03 Nov Bernice McFadden?uses fiction to explore many ideas.? One of the ideas explored in Sugar? is the idea of?intergenerational trauma.? Please write a paper discussing how the past traumas of
Bernice McFadden uses fiction to explore many ideas. One of the ideas explored in “Sugar” is the idea of intergenerational trauma. Please write a paper discussing how the past traumas of the Laceys as well as Shirley Brown, Ciel Brown and Bertie Mae Brown shaped Sugar’s personality. How do these traumas shape her view of love, family and trust? Your paper should be 2-3 pages, typed, double-spaced, 12-point font. No outside sources. Your papers are due on Thursday, November 10th by 11:59 PM. Please email your paper. I prefer a Word Doc, but Google Doc or PDF is also fine. If you chose the latter options then your paper must be made editable by me. Please remeber to put your name and page numbers on your paper.
Make sure you are responding directly to the prompt given. The Sugar novel is a tragedy written to explore the hardships faced by black women in the south prior to the Civil Rights Movement. Unlike their white counterparts, these women received no protection under law. They were often abused both in their own homes and neighborhoods, as well as their places of employment. The paper is about how these abuses affected Sugar's personality. The paper is not about judging Sugar or any of these other women for the circumstances of their lives or the choices they made.
Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Dedication Acknowledgements Epigraph Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen AFTER
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia
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Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
First published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Putnam Inc.
First Printing, February, 2000
Copyright © Bernice L. McFadden, 2000
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
McFadden, Bernice L.
Sugar : a novel / Bernice L. McFadden.
eISBN : 978-1-101-14397-1
1. Afro-Americans—Arkansas—Fiction. I. Title.
Set in Galliard
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced
into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
For Mommy & Daddy
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I ask God for so many things on a daily basis, I must acknowledge him first and foremost, because if not for him where would I be?
Thank you, God, for supplying me with the strength, wisdom and creativity to begin, continue and complete this book.
My mother and father, Robert and Vivian McFadden, for coming together and giving me life and love. My daughter, R’yane Azsa Waterton, my greatest, most beautiful work of art. My grandparents, those living and those who watch over me from the great beyond: Thelma and Wilfred Nettles, Gwendolyn and Harold McFadden. My siblings, Reggie, Misty and Kris. My niece, Shania Simon, nephew, Myles McFadden, and sister-in-law, Maritza Barzey-McFadden.
My Sister-Friends & Soul Brothers, for their consistent encouragement, love and support, Robyn Roundtree, Quovardis Banks-Lawrence, Pascale Villate-Jacques, Cicely Peace-Edouard, Wanda Toney, Charlette CeCe Jimbes, Elizabeth Warren, Sonia Rillera, Lionel Crichlow, Dean Henry and J. R. McNeil.
My creative writing teacher, Professor Margaret Lamb of Fordham University, for teaching me the art of storytelling and encouraging me to push forward.
My agent, James Vines, for recognizing my talent and sharing my vision. My editor, Laurie Chittenden, who also shared my vision and worked tirelessly on this project to make it a dream come true. Anita Diggs of Warner Books, for recognizing the possibilities and guiding me to the rainbow.
To family and friends, who are special to me and let me know that they care and are concerned about my well being, Dolly Green, Diana Crichlow, Anita Miles, Kathleen and Laura Taylor, James Griffin, Cheryl Bernard, Margaret Bernard, Fay Nurse, Bentley “Rooney” Green, Carlo Lawrence, Laura Smiley, Anthony Lloyd, Stephanie Pearson, Lisa Ford, Sheridan Abraham, Estela Olivier, Eustace Thomas, Errol Ellis, Ian Chandler, Piercson Fenty, Wayne Alleyne, Richard Small—where are u now?—and Tonya Bodison.
To the women writers who paved the way, Nella Larson, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. A special
Thanks to J. California Cooper, who took the time to verbally respond! Thank you.
Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, thank you for providing my background music.
The ones who made my life extraordinary and remain with me in spirit, Rebecca Hopkins, Ruby Nelson, Virginia Cummings, Richard May, Rose Tyler, Peggy Ann Williams, Menyon “Minnie” Nettles.
And finally a special thanks to the new people in my life who added additional support and encouragement through the final part of this particular journey, Dawn Nedd, Sophia Black, Donna Trotman, Jackie Quidort, Marsha Cox, Marie Rosemond and Elton Andrews.
God Bless Us All.
“There’s a little bit of hooker in every woman. A little bit of hooker and a little bit of God.”
JUDE was dead.
