Idella: Marjorie Rawlings' Perfect Maid

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9780813011448: Idella: Marjorie Rawlings' Perfect Maid

"A warmhearted and insightful tribute to the author of Cross Creek and The Yearling, and it’s the story of Parker herself, a tough-minded Floridian devoted to her family. A charming book."--ALA Booklist

Idella Parker’s recollections of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings are as intimate and frank as their ten years together. This long-awaited memoir, by the black woman who was cook, housekeeper, and comfort to the famous author from 1940 to 1950, tells two stories--one of their spirited friendship, the other of race relations in rural Florida in the days before integration.

 By turns kind and generous, moody and depressed, the Pulitzer Prize winning author emerges as a woman of contrasts--someone with "few friends and many visitors . . . who seldom smiled." Idella’s own life is part of this memoir, too, as she describes her courtship and marriage, her family lineage back to Nat Turner, and what it was life to grow up in a segregated society.

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From the Back Cover:

Idella Parker's recollections of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings are as intimate and frank as their ten years together. This long-awaited memoir, written by the black woman who was cook, housekeeper, and comfort to the famous author from 1940 to 1950, tells two stories - one of their spirited friendship, the other of race relations in rural Florida in the days before integration. Personal details - Marjorie's abandon behind the wheel of her cream-colored Oldsmobile, her boiled egg for breakfast, her shoe size, and her penchant for wearing mismatched ankle socks - accompany accounts of visits from Julia Scribner and Zora Neale Hurston, of Marjorie's unconventional marriage to Norton Baskin, and of their moves back and forth from Cross Creek to St. Augustine, Florida, and to Van Hornesville, New York. Idella describes Marjorie's work habits on the porch at Cross Creek - as time went by, she notes, a whiskey bottle, wrapped in a paper bag, often sat alongside the typewriter. By turns kind and generous, moody and depressed, Rawlings emerges as a woman of contrasts - someone "with few friends and many visitors . . . who seldom smiled". Promises to stop drinking were made and broken repeatedly, and Rawlings' emotional demands on Idella escalated. Idella quit working for her three times, leaving for good three years before Rawlings' death. "I loved her then, and I love her still, but what could I do?" she asks. Idella's own life is part of this memoir, too, as she describes her courtship and marriage, her family lineage back to Nat Turner, and what it was like to grow up in a segregated society.

From Booklist:

Parker, with coauthor Keating, continues the story, begun in Idella (1992), of her 10-year stint--from 1940 to 1950--as cook and housekeeper for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Though the Pulitzer Prize^-winning author referred to Parker as "the perfect maid," their relationship was often troubled. Rawlings was strong-minded and impatient, qualities made worse by her growing alcohol dependency. Though an unsophisticated observer--Parker admits she had never heard of most of the famous guests who routinely visited the Cross Creek home--she does convey a vivid sense of her employer as a person who could be thoughtful one moment and utterly exasperating the next. By including chapters on her early life as well as the years with Rawlings, Parker also conveys an unsettling sense of the black experience in the rural south of the 1920s and 1930s. It will be difficult for contemporary readers to understand Parker's nostalgia for her youth when "we respected the `Whites Only' signs." In the end, Parker's feelings about segregation seem as conflicted as those for her late employer. Michael Cart

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