Sunshine in the Delta by Erica Sandifer

"Back in the day, countless black boys lost their lives to that river. Some of 'em knew how to swim, but even some of the ones who did swim out got shot the very minute they made it to the bank. Yet in a strange kinda way, Uncle Willie and Jabo somehow managed to escape the many assaults that happened post-bonds of slavery. Our family was protected by the master's gentle touch. Sometimes I think we was angels ourselves, sent out on assignment."

The setting of this story takes place in the 1960's but I felt like I was back in the early days of slavery as the author described how blacks still feared and worked for the white folks as either sharecroppers picking cotton and working as "the help" in their homes. This book was the mental break that I needed from reading books all of the time about marketing and business strategies. In this book, the author's tone invited me more and more into the countryside of Money, Mississippi where the bulk of this story takes place. While reading this book, I identified several takeaways that I'm also familiar with, within my own life and family.

The author talked about the cycles of domestic violence and how the main character, Neeyla Jean or Marie as she often called, was so determined to break generational curses starting with her, her siblings and eventually her daughter. Neeyla Jean character was very fiesty and had a sassy mouth on her that I actually enjoyed (reminded me of myself lol), at such a young age. Her family's structure was like most families back in the day: Big Mama was the matriarch, the parents worked, fought and cussed and Neeyla the oldest of the children, took care of her siblings until she became of age to work.

I enjoyed reading the dialogue in this book because it reminded me of true southerner's lingo. Phrases such as, "dipping snuff"........"makin' a fire in the kitchen at the stove'......"outhouse'....."stuffed up (pregnant)"......."But I reckon...".....and more. She also mentioned places that they hung out at such as a juke joint and of course the only image that came to my mind, was a scene from the movie The Color Purple.

"Shame somethin' bad had to happen for us to act like a family."

How many of us can relate to this statement above? I won't share the details of the bad that happened, you'll have to read the book. But, I know too very well that people (especially family) usually come together in a time of crisis or at a funeral. Why is that? I humbly ask that we all make a commitment to see our loved ones more, outside of tragic moments or only at funerals and family reunions.

Overall, this book was a short but a powerful read. Neeyla Jean didn't take no mess from nobody even as she suffered from low self-esteem at times. Her relationship with her parents were abnormal but she loved them still. Although she raised her siblings, she still had some respect for her mother whom she called Carrie. I think that we need to have more events that help strengthen mother and daughter relationships and heal so that we can stop suffering in silence and empowering the hell out of each at brunches.

Please follow the author Erica M. Sandifer on