On a day when the air held a promise of summer and peole laughed aloud, putting aside for a brief moment their condition, color and where they ranked among humanity, Jude, dangling on the end of childhood and reaching out toward womanhood, should have been giggling with others her age among the sassafras or dipping her bare feet in Hodges Lake and shivering against the winter chill it still clutched. Instead she was dead.
She’d been taken down by the sharp blade of jealousy, and her womanhood—so soft, pink and virginal—was sliced from her and laid to rest on the side of the road near her body. Her pig-tails, thick dark ropes of hair, lay splayed out above her head, mixed in with the pine needles and road dust. Her dress, white and yellow, her favorite colors, was pulled up to her neck, revealing the small bosom that had developed over the winter.
The murder had white man written all over it. (That was only a half truth.) But no one would say it above a whisper. It was 1940. It was
Bigelow, Arkansas. It was a black child. Need any more be said? No one cared except the people who carried the same skin color. No one
cared except the parents who had nursed her, stayed up all night soothing and rocking her when she was colicky. Applauded her when she took her first steps and cried when the babbling, gurgling sounds that came from her sweet mouth finally formed the words Mamma and then later, Papa.
They cared. The parents of sweet, sweet Jude, who would never hurt a fly, no less a human being. Look at what they did to her!
Word first came via the Edelson boy. He’d run all the way and was breathless when he arrived. Black John, the blacksmith, had found her about a mile down the road and covered her body with a Crocker sack while he put himself in the right frame of mind to start coming. He had to pop the boy upside the head, twice, this just to get him moving instead of gawking.
Black John remained behind, gathering the broken child into his arms and placing her gently in his wagon among the bags and crates of field provisions. He stood looking at the beaten body of this almost woman. In life, she was a tall child, strapping, like her father, but in death, she seemed so small. Perhaps it was because of her broken bones and the way her skin sank in the places between the breaks that made her look so tiny and uneven.
He shook his head in pity and looked up into the heavens for an answer. An arrow of blackbirds blinded the sun and then moved on. If that was clarification of why and what lay ahead, Black John never said, but he would think back on this day again in fifteen years’ time.
His wife had helped birth this child, as she had most of the Bigelow children. She would take it hard, like she’d lost one of her own. He looked back at the child again and a heavy sigh escaped him. “No rest for the weary,” he muttered and then couldn’t think of why that would come to mind at all.
He was procrastinating. Standing there behind his wagon of potatoes, turnips, cabbage, yam and Jude, he was stretching the space between his arrival and the scene that would follow. Crying eyes and screaming mouths. He’d seen plenty of grief in his life. But grief let loose from a woman who lost a child—that was the worst type of grief of all. If you could, you’d try to avoid that sort. Because grief that comes from loss of child just took a piece of you away each time you met up with it.
And if you found yourself among it too often for too long, you’d certainly die way before your time.
No, Black John was in no hurry to go. The sun sat watching curiously on its perch, delaying its descent into late
afternoon. It was long past three and Black John’s shadow stood stout before him, watching and waiting. He removed his straw hat, the one that belonged to his daddy before him. The one that he inherited when his uncle handed it to him with a quiet word. Black John could never remember the exact word that was spoken, but it left an emptiness in him. The strawberry- colored stain stiffening the center part of the hat’s hump confused him more than scared him because his daddy hated strawberries.
Black John fingered the stain and looked back at the dead child, her dress blotched with her own strawberry stains. “Well,” he muttered in resignation, as he pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow and the back of his neck.
He moved to the cab of the truck and removed a second empty Crocker sack from the floor. Returning to Jude he looked her over once again and shook his head in pity and then tucked the Crocker sacks around her body and went to the left of the wagon. That’s when he saw it. Glistening in the sun. His shadow stepped forward and shaded the glare. Black John knew immediately what it was, although he had never seen one without a woman’s support, protection and guidance behind it; something like that, once seen, always known. He leaned down and with the sweat-soiled handkerchief retrieved Jude’s womanhood. He would later recount (and he often did) how it quivered in the palm of his hand.
His mule closed the distance in a slow saunter that barely disturbed the road dust. Black John looked over and his shadow looked back at him. Ahead he could see the small pond of black faces, eyes big with wanting to know, eyes big with wanting to see. Black John rode right into the middle and when he stepped down from his wagon he was six years old again, his father’s straw hat, with the strawberry stain stiff and dry on its hump, in his hands. He pushed through the worn and patched sea of skirts, fought through the tree-long legs of men and bit down hard on a hand that tried to cover his too-young-for-death eyes. When he made it to the clearing there was his father. Beaten so hard and for so long that his skin had bubbled up purple. The top of his head was open and there he saw precious memories and somehow-someday dreams wrapped in I Love You colors spilled out
for all of Bigelow to see. Then came the wail and Black John lost a little bit of his time on earth.
