Read Daddy Was a Number Runner by Louise Meriwether Free Online
Book Title: Daddy Was a Number Runner|
The author of the book: Louise Meriwether
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 452 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.4
Edition: The Feminist Press at CUNY
Date of issue: December 1st 2002
ISBN 13: 9781558614420
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This is Meriwether’s first novel and chronicles the lives of a poor black family in Harlem during the Depression in the 1930s. It is written from the point of view of Francie Coffin, the twelve year old daughter of the family. Although it is a novel there are elements of autobiography and the virago edition has an introduction by James Baldwin.
Meriwether is still active and has received an award for social activism in 2011, this is a flavour of her speech;
“I am a writer, and also a dedicated activist and peacenik. In New York City in my twenties I was chapter chairman of my union, marching in May Day Parades and having rotten eggs thrown at my head. In Los Angeles I was arrested in a sit-in against the racist Birch Society and sentenced to five years’ probation. In Bogalusa Louisiana I worked with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); back in New York I was instrumental in keeping Muhammad Ali, then world's heavyweight champion, from fighting in South Africa and breaking a cultural boycott. In Washington, D.C., I was arrested in 2002 in a protest against the disastrous policies of the World Bank and the IMF. Back in New York I was active in several forums breaking the silence about the rampant rape in the Congo and the multinational corporations and countries involved. Last year I helped set up a forum at Riverside Church on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.”
It takes place over the period of about a year, 1934-1935, it is located in a particular time as the Joe Louis/Max Baer fight takes place during the novel. Francine is a very engaging narrator, which is just as well because the story is one of an unremitting struggle against poverty and injustice. Francie has the usual twelve year old concerns about family, friends and school. But there is the backdrop of little work, occasional riots and the humiliation of welfare. There are also the numbers, an illegal type of lottery and Francine’s father is a small cog in this, being a number runner. Francine also has to cope with routine sexual harassment from assorted adults; shopkeepers, men in the cinema and others. There is little choice for any of those growing up; for the boys it’s either gangs or poorly paid menial work if there was any work, for the girls prostitution, marriage and babies or laundry/cleaning work.
It is a powerful and brilliant evocation of a time and place; portraying the ups and downs of everyday life; the characterization is also very good. Baldwin sums it up well:
“Shit, says Francine, sitting on the stoop as the book ends, looking outward at the land of the free, and trying, with one thin bony black hand to stem the blood which is beginning to rush from a nearly mortal wound. That monosyllable resounds all over this country, all over the world: it is a judgement on this civilization rendered the more implacable by being delivered by a child. The mortal wound is not physical, the book, so far from being a melodrama, is very brilliantly understated. The wound is the wound made upon the recognition that one is regarded as a worthless human being.”
Well worth reading.
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Read information about the authorLouise Meriwether (born May 8, 1923) is an American novelist, essayist, journalist and activist, as well as a writer of biographies of historically important African Americans for children.
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