Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review - Having Our Say; The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

I stumbled upon this treasure - Having Our Say, at a local book reseller. Sometimes I just want to read books about African Americans who have lived extraordinary lives; this book fits the bill. The title alone is intriguing - the first 100 years implies that there is a second set of 100 years. That fact alone made me curious to see what was inside, combined with the fact that there were sisters who lived together.

100 years is a couple of lifetimes; 100 years in America for Black people spans many seminal events from slavery to the Civil War, to Jim Crow, and after.  These two women - Sarah and Elizabeth (Bessie) share how their family lived through these events and the wisdom gained along the way.

The Delanys were a family of 10 children from North Carolina; their father was born in slavery yet became the nation's first black Episcopal bishop; their mother could have "passed" for white but chose not to.

The parents shepherded the children so that they were aware of the dangers of the time, yet protecting them while instilling in all the children ambition. Every child had to work to pay his way for college - and all 10 of those children did. For a while, they were all quite prominent in NYC as lawyers, doctors, and educators. Of the 10 children, Sarah and Bessie ended up together - they lived together and worked in NY; Bessie as a dentist and Sadie as a teacher. The family was quite close and looked out for each other professionally and personally. When their father died, their mom lived with Bessie and Sadie and it was not burdensome. The mom got to travel with her daughters and have new experiences.

There's tons of wisdom in this book from these ladies:
Bessie didn't fly and this was her reasoning - "When you're in a train and it breaks down, well there you is. But when you're in a plane and it breaks down, there you ain't."

I thought I could change the world. It took me a hundred years to figure out, I can't change the world, I can only change Bessie, and honey that ain't easy either.

Sadie on dealing with institutionalized racism - you had to decide: Am I going to change the world or am I going to change me? Or maybe change the world a little bit, just by changing me? If I can get ahead, doesn't that help my people?

Life is short and it's up to you to make it sweet.

This book is a goldmine of wisdom from two ladies. If they were alive I know I would enjoy their company, instead, I've read the book.

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