed with Jan's family. But the damage is done: Peaches begins drinking and is pregnant before she leaves high school. The flashbacks follow the ups and downs of all the girls' lives and all the odd characters that accompany them. The past intrudes further on the present when Sally Mae learns she may be charged with the murder of an old boyfriend from the days when she was an L.A. go-go dancer known as Mustang Sally. Together again, with Peaches's feisty spirit guiding them (plus a littlevoodoo help from a relative down South), the three remaining Justus Girlz prevail, proving the suitability of their name. A well-drawn cast and lively prose effectively balance this realistic portrait of the hardships and triumphs of black urban life.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Funeral

Hello, Aunt Sally? It's Princess. We're gettin ready to leave now. Yall are gone ride in the limo with us, right?"

There was a slight tone of anxiety in her voice, a small flutter.

"Sure, baby, we on our way, soon as we pick up Janice. How's everybody holdin up? How's your sister and her kids makin out?"

"Well, so far, so good. Kim's takin it pretty hard, but the kids, they too young to realize what's really goin on."

"Okay, fine. Now, Princess, just in case we don't have too much time alone when I get there, I want you to know I'm here for you. Any problems, just let me know. You know we yo family now, me, Jan, and Roach, don't you?"

"Yes, ma'am, Auntie. Thanks."

"Here she is now. I'm on my way. See you in a minute. Stay calm, baby."

Sally Mae heard a slight sob on the other end of the line, then nothing but the dial tone. Poor babies, she thought, as she set the receiver down. Kim was only twenty-six, and Princess was what, twenty-two, twenty-three? Way too soon to lose their mama. As she grieved for these now-motherless children, the front door opened and in came Omar, her own son.

"Ready, Mom?"

"Yeah, just about. You go head back to the car. Where's my grandbaby?"

"Well—" he hesitated.

"Well, what?" Sal glanced around at him quickly.

"Well, Miss Shirley offered to keep Doll, and I figured that would be best, since she too young to be goin to a funeral, anyway."

"That rotten-tooth cow?"

"Aw, come on, Mom. She is her grandmother, just like you, and I know how busy you and the aunties are gone be." Omar ducked his head, notmeeting Sal's eyes."Well, I guess one day won't hurt. But know we gone stop and get her after the funeral, now, don't you?"

"Whatever." A quick flash of annoyance passed over Omar's face, then was gone. "You look real nice, Mom."

Sally smiled and finally stopped fidgeting with her hat.

"Thank you, baby. Now, you go head. I be right out."

She brushed her hand across his forehead, tracing the high, delicate arch of his eyebrow, so like his father's. Omar leaned down and kissed her cheek.

"Lookin good, Mustang Sally."

"Boy, git on outta here."

Sal blushed in spite of herself. Mustang Sally. Where had that come from? It had to be a coincidence. He couldn't possibly know — She knew she wasn't too shabby for a forty-something ole babe. It was true. Though she had put on a bit of weight in the last few years, she could still squeeze into a size 12. While the face now showed a few more laugh lines than she would have liked, and that pesky frown line between her brows seemed to deepen with each passing year, her breasts were still holding up pretty well, and her waistline was well defined.

The legs, her best feature, were still long, slender, and beautiful. Mustang Sally. She chuckled to herself, shaking her head at the irony of her son teasing her with the nickname she had been tagged with so long ago. If he only knew.

She grabbed the phone before the end of the first ring.

"Sal? It's Rasheeda. Jan's here now. They're out in the car, and I'm on my way. We'll be in our van, and we'll follow you over to Jan's. And Sal?"

"Allah is with us today."

"I sure hope so, Roach. We can use all the help we can git." Though Rasheeda had been using her Muslim name for over a decade, the JGs had never called her anything but "Roach."

After a brief conversation, Sal hung up, grabbed her purse, and took one last look in the mirror.

How could Peaches be dead, God? How could you let her die? She's only six months younger than me.

Oh, Lord.

Fresh tears streamed down her cheeks, ruining her carefully applied makeup. She heard the horn honking somewhere. It dawned on her that it was Roach and them, waiting for her in the car.

Okay, she could do this. She'd just fix her face in the car. She adjusted her hat once more, and went out to the car.

The small procession pulled up in front of Bible Way Baptist Church. This was where Peaches, Jan, and Sal had attended Sunday School, Bible School, and where they had been baptized. Rasheeda sometimes came with them, even though she had gone to Catholic school.

The little church looked even tinier now than it had all those years ago. It stood silent and unforgiving, like a betrayed lover.

Sally Mae stepped out of the limo first, glancing upward to the top of Bible Way's tall spire. She shivered in the cold weather. Janice followed, stepping right into and sharing Jan's memories. The church itself, the very building, seemed to rebuke them, holding Peaches like a hostage, forcing them to return.

They pulled their coats tighter, trying to shield themselves from the deep bone-damp chill that only a Philadelphia winter can bring. Rasheeda stepped out next, standing in between her friends. Sal looked at her and smiled. She was envious of her friend. Islam seemed to have given Rasheeda a calm, centered confidence and sense of peace that Jan herself had once felt at Bible Way, but no longer.