That’s what scared him now. The silence. The absence of that mournful homage that broke your heart, stole time from Black John and pushed the most pious to question God.
Pearl’s mouth hung open, but no sound came. Her heart had broken into tiny pieces that rose up, plugging her throat, allowing only breath to pass.
She tried again when Black John laid Jude’s battered body to rest at her feet, the beaten, brutalized, eyeless body of her baby girl; but all she could do was claw at her own eyes and scratch at her throat, drawing blood instead of sound.
Pearl was fighting. Fighting with the reality that there would be no more candy sweet kisses and hugs that could magically erase a problem, worry or fear. In the halls of their home, who would skip, dance and sing so loud that the dogwoods raised their branches in delight?
Who would call her “Mamma honey baby” in that teasing, innocent voice that only Jude possessed?
And there would no longer be a reason for her to answer: “Jude baby doll.”
These thoughts ran through her mind until her head ached with grief. Searing hot tears fell heavy from her eyes and landed on her bosom, soaking through the black cotton dress and white brassiere, stinging her skin and scorching her heart. The pain. The pain!
Later, she turned her face toward the heavens, unable to bear the sight of the sorrow-faced men as they covered her baby’s coffin with brandy brown dirt. She had prepared herself to be taken from the earth at the very moment she heard the muffled sound of the first shovelful hit the top of the small wooden box. She had asked the Lord to release her from this life and allow her to walk beside her sweet Jude as she entered the Kingdom of Heaven.
But with each shovelful of earth, the sound that marked where Jude lay, quieted, and with the last sprinkling Pearl swayed suddenly and was aware of being lifted from the ground. She smiled, believing the Lord had answered her prayers. She quickly opened her eyes to take in, for what she thought to be the last time, the faces of her husband and two sons.
And they were there, faces pinched with concern and grief, as they hoisted her up and carried her limp body away from grave-side.
She lay in bed for nearly thirty days, taking in very little food or water. Calling for Jude and crying when her call was not answered and still, as she wallowed in grief and anguish, the sorrowful wail that was reserved for mothers who’ve lost their only daughters, remained locked in her throat.
Pearl eventually returned to her life. Now absent of Jude. People stopped talking about it and allowed the matter to slip into the space in their minds reserved for horrors like those. She attempted to do the same, putting her pain not behind her, but beside her, where her sweet Jude should have been, and prayed not for redemption, but for salvation.
No, the Lord would not answer her prayers on that day. Not as she had wished. She did not die. Not physically. Her soul and spirit had departed our world the moment she touched the cold, bruised brow of her child. But God would keep her walking and breathing for quite a few more years to come. He had work for her to do.
Chapter One TWENTY-FIVE days of freezing rain and thirty days of below-zero temperatures found most of the population of Bigelow bedded down with fevers and pneumonia.
Five babies died that year. Their bodies were stored in the basement of the small church until the ground thawed enough to bury them. Plenty of tears fell that winter.
The people swore blind it was the beginning of the end, and those who hadn’t seen the inside of a church for more than twenty years flocked in bright and early every Sunday.
Minnie Grayson warned the people of Bigelow, told them her head had itched something awful the previous summer. An itching head always meant death, destruction or devastation.
Her words came to pass when Bigelow lost the five small infants. The deaths of the “Bigelow Five,” as they would be known, more than convinced the people to heed her words.
“Somethin’ comin’, time to save your souls ’for it’s too late.” People paid attention and grabbed worn (or brand-new) Bibles and asked the Lord for his mercy and forgiveness.
Come April the temperature soared. It felt like August in an oven. The lake dried up. Women refused to sleep with their men. Dogs ceased barking. The tulips that encircled the statue erected to the founder of Bigelow bloomed and died all in one day.
Everybody complained that it was hotter than hell. But only one could say for sure and he was miles away. His reason for coming back to Bigelow was only just arriving.
Minnie Grayson started scratching again, and warned everyone she came across that “God’s vengeance against their town wasn’t near to being done.”
Clair Bell sat on her porch, feet stuck in a tub of soothing hot water, soaking her bunions. This sealed what Minnie predicted. Clair Bell only suffered with her feet when something was near to going wrong, which usually meant a storm, drought or disease. Bigelow held its breath and waited.
They watched the sky for black billowing clouds. Licked the tips of their fingers and tested the air for a shift of wind. Waited for the first flash of light and thunderous bass.
