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The Times They Used to Be

Clifton, Lucille

11 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0440418674 / ISBN 13: 9780440418672
Published by Yearling, 2002
Condition: Used: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Times They Used to Be

Publisher: Yearling

Publication Date: 2002

Binding: Soft cover

Illustrator: Lewis, Earl B.

Book Condition: Used: Good

About this title


Mama, Mama.
Tell us about when you was a girl . . .
tell us one of them stories
about the olden days.

So begins this tender story, set in 1948, when Satchel Paige was in the majors, Ralph Bunche was at the U.N., and each evening Sooky and her family turned on the radio to listen to Amos ’n’ Andy. Uncle Sunny, a veteran of the 92nd Division in World War II–it was his time, too. But mostly it was Sooky’s time, as she sat on the curb with her best friend Tallahassie May Scott in the dusky summer nights, waiting for the street lights to go on. That summer Sooky was 12 years old and got her first pair of wedgies, and sin broke all out in her best friend’s body because she wasn’t saved.


This is the story "of what happened to Tassie Scott / the time sin broke all out in her body / because she wasn't saved. / And also about me, / and how it was / the summer my uncle Sunny / followed the nun / back and forth / across the Grider Street bridge." It is 1948 and 12-year-old Sooky and her best friend Tassie entertain themselves by taking walks over to the white folks' section of town to look in their windows, sitting on the curb by the bus stop to wait for the first lights to come on at dusk, and listening to Amos and Andy on the radio. Sooky's Uncle Sunny, "most probably / just shell-shocked / from the war / with the 92d Division," catches sight of a nun-ghost one evening, and fixates on the apparition for the remainder of his short life. Meanwhile Sooky and Tassie have the specter of adolescence to contend with, complete with all the confusion and misinformation that always seems to mark this chapter of life, culminating in a dramatic scene at the funeral home where Sunny's body is laid out for viewing.

Award-winning poet and author Lucille Clifton's verse-style story, first published in 1974, has been reissued with engaging new charcoal illustrations by acclaimed illustrator E.B. Lewis. Nostalgic without stooping to sentimentality, this account of a girl's coming of age is warm and humorous, and will strike a chord with readers of all ages. (Ages 10 and older) --Emilie Coulter

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