This book is a memoir about growing up working on the cotton plantations in Mississippi. Not only did this family struggle because they lived in poverty, but they were also black and living in the south when African Americans were discriminated against and looked down on just because of their color.
When I read the synopsis for this book it sparked my interest because I was also raised on a cotton farm in the south in the 50's. I was interested in Bertha's story. I thought perhaps I could relate to what happened to her, not because I'm black but because we were also very poor back then and did our share of picking cotton when we weren't in school. I also knew very well what blacks were treated like in the south during that time.
Some of the things the author describes are horrible and are certainly things that no one should have to witness and certainly not a child. They are things that should have never happened, but most of the people in the south in those times were raised with a prejudiced attitude. It's very unfortunate when we can't just view everyone as human beings regardless of our differences. Today things have changed for the better, which is a good thing. It was hard enough growing up in poverty but I think it was downright dangerous to be a person of color in the 50's and even the 60's. You never knew when someone would shoot you dead for no reason at all.
As a reader we get to look inside the plain houses this family lived in; live the turmoil in their lives, hear the tales of what they ate, which was sometimes very little. They worked hard all day everyday and lied in their beds at night listening to the rats and the snakes in the walls. But they weren't without a few fun childhood moments. They would sneak out of the house when their mother was gone and take the boat out and go wading in the rivers, never once thinking of the dangers of snakes swimming in the same waters. My siblings and I used to wade in the muddy ditches too when we were growing up and lie in bed listening to the rats in the walls of the sharecropper's shack we lived in until I was about 13.
I could relate to this story on several levels. There was a lot of poverty in the south with people drifting here and there to find work. I found this book to be an enlightening read and a sad story. This family was treated so badly, but it's also uplifting because they stuck together through everything they had to endure and rose above the poverty and the prejudice after the civil rights movement. The author was able to go to college, which was a childhood dream, and graduate with a degree.
There wasn't a father figure present, but Bertha and her siblings had a strong mother who wanted the best for her four kids and she moved them around a lot to different plantations as she tried to give them the best life she could under the circumstances. This memoir also has some nice family photos. I would recommend this book to anyone who really wants to see what life was like back then from someone who knows firsthand. The reader can get a good feel for the characters and the places by all the description in the story. I felt like I was right there with Bertha, laughing and crying along with her. The cover on this book is a collage of family photos and quite the appropriate choice.