Having Our Say (novel) by Sarah Louise Delany
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"Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years" written by Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth is a work of non-fiction and therefore has a unique tone for a memoir. The Delanys, particularly Bessie, are well known for being outspoken, straightforward and unapologetic.
Although the book is a joint memoir, the sisters are able to present many facts objectively. The author adds in some historical time frame markers to assist the narrative, which is helpful to the reader. The sisters also relay their view of things as they were (e.g., Harlem during the Depression) and compare those things to the accounts written in history books.
Henry Delany and Nanny Logan Delany did something very few people did in the early 1900s. Both went to college at St. Augustine's School and received degrees. Henry became a preacher and Nanny more or less ran the school. Of the ten Delany children, each went to college and followed the path set by Henry and Nanny, remembering to perform service whenever and wherever possible. Because St. Aug's was a predominantly black school, there wasn't much racism to be encountered. The children began to experience racism and the need for civil rights after they left home and went out into the working world. While there were many movements going on all around them, the Delanys may have been one of the most powerful advocates for civil rights simply through their way of life, both personal and professional.
Part 1, "Sweet Sadie, Queen Bess," begins with the author saying, "Both more than one hundred years old, Sarah ("Sadie") Delany and her sister, Annie Elizabeth ("Bessie") Delany are among the oldest living witnesses to American history" (Part 1, page 3).
At the time the book was written in 1991, Sadie was 103 years old, Bessie was 101 years old. Despite their advanced ages, Sadie still took on the role of big sister, protecting Bessie from a world she had conquered long ago. In a time when many black families were relegated to less than...