Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper's Daughter

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A sharecropper's daughter describes her childhood in Texas in the early years of the twentieth century.

A sharecropper's daughter describes her childhood in Texas in the early years of the twentieth century.

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A sharecropper's daughter describes her childhood in Texas in the early years of the twentieth century.

A sharecropper's daughter describes her childhood in Texas in the early years of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Govenar here gathers the recollections of Osceola Mays, an African-American woman born in Texas in 1909, from interviews and conversations that he conducted with Mays over a period of 15 years. In brief one- and two-page sections, Mays's engrossing first-person voice recounts snippets from her early days. Especially strong are the vignettes that focus on specific moments, such as "How I Got My Name," in which Mays explains how she changed her name from Garnell (she was named after a neighboring white girl: "It was a carryover from slave days, when slaves were given the names of their masters") to Osceola after meeting an Indian by that name, and the bittersweet juxtaposition of "Santa Claus Night" with its immediate successor, "Mama Dies," in which Mays contrasts Christmas before and after the death of her mother. But if Govenar's editing retains the feel of oral history, it also lacks a sense of an overall story arc. As a result, the volume does not have the cumulative emotional impact of collected histories like Leon Walter Tillage's Leon's Story and Eloise Greenfield's Childtimes. Mays's warm, personable and pleasantly meandering manner emanates throughout the volume, and her history is well worth hearing. Newcomer Evans's framed portraits with skewed perspectives heighten the drama of each memory. The paintings of a grieving motherless Osceola facing away from readers as she looks through a seemingly quavering window frame, an illustration of her baptism and a portrait of her sharecropper father, dwarfed by the long rows he's plowed in a cotton field, are especially moving. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Born in 1909, Osceola was the receptacle for the oral wealth of her family, and this book is filled with poems and songs related by Osceola and transcribed by Govenar. Best of all are her personal stories--stories of growing up poor, losing her mother, and loving the poetry around and within her. Lyricism shines through in her storytelling as she imparts poignant details, surprises readers with words and events, and delivers an emotional record of the black distrust of whites, the protective qualities of family, and the drive to survive slavery, poverty, and loss. 2000, Hyperion, Ages 8 up, $15.99. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
Children's Literature - Laura Hummel
Osceola Mays always wanted to write poems, but she only had one pencil and she needed to save that for school. Fortunately, she could remember the poems, songs, and stories taught to her by her mother and grandmother in the rich oral tradition of her slave ancestors. Many of these histories were taught so children could learn about events such as the Civil War and slavery, and about Gilliam's Storm that was sent because "white people weren't very nice to the black folks." In this rich patchwork of memories, Osceola, who was born in East Texas in 1909, shares her life. A carryover from slave days was to be given a name of a white child in the area, thus she was named Garnell at birth. After an impressionable visit of an Indian man, she insisted on taking his name and was from then on called Osceola. As the daughter of a sharecropper, there was little money to spare, but on each Santa Claus Night, Osceola knew she would get a present. When her mother died, the presents stopped. The memories could never die, and Osceola shared them through interviews with the author over a fifteen-year period. They are richly and eloquently shared in just sixty-four pages and the folk art paintings enhance the text. Readers will be touched and enriched by Osceola's memoirs, getting a glimpse of an extraordinary "ordinary" woman.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-7-Over a period of 15 years, Govenar talked with and recorded the reminiscences of Osceola Mays, now 91 and living in Dallas. He has selected and edited these recollections to form a thematically arranged look at rural life in East Texas, almost a century ago, from the viewpoint of an African-American girl. Bite-sized chapters (each less than 500 words) address such topics as her hometown, getting baptized, slavery, "Santa Claus Night," the death of her mother, and school. The narrative style reflects her Southern heritage, and the voice is that of a storyteller. The casual tone should draw in readers, especially as her memories will seem so foreign to most-a world with few cars, strict segregation, and sharecropping. Likewise, the tales that her neighbors shared with her of slavery personalize that great evil in a way that history books cannot, just as her recollections of family members and friends make it clear that emancipation did not mean equality. Nevertheless, the book's tone reflects that the woman's spirit is not weighed down by bitterness or anger; the text provides a rounded look at the society into which she was born. Evans's plentiful illustrations are brightly colored and naive, making them a sympathetic complement to the artless narration. Although easily read independently, the book-owing to the brevity of the chapters-also works well as a read-aloud.-Coop Renner, Moreno Elementary School, El Paso, TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786804078
  • Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
  • Publication date: 3/1/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 800L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.39 (w) x 9.38 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2004

    Osceola - an incredible woman

    This book is touching and haunting - I recommend it without reservation. I was lucky to have participated in the care of Miss Osceola at the end of her life here in Dallas as one of her physicians - her spirit lives on in her wonderful family and through this marvelous book... enjoy it!

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