They boiled roots and leaves and drank tall simmering glasses of murky, stinking liquids to cleanse their bodies and protect them from any maladies that could bed them and in time, kill them.
They cured meat, canned fruit and pickled pork, packing their sheds full, anticipating crops lost and animal deaths.
They waited. A storm blew in. It wasn’t what they expected, but some would say later
that it was just as deadly as any twister or hurricane they had ever experienced.
The storm walked into their small town on two legs in spiked, red patent leather heels. She waltzed right through the main square, blond wig bouncing to the rhythm of her walk, a leopard print pocketbook slung over one shoulder, matching suitcases in each hand. Her eyes were covered with cat’s-eye-shaped, white-rimmed glasses, mirrors to her soul, unavailable for view. A Lucky Strike hung from her red-painted lips.
She was tall, taller than any man in that town, except for Joe Taylor. Tall and black as the day was long. She walked with a confidence most people in Bigelow had never known. She swaggered along like a cat in heat, leaving swirling curtains of dust in her wake.
People named her right there and then. Named her without an introduction, without two words ever passing between them. Called her things they had only whispered under their breath, or in their bedrooms when the doors were closed tight and passion drove them into saying it. Words no self-respecting, God-fearing man or woman would ever use in public. But now they publicly stated it, because they had a right and reason to.
Slut. Whore. Bitch. She made her way down the main road past the white-washed homes
with their large wrap-around porches and picket fences. Past magnolia gardens and sweeping peach trees where young boys hung precariously from knotted limbs, watching her with large dark eyes.
She walked with purpose past the general store where the white man called Abraham gave out credit and charged a 2 percent interest if you didn’t settle your bill with him by the first Friday of every month.
She came down Pleasant Way, where Anna Lee (said to be the illegitimate offspring of the general store owner) swept at the dirt that always seemed to need sweeping when word came that something interesting was happening outside the perimeters of her home. Anna Lee watched the woman with an even eye and stopped her lazy sweeping, not to tilt her head in greeting but to concentrate on the vision before her. When their eyes met, Anna Lee’s did not smile or blink with shame; they stretched wide and shouted: Unacceptable! Unwanted! Get out!
Sugar turned the corner that held Bigelow’s only school-house. It was small, white and unassuming.
She stopped short, dead in front of Fayline’s House of Beauty, and peeked in at the women whose hair was in the process of being washed, dyed, teased, conked or pressed into the latest styles from New York, Detroit and Washington, D.C.
No one said hello, welcome or even invited her in for a Coke. No, they just sat, openly watching her, their arms folded defiantly across their breasts, hands resting in resistance on their hips, as she examined the chipped blue paint on the dusty storefront glass that separated them from her. The paint that used to be a brilliant blue and would have in the past screamed FAYLINE’S HOUSE OF BEAUTY, but years of winter wind and summer sun had faded the letters so that they barely whispered to you what and whose establishment you stood in front of.
She moved on, aware of the pandemonium that was brewing around her. Sugar walked slowly down a narrow dirt road, sycamores on either side
giving an eerie shaded feel to the walkway. The homes that lined the street were identical in every way except color. Small, neat, board-and-shingle houses, painted white, light gray or a watery sort of blue. Two floors, two windows to each of the five rooms. Fenced-in yards that held sleeping dogs or guileful cats and mulberry bushes that sat beneath open windows shading blooming azaleas.
A sign, rusted and bent nearly in half by a passing twister or unruly adolescent, swung around and around on the lone post, stopping briefly as the breeze that guided its frantic spin lulled.
GROVE STREET. Sugar stopped, set her bags down and pulled a damp, folded piece of
brown paper from her bosom. The address, written in black ink, was now
smudged, causing the 10 and Grove Street that were written there to blend into each other, becoming nearly indecipherable.
She looked from the paper to the sign post and back to the paper. Satisfied she was in the right place, she retrieved her suitcases and walked toward her new home and new life.
Behind her the people of Bigelow buzzed like flies around shit. The heat forgotten, all thoughts were on the woman that had just strutted her way right through the main square in front of their children, and more important, in front of their men.
They hated her immediately, not knowing of her childhood or the life that, after only one day of living it, would have had them calling out to the Lord for help.
They hated her and did not know that she had never loved in that way. That way—when a man and woman come together and the cost involved is one that no bank could ever lend out, no national mint could ever print, reprint or discontinue.
