One day I hope to meet the girl/young lady (?) who donated today’s recommendation to my Little Free Library. I had just finished Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, about a black, land-holders family, struggling to “make it” in the rural South during Depression Days, when a gorgeous purple 5″x7″ book turned up. That’s part of the fun of an LFL, people put books in as well as take them out. On the cover were black and white photos of a stately, African American woman, dressed for church; a young girl, about eleven, striking a pose that indicates she has a mind of her own; a tiny sleeping baby, and a typical southern bungalow-styled home; a typical Sunday dinner, complete with cornbread and collard greens. From the lady’s hat, dress, and pearls, the reader might guess that the lady is a relative of the girl or a respected woman of the girl’s community. All this is set against a rich, purple background. The author’s name, Barbara Hathaway. The title: Missy Violet and Me. The “me” turns out to be Hathaway’s grandmother, who like the family in Thunder, lived during the Great Depression.
The story is based on true stories told to the writer by her mother about her grandmother’s life as a young girl The photos comprising the cover must be family photos. Viney, an eleven-year-old girl narrates the story, for it is her story, hers and the town’s midwife, Miss Violet, “…one of the most looked-up-to ladies in Richmond County.” As the book opens, Viney’s sister is delivered by Miss Violet, and Viney hears her shamed father tell Miss Violet that he cannot pay. She reminds him that he still owes her for the delivery of the last child, and suggests that Viney work off his debt by assisting her in her practice. When her father agrees, Viney is so excited and feels so important that she sings softly under her breath as she goes off to bed, “Gonna’ work for Miss Violet! Gonna’ work for Miss Violet; gonna’ catch me some babies.”
It is a lovely, “soft” encouraging story for a young girl in upper elementary or junior high. It is appealing, not only because of the cover’s beauty and its petite, “thin” size (LOL) but because of the influence a mentor can have on a child’s life. The author describes how Viney’s education/apprenticeship leads to her vocation and the finding of her identity. Perhaps because I am a teacher, I was inspired by Miss Violet’s methods and compassion, agreeing with her: Yes, mentoring a young woman-to-be is ‘worth it’. The “Kristin M. Soto,” who donated the book and decorated the inside, right, purple, fronts- page in silver pencil, adding curlicues and “favorites”: “cats/pizza/softball/art/[and the color] lime green” in her design. I would love to someday meet this woman and invite her in for a cup of tea and conversation.