Bigmama Didn't Shop at Woolworth's

Sunny Nash, Author Texas A&M University Press $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-89096-716-4
On the outskirts of Bryan, Tex., was Candy Hill, a poor, black neighborhood like it's more aptly named neighbor Graveyard Line. Nash's memories of growing up in Candy Hill during the 1950s and early '60s are told in short vignettes gathered into loosely themed chapters. Nash's mother was a beautiful, distant woman who would force her daughter to learn willy nilly. Because her mother worked, Nash's upbringing was largely overseen by her part-Comanche grandmother, a strong, proud woman who was fanatically clean (she handled money with tweezers). Not surprisingly, the occasional fond memory of childhood in Candy Hill is overshadowed by bitterness. Nash was three when she learned her first word--colored. ""`I'm sorry I have to teach you this ugly word, colored,"" her grandmother told her. ""But if I don't make you understand, you'll have one hurt after another all of your life."" And then there was the violence of Candy Hill, most touchingly rendered in a section titled ""Shooting Without a Gun."" Here, Nash recalls her grandmother looking for a photograph after hearing that a cousin had been shot by her abusive boyfriend. Brilliantly, she weaves between her grandmother's worrying about the absence of a photograph to help her remember the dead and her own thoughts of where she might get bullets to repay the killer. The writing is sometimes cliched (""I thought I saw a tear sparkle on my mother's cheek as that day's last sunlight stroked her face""), and the dialogue is filled with inspiring but not terribly natural locutions. What Nash does best is open a window on a neighborhood where heroism was often a matter of just getting by. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1996
Release date: 08/01/1996
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