Some People, Some Other Place by J. California Cooper | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Some People, Some Other Place

Some People, Some Other Place

4.3 29
by J. California Cooper
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

For generations Eula Too’s family has been making a journey North, year after year, step by painful step; and she’s determined to be the one to make it all the way to Chicago. In and out of school, taking care of her fourteen brothers and sisters, she can see no way out. But when a new family burden threatens to overwhelm her, she at last leaves for the

Overview

For generations Eula Too’s family has been making a journey North, year after year, step by painful step; and she’s determined to be the one to make it all the way to Chicago. In and out of school, taking care of her fourteen brothers and sisters, she can see no way out. But when a new family burden threatens to overwhelm her, she at last leaves for the city, only to find that her life gets even tougher.

Ranging from the Deep South at the turn of the century, to a diverse contemporary town filled with people striving for a better life, Some People, Some Other Place is J. California Cooper at her irresistible, surprising best.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A truly inspiring novel that lends credence to [Cooper’s] reputation as a genius storyteller”—The Boston Globe

“The author’s storytelling gifts are at their peak. . . . I was hypnotized. I was helpless. I couldn’t stop reading” —Carolyn See, The Washington Post

“Stirring. . . . You laugh, cry, cheer, pity, and pray for her highly spirited cast.” —Upscale

“A graceful tale of people surviving because of, and in spite of, one another.” —Essence

Carolyn See
It's a kooky book! Sometimes it barely makes sense. But in its attention to domestic detail and "everyday life," it may tell us more about African American life than the literary flights of Alice Walker or Toni Morrison … what can I tell you? I have no defense! I was hypnotized. I was helpless. I couldn't stop reading.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
An unborn child narrates Cooper's earthy fourth novel, which, through a minute exploration of the lives and loves of the residents of Dream Street in the town of Place, aims to unveil the vastness of human experience. At the heart of the novel is the narrator's future mother, Eula Too. Born to a poor African-American family in a small town outside of Chicago, Eula Too spent her early years caring for her numerous younger siblings, finding time to sneak away for lessons with a beloved teacher and letting an impotent chauffeur touch her for spending money. When she eventually flees home, hoping for a better life in Depression-era Chicago, she is raped and abandoned, only to be discovered by the rich owner of a high-class brothel. Madame LaFon takes Eula Too in, not as a future prostitute but as a friend. The years pass and Eula Too, now a loving, moral young woman, accompanies Madame to her hometown of Place, where she endeavors to turn the neighborhood into a haven of love and goodwill. A certain didacticism-about politics, rich-poor relations and the importance of morality-gives the tale added depth, if also a kind of heavy-handedness. Cooper's (The Wake of the Wind) simple, plain writing and unequivocal regard for all people stand out in a novel scattered in narrative but united in its humanity. Agent, Anna Ghosh. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The voice of a Spirit not yet born into the world but with a few things to teach us about life, hope, and love narrates Cooper's fourth novel (after The Wake of the Wind). In this combination of novel and fable, the author notes that she envisioned a locale named Dream Street with a row of houses that held histories within their walls. Eula, a gentle yet courageous black woman, leads the reader to these houses and to a diverse group of residents whose lives intertwine under Eula's guidance. The first half is somewhat arduous in its detail of the long path that brings Eula to Dream Street. Once she arrives, however, the pace quickens. Using the recurring voice of the Spirit, Cooper seems to weave in her own beliefs as well as her hopes for a kinder, more universal spirituality. Cooper could well be called "The Grandma Moses of American Letters" in that her relatively simple, unvarnished style has a unique and captivating charm that clearly comes from the heart. Recommended for all fiction collections. Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A third novel from playwright and storywriter Cooper (The Future Has a Past, 2000, etc.) follows five generations of African-Americans from the Deep South of the Civil War to a Chicago suburb in the 20th century. You get a feel for the outline of the story here early on, when the narrator tells you that her tale is about the good people who live in a neighborhood called Dream Street in a town called Place. The narrator herself speaks in a tone that falls somewhere between Diogenes and Ecclesiastes, relating the vanities of those who manage to make their way in the world and the travails of those who don't. Among the latter are some of the descendants of an ex-slave named Eula, who, in the late 19th century, manages to leave the South and make her way north to Oklahoma. Her children work as sharecroppers at first, and their children move farther north with each generation until they reach Illinois. In the lean years of the Depression, Eula's granddaughter, Eula Too, sets out for Chicago, but she's raped, beaten, and left for dead along the way. She's rescued by a high-class bawd named Madame LaFon and given a job and a place to live in Madame's Chicago brothel. Madame grows to love Eula Too and provides her with a good education. Madame grew up in the woebegone little town of Place, in a dreary little house on Dream Street. Her dying mother lives there still, and Madame looks after her with Eula Too's help. There are all kinds of people living on Dream Street, including the Chinese immigrant Ha and the Jewish refugee Maureen Iris, both of whom (like Eula Too) had to struggle against great odds to get there. Stilted prose combines with creaky allegory in a very odd family saga-a mix,perhaps, of Mister Rogers, Roots, and The Good Earth. Agent: Anna Ghosh/Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385496834
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/04/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
626,770
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sometime around 1895 in America, Negroes were spreading out and up from the hard past of the poor South seeking food and survival. Among them were a man and woman with four young children: two, three, four, and five years old. The traveling was hard and they were often hungry. They reached what seemed to them to be a large city in Oklahoma . . . and stopped. They had to stop because the mother did not have another step in her feet. She could not bear to drag her children another step.

