Daddy Was a Number Runner

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9780131971035: Daddy Was a Number Runner

Recently chosen by Essence magazine, this beloved modern classic tells the poignant story of a spirited young woman’s coming of age in -Depression-era Harlem. While 12-year-old Francie Coffin’s world and family threaten to fall apart, this remarkable young heroine must call upon her own wit and endurance to survive amidst the treacheries of racism and sexism, poverty and violence. "The novel’s greatest achievement lies in the strong sense of black life that it conveys: the vitality and force behind the despair . . . a most -important novel."—New York Times Book Review

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Review:

For Francie, childhood in 1930s Harlem means having one brother in the gangs and another who gives up his dream of being a chemist because "how many firms gonna hire a black chemist?" It's having a big, beautiful father who can't find legal work and a mother who defies her husband and hires out as domestic labor in order to keep the family from starving. Childhood for Francie is having household chores like attaching the jumper to get free electricity and facing the disdain of Mrs. Burnett when she buys groceries from her on credit. It's avoiding the groping hands of the butcher, the baker and the fat little white man who sits next to her in the theater, or maybe not avoiding them for the extra meat, rolls, or dime they might offer. It means reading "smutty" comic books and walking down 118th street where the prostitutes work, but not knowing what is happening when her period starts. Francie's Harlem is a powerful, pent-up place, where dreams and good people are changed and destroyed, a neighborhood with strength and beauty, love and friendship, all trying to grow like plants without soil or water. And for Francie, during the year she turns from twelve to thirteen, living in Harlem means exchanging her longing for the white-hatted cowboy in the movies for a feeling of kinship with the Indians and a realization of what it means to be black and female in the United States. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister

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