They hated her because it was clear that she had been one of them at some point, but had left before she would mature into a woman that tied her hair up in worn cloth at sunset and pushed her sleeves up around her elbows to begin an evening of toil after having toiled all day for the Man. Baking bread and churning sweet butter, growing butter beans and collard greens in the yard behind the small house that would (during her entire lifetime) belong to the bank even though she had a thirty-year mortgage that should have been paid off five years ago, but somehow the bank keeps telling her about interest that was miscalculated back in ’46. And so now she owes for a few more years, but they can’t say how many for sure, and she won’t demand an exact count, because she’s colored and they’re not and this is the South, 1955.
At night she would kiss her children (never less than four offspring) good-night. If she was lucky and owned a radio, she could sit on her porch or in the tiny living room and listen to a radio show and chuckle at the humor, because a day of picking cotton, chopping wood or canning fish leaves you with little strength to out-and-out laugh. You save your laughter for real good time evenings, when the boss man is an extra day away. Blessings may shower her and that hot talent Ella Fitzgerald may come across singing “A-Tisket A-Tasket” and get her foot to tapping and maybe even humming along, but not too hard because she’s darning a holey sock
as she listens to this song about the basket, or hemming hand-me-down pants, and working with a needle by candlelight can be tedious. She’s got drawers soaking in a bucket behind the house that have to be scrubbed and hung to dry in the night air, but her husband has bathed tonight and splashed a little of that drug store aftershave on his cheeks; that means he wants to do more than just lay beside her, he wants to lay up on her and inside her. So she leaves the drawers to soak for another hour or so, while she does her duty as Mrs. and pleases her man, because she can function on three hours of sleep. Keeping her man well fed and fucked are number one priorities that she can’t slack on because you can never know when a woman dressed to the nines with a blond wig, long legs and a high fat ass that should have been equal to you in almost every way may decide to hop on the first southbound Greyhound and end up looking at you through whispering letters on a dusty storefront window.
Chapter Two THE phone blared out and startled Pearl, causing her heart to skip a beat. She still had not grown used to the sound of it. The black speaking and hearing contraption that she had waited patiently nearly two years for while Ma Bell decided whether it was cost effective to put up telephone lines in a town full of coloreds with low-paying jobs was ringing for the first time all day. Pearl had picked up the phone at least twice that day and listened to the clicking sounds that traveled through the long snake-like cord that exited the bottom and disappeared into her wall. And now after watching it and tip-toeing around waiting for it to ring, it does just that and startles her breathless.
“Lord have mercy.” Pearl jumped at the shrill sound of the phone and then moved quickly into the living room where the phone sat on its own table for easy viewing. Pearl was short and stout and her walk was more like a waddle than a stride. Her arms were thick and visibly strong from years of lifting heavy household objects and pushing a scrub brush back and forth over countless wooden and tiled floors. She was sixty, but her face was still very youthful. Her husband called her Bit, a nickname that carried over from the days when Pearl was short and petite. Pearl is still short, but petite is a word and a proportion long forgotten.
“Hello?” Pearl answered the phone in a labored voice. “I think she here! She ain’t too long passed my house . . . girl, she is a
sight!” Shirley Brown was rattling a mile a minute. “She coming in your direction.”
“Shirley, who you talking about—” “The one the Reverend told you about. The one you suppose to welcome
and all. She a sight. If that’s her she a sight, Pearl!” Pearl listened to Shirley ramble on excitedly as she vaguely recalled the
conversation she’d had with Reverend Foster just two weeks ago. “Pearl, you have been a faithful member of this congregation for years.”
Reverend Foster moved in close to her as they stood in front of Bigelow’s First Baptist Church. He lowered his voice so that the congregation that was
leaving Sunday service would not hear what he was relaying to Sister Pearl. He took her lightly by the elbow and guided her away from the crowd.
“Don’t tell no one, but you are one of my favorite followers.” He smiled at her and Pearl lowered her eyes away from his handsome face and soft eyes. He smelled like the air after a good rain. Him being so close to her made her feel light-headed.
“I hear we gonna have a new resident in our small town. A woman coming in from over in Short Junction, taking over the house next door to you.”
“Hmmm,” Pearl said and nodded her head. “So I figure since you are such a dedicated member, and my favorite, you
would be the perfect person to welcome her to our little community and eventually bring her into the fold.”
Pearl looked up from his shiny shoes, which seemed a little too fine for a Reverend in a town made up of sharecroppers and factory workers. But she pushed the thought away and tried to concentrate on his words.
“Would you do that for Reverend Foster, Sister Pearl?” His voice was pleading.
“Of course, Reverend. When we expecting Mrs. . . . Mrs.?” “Oh, it’s Mizz Lacey,
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