The husband left them behind, near a small river, as he went to seek a Negro person to get information about a place for his family to sleep a few days and, perhaps, a job. They did not have a morsel of food. He found an old couple who were sharecroppers and worked a piece of land on another man's property. The old couple had only a small room and kitchen they lived in, a small shed for tools and a mule.

Used to seeing such troubles, even having had them themselves, they allowed the man to bring his family into the shed for the little warmth and protection it offered from the cold nights. The old farmers could not, in their heart, allow the sad, bedraggled, unfed and unrested children go hungry and tired. They took some greens and a few potatoes from their garden. The tired mother wanted to help, but was shooed away by the old wife who cooked for the family, her own memories roiling around in her mind. They had no meat to share. Her two chickens were for eggs to sell.

The traveling family arranged themselves against the walls and on the floor in the farmer's small, and now crowded, kitchen for a meal. Then they were situated in the shed to sleep with what worn quilts and rags the old couple could spare. The old woman grimly smiled and said, "I sewn these here'n quiltes myse'f," as she handed them to the wife. Then the old wife took the two youngest children into her kitchen and laid them down on pallets beside the burning stove to keep them from the cold of the night in the shed. The exhausted husband and the farmer talked into the night about the town and work for Negroes there.

Awakening in the morning to the crow of a rooster, the still tired husband, stiff with cold in the shed, slowly removed the ragged quilt from his self. No need to dress. He had not undressed. The farmer took him, walking, to the white man who owned the land. The white man said, "Your woman can work 'round the house and fields with my wife and you can take that ole barn yonder, close up some of them holes in it, and make a home for your family til harvest. People always leavin', movin' on, so there prob'ly will be a house and some land free 'bout that time and you can move and go to work for yourself. Til then, you can work here for food and shelter for your family."

"Thank ya, suh. Mighty kind'a you."

"We ain't got no lotta food, now, but we share." The white man smiled.

"No pay, suh?"

The white farmer smiled, "Not none as I know of . . . yet. Maybe later on. We got to see what kind of workin' man you are. You want it?"

"I'll take it, suh. Thank you kindly."

So that's the way things went and the husband was able to shelter his family and feed them . . . a little. Too tired and disheartened to move on, the husband thought, "At least this ain't Mississippi!"

Things turned out exactly as the old farmer had said they might after he had introduced his new friend to the owner-boss. When sharecropper people moved out of a little piece of shack on a little piece of the owner's land, the owner let the new family move in it to work the land.

They took the sharecropper job, intending to move on to better things when things got better. But life being what it is sometimes, they ended up staying in that place for thirty years . . . until the husband died from overwork and overworry. They had changed shacks a few times, but they never did get their own piece of land or build their own house as the man and his wife had dreamed of doing; living on their own place.