Sal had left the church years ago, disenchanted with the way the membership seemed to turn more inward, insulating itself, even as the problems in the community grew ever larger. Instead of reaching out, Bible Way sat like a lonely outpost in the middle of a war zone. So she had abandoned God's house, and instead of the church, had begun to rely on herself.

As for Jan, once a member in good standing, a strong voice in the choir, the Willing Workers and various other clubs within the Bible Way family, she hadn't been here since Junie, her beloved husband, had passed, and Sal knew she didn't want to be here today.

As for Roach, a former Catholic, she bit her lip, remembering all the times she had snuck out of Mass early to join the others at this very same church, all the while praying that her soul would not be damned to hell for doing so.

One by one, the family exited the flower-covered limousine. First Princess and Kim, Peaches's two daughters, then Pumpkin and Lang Lang, Kim's two children. From the second car came Rasheeda's fourteen-year-old twin sons, accompanied by their father, Hakim, followed by Omar, Sally's only child.

They could see a line of people already entering the church. A few waved or nodded. There was Puddin, Gigi, and China Doll. Tookie and everybody from the White Devil seemed to be there. There was Sheila Brewster, still running her mouth. Even Monsieur Daddy Baby and Red Top were there.

Mr. Daniels, the mortician, nodded. Jan had met with him previously, once with Kim and Princess, to identify the body, and once again with Sally Mae and Rasheeda to attend to the preparations and details of the funeral. Thank God, Peaches had kept her small insurance policy paid up, and even that wasn't quite enough to bury her properly.

The women had all dug into their own pockets to come up with the $1700 more needed to pay the total bill.

Mr. Daniels smilingly assured them that everything was in order.

With that, the women closed ranks around Kim, Princess, and the children, and they all began to walk up the steps and into the church, their own children following closely behind. As they walked in, two by two, the choir, led by Bertha Gray, began singing, "God Will Take Care of You."

Bertha was a shy and awkward girl who didn't say much, but when she sang, ahhh, when she sang, her voice, a sound somewhere between a child's prayer and a sigh from heaven, made the old folks in the church weep and the younger ones grab each other by the hand.

They could see the casket as soon as they entered, all bronze and peach satin. Kim immediately started to break down…

Meet the Author

Evelyn "Slim" Lambright, in her own words, says, "I've been a waitress, a bartender, a go-go-dancer, a model, a singer, and a numbers runner, among other things, and am now employed freelance, but the less said about that, the better." She is the author of The Justus Girls, and she lives in Philadelphia.

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Justus Girls 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read. This book made me laugh and cry.I loved going into the lives of four young girls growing up into the wolrd. This book is real. This is one of the best books that I've ever read.You will be so tuned into this book that you probably want even sleep. All in all Slim Lambrigt is a great author.You are gauranteed to enjoy this novel.You are lucky for picking this book up. At the very end of it you will probably shed a tear.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from start to finish. It took me only two days to read this wonderfully written novel. I was able to to understand everyone in this book. I loved how the author made all four of these people come together in the book. I thouroughly enjoyed this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, I cannot say that I enjoyed the book. The prologue was good, but the story just dragged out and the dialogue was lacking. I was getting dizzy and confused when they people were speaking. At times, I didn't know who was talking. The story premise was a good idea, but the story could have been told much better. It took me a month to finish this book when usually it would take me two to three days to finish a 'good' book. It just didn't capture my attention long enough. Everytime I went to go pick the book back up to read, the furthest I could get was a chapter or less because it just wasn't a page turning book. I comtemplated on purchasing this novel a year ago, but decided against it because I didn't think it would capture my attention. Then, a year later, I saw it in paperback and decided to give it a whirl. I was disappointed with the read and happy that I didn't purchase the hardback a year ago. This is just my true and honest opinion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the moment I started reading the Justus Girls I felt like a part of the story. I was drawn into the lives of Peaches, Mustang Sally Mae, Jan, and Rachel Roach Rasheeda. These women became more than words on a page to me. They became my friends. I just finished reading this book and I have to say I feel a little lost. I almost want to pick up the phone and call one of them just to see how they're doing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Two thumbs up and then some to this talented, wonderful, sista, Ms. Slim Lambright. I have to say that The Justus Girls is one of the best books that I have read. The characters remind me of my aunts, and their friends sitting around the table talking about the stuff they did and sticking with each other when things got bad. I love how the friends band together to find out who killed Peaches, even with Peaches being gone it was like she was right there in the mist of them cheering them on and drinking pagne and peach juice with them. To my girl Ms. Lambright keep up the good work, and I can't wait unitl your next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lambright mixes the right amount of suspense, drama, and detail into this novel to make The Justus Girls a page-turner and easy read. Her storytelling ability is great--drawing us into their world, providing us insight into each of the four main character's background and watching them grow into adulthood. The story opens with the murder of one of the JG¿s, a childhood drill team that blossomed four friends, who reunite and rekindle their friendship as they vow to find the killer of their dear friend. The book takes them on a journey of self discovery and growth and their experiences strengthen the bonds of friendship discovered early in childhood. This is a well written novel with many interesting, colorful characters, and sub-plots. It moves and reads well. I¿m looking forward to Ms. Lambright¿s next body of work.