If the Creek Don't Rise: My Life Out West with the Last Black Widow of the Civil War

Rita Williams, Author . Harcourt $23 (322p) ISBN 978-0-15-101154-4

Shortly after Williams's father ran off with another woman, carbon monoxide killed her mother in a Denver rooming house. Williams, born in the early 1950s, was only four, so her Aunt Daisy took her in. Many readers have a Daisy in the family. She reminds you to "urinate or move your bowels" before leaving home, and freely discusses buying Kotex or other intimate matters, pretending she can't imagine why you're so sensitive. Beyond her eccentricities, Daisy's attitudes on race matters are complex and often troubling; she doesn't hesitate to call her niece the N word—in scorn, not humor. Born into a Tennessee sharecropping family in the early 1900s, Daisy left Klan territory by marrying a 79-year-old Civil War veteran, who took his young bride to his western Nebraska ranch. Soon more of Daisy's family went West, but financial difficulties reduced them all to subsistence lifestyles. Still, when Daisy was raising Williams, she'd barter her own labor, washing floors for school tuition, so her niece could "Do something, goddamn it. Be somebody." And she has—Williams, who published a portion of this book in O Magazine , is a gifted storyteller, and her tales of Daisy are unforgettable. Photos. (May)

Look for PW's upcoming q&a with Rita Williams.—Ed.

Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Paperback - 322 pages - 978-0-15-603285-8
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-547-89252-8
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