Their eldest boy moved on when he was sixteen. The next oldest, a girl, married at fourteen and moved on. The next child, a girl named Eula, did the same. (Eula would be my great-grandmother.) The youngest child stayed in the place they called "home" around his mother. He was a little retarded from his mother being undernourished and having babies so close together. In the end the two, widowed mother and retarded son, moved in with a friend who needed the little help they could provide.

Chapter Two

Now . . . Eula was growing up to be a strong, healthy, lusty woman who wanted something else. She had become tired of Oklahoma and "home" when she was about fourteen. During the same time, she became tired of the farming business: harvesting fields, milking cows for milk she couldn't drink, feeding chickens she had to steal to get a bite of, and sweeping yards endlessly. So Eula married a laborer from the oil fields. She moved into a shotgun shack in a near town with her new husband until something better came along. Something better could be almost anything and everything. And Eula wanted something better.

Well, Eula's husband was a go-getter hardworking man for his wife. He was also a brawny, lusty lover. By 1912 Eula had given birth to several children and both husband and wife were tired, near exhaustion, waiting for some job to pan out. Money was, as usual, almost nonexistent. "Something" was always up ahead, beyond them. But life continued on somehow, as it usually does.

Eula gave birth to my grandmother. She wanted a child named after herself so she named one of her pretty children, my grandmother, EulaLee. The family survived, barely. Eula thought everybody in the world was poor except the owners of the oil wells. There were no schools her children could attend. Even white children had a difficult time getting and keeping a schoolteacher. Those few schools which Negro people managed somehow to make arrangements for were too far away. Eula was getting old for those hard, scrambling times and began to feel it. But she was still young enough to dream, so she set her sight on Chicago. "Someday," she would daydream as she washed her family's clothes down at the creek looking beyond the trees, through space. She cooked her family's meals, looking over the crackling woodstove through a hole in the wall at the far horizon. "Something got to come my way someday. I know it's some money in Chicago."

Around 1912 a Woodrow Wilson was marked in to become president of the United States. In 1913 Woodrow signed into law that ominous amendment to the Constitution, the federal income tax laws—even though the U.S. Supreme Court made constant rulings against it, saying it was unconstitutional. He also signed into law the Federal Reserve System, among other things, taxes that went hard against the people. Still does.

Nineteen thirteen was not a good year for the world because, among other things, there was no cure for the Spanish flu, which took so many people from the face of the Earth. Eula lost two children, but EulaLee was one of those who survived. Barely. Eula and her husband wanted desperately to leave Oklahoma, but there was no way. They both did every kind of job they could just to put a little food in their family's mouths. Working for food only. No money available for them. They were stuck in place.

Woodrow Wilson also approved the Underwood Tariff, which reduced duties on foreign importations and, since they competed with American industry, it created greater problems for the common working people. Many tens of thousands of American workers were put out of jobs. Does not that seem strange for an American president to do? Or for any leader of a people to do? Because then, a depression came, bringing with it, of course, huge, widespread despair. With no production for American working people, starvation and much misery became nationwide. It will be done again and again by Earth's leaders the people put into office, or those who just take leadership away from the people. It will be done to all peoples, all colors, all over the world. The love of money is the root of all evil. Believe me.

Eula's family could not pay their rent, but the owner of the shotgun shack in town did not put them out. At least the owner knew them. He thought if the dilapidated shack was to sit empty, there was no telling who or how many would squat in it and eventually tear it completely up.

Eula's husband worked for a white landowner who gave him an automobile that did not run and had no gas even if it could have run. The husband worked on it a couple of months, finding parts, even stealing parts from cars that were parked and discarded because it took money to run a car, and the previous owners had none. Finally the husband stole some gas. He told Eula, "If we can get somewhere else, maybe East, maybe I could find some work."

Eula's thought was, "Chicago." They started planning their trip to somewhere, maybe Chicago.

In 1914, the government under Woodrow Wilson started a small war with Mexico. (Financed with the new income tax resources.) The war was quickly settled because small nations are powerless against those who control the money. Usually.

Eula's husband was not called upon to enter the military because he had a family and he was Black. And who knew where everyone was, anyway? People, all colors, were scattered all over the country, trying to find work or food, trying to survive. The military call was heaviest among the small middle class, the people who divided the rich and the poor. After them, the poorest people were taken. Both classes seemed dispensable . . . to the governing body.

EulaLee, my grandmother, was growing up through all these things.

Chapter Three

The family started their journey to the East in the faulty car with stolen gas, hungry children, and twenty-eight cents. Sometimes they had to push or pull the dying automobile. When they could, they stole gas in the middle of the night by siphoning it from some rich man's car out too late in a dark place. They were about one-hundred-ninety miles from Chicago one night when the car stopped for the last time. Wouldn't, couldn't, go any farther.

The exhausted, hungry little family sat on the side of the road waiting for the dawn. When it was light enough, they looked around to see where they were. They were in the hills, farming country, cattle country. The good husband, disgusted, stood up from the ground, cold and stiff, took a deep breath and said, "We can't wait for no Chicago! I'm gonna go look for a job." When he returned four hours later, he had found work in exchange for a place to stay.

Thinking of how much she loved him, Eula jumped up, tired and heavyhearted though she had been. She kissed her man, then gathered and hugged her children together for warmth. She was trying to smile at life in the midst of her feelings of love for her husband and her children. She thought, "Well, we all together, goin on our way somewheres." She turned her face to the landscape again, and really looked around herself. She thought back to her parents and where she had come from and all she had been through. Then she sat back down on the ground and cried.

EulaLee petted her mother, Eula's back, as the little girl looked off into the surrounding space listening to a rooster crow somewhere off in the distance. It was full of hazy purple hills and trees, green and pretty against the pale blue sky. As young as EulaLee was, knowing hunger, depravation, and desperation, all she could see around herself was space . . . empty, empty, hungry space.

In 1917 EulaLee was ten years old and the little family was still there, living and working in that area. They were able to do a little better with money when a war was struck up with Germany.

Pacifists all over the country were crying out for Peace. They were called subversives and "The People" were told that Germany had started a war against all mankind, etc. Though many, many people fought against it, conscription began. Motion pictures were made showing Germans raping underage girls and other horrendous things in American households. The draft age for men was lowered from twenty-one to eighteen years: Of course, they could not vote or go into bars or other sundry things, but . . .

At first, the newspapers were angry at these things. But soon, strangely, they were silenced. The day of the freedom of the press seemed over. All males between eighteen and thirty began to register for the draft.

Most newspapers and radios applauded and many women stood with proud eyes watching their sons march off to war. Heroes. But, later, when their sons and husbands and brothers returned with no legs or no arms . . . or dead . . . there was a new and different knowledge in the air. Of course, it was the same as in any war. All wars. That is why God hates all wars, He does not bless any side, contrary to earthly teachings and beliefs. He will not bless death and greed. God is Love.

But the time for peace was not yet. In my limited vision, in some chaotic space, there was an angry man in Europe. His name was Hitler, and he was taking his place in a long line, following, among others, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, great false religious leaders and too many others. He waited for his turn to begin.

All of this happened while EulaLee was growing up. The family was too poor to have a radio or newspapers and none of them read well anyway. Not one of the family members had proper schooling. They did not know the world that was taking shape around them. But they heard of the money that could be made in the new plants for the making of instruments of war . . . in cities like Chicago.

Older than her actual years, the mother Eula thought of Chicago and smiled at the old dream. Time and circumstance had bent and broken some of her ambitions. Now, her ambitions were for her children; she wanted to find a way for them to go to school and learn to get out of poor, pitiful lives.

Meet the Author

J. California Cooper is the author of the novels Family and The Wake of the Wind and of seven collections of short stories, including Homemade Love, winner of the 1989 American Book Award. Among her numerous awards are the James Baldwin Writing Award and the Literary Lion Award from the American Library Association. She has one daughter and lives in Portland, Oregon.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Some People, Some Other Place 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read several of this author's books and they all have touched in different ways. She seems to know how to write to get your attention, as if she's sitting and having coffee with you and telling you somebody's story. A BEAUTIFUL work by J. California Cooper. The character's in this book are real and I love that about all of her books. A must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love Cooper's short stories and this was the first novel I read by her and loved it! It is very different from the Black fiction we are used to reading (drama, divas, etc.). This is about history, culture and dreams and very compelling. The idea of the unborn narrator worked very well. In the end I thought I'd get more details about how the dreams of the other families turned out but other than that, this book is excellent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As soon as we heard J. California Cooper had a new book out, our literary club immediately chose it for our anniversary meeting. This story, about good and evil, poverty and wealth, love and hate, God and Satan, takes you to another place...where you can just see the scenes in your imagination. Ms. Cooper introduces us to characters that, although are fictional, their stories can be yours or mine. Its the type of book that you can't wait to see what happens next, yet you don't want it to end. And she keeps you mesmerized until the last page...actually the last sentence! J. California Cooper is one of the greatest authors of all time.
winniepie78 More than 1 year ago
I am a HUGE fan of J. California Cooper's work, and this book does not disappoint! Cooper's writing is so rich in culture and detail that you feel as though you're in the book watching the story play out. The characters are intriguing. Some of them you will absolutely love and root for, especially Eula Too. This was an exceptional novel! It was long, but it was an easy read because Cooper's writing is so natural and fluid. I didn't get bored or have "brain stutters" reading this book. (Brain stutters are what I call it when I'm reading a book and get stuck on a sentence because the writing is awkward and confusing. It's a "Huh??" moment.) I'm an avid reader but I have never read an author's entire library of work--until I discovered J. California Cooper. A lot of people compare her work to that of Zora Neale Hurston, but I strongly disagree. Hurston is an incredible writer, but Cooper is more down-to-earth and less over-the-top, in my opinion. Started with Homemade Love and just finished Some People, Some Other Place. I wish there were more J. California Cooper books for me to read...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
J. California strikes again. I couldn' t put it down until I finished. Ms. Cooper is a master storyteller! The vantage point from which the story is told is unusual and intriguing. I did not want the story to end. All the characters were well developed so much so, that they were a story within the story so well woven together. I eagerly await more from Ms. Cooper. Once you start reading this book, sleep is nonexitant...only the book exists.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Relly More than 1 year ago
Of all the books I've read, none, by far can compare to the emotions that were evoked from this one. Ms. Cooper makes your heart go out to all the characters, even if a few are the ones that you want to resent. It shows how a few people's life would look from a person looking in on every aspect and feeling the same emotions that those people are going through. My boyfriend isn't much of a book reader and really has no time for it, so I'd tell him all the details in this novel, chapter by chapter, to the point where he'd actually look forward to me telling him about the next chapters. The fact that she uses spiritual references shows that even the most conservative Christian believers like myself won't at all be offended by the content of this book and can actually apply all the lessons that are implied in the novel to our daily lives. This book is MUST read for everyone. You'll end up treating your friends, family, and even strangers better. The worst part is having to put the book down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I had read by J California Cooper. The review of the book caught my eye and I decided to give it a try. Boy, was I glad I did! I was pregnant at the time I read it and the idea of an unborn child telling the story really touched my heart. J California Cooper is such a storyteller. You get to know the characters struggles, pain and triumphs. You will have a personal bond with Eula Too as she goes through life trying to understand people as well as life. I shared the book with a few women at work and with tears in their eyes would tell me how beautifully written the book was. You would swear this was someone J. california Cooper knew and decided to share the story with us. So, get your tissues and get your catnaps in now because once you pick this book up, you won't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book club LOVED this book, all of her books are fantastic. The characters were well developed and you fall in love with each one. Cooper is truly a gifted writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the very first book that I have read of Coopers.I wasn't sure what to expect, I was so taken by the characters that I hardly wanted to sleep at night for wanting to continue with reading this book.I wish more people would take the time to red this book.I will endeavor to read more of Cooper's works. Joann in Tacoma,WA
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having only read J. California Cooper's short stories, I had high hopes of seeing what she would do with the opportunity to go more indepth with her characters. She exceeded my expectations. It didn't take me long to get through the book because of her easy, laid back writing style. I felt like I really knew the characters and could understand their actions and feelings even though their lives were drastically different than mine. I love how she showed how we are all connected in the basic things we want out of life. I can't say enough good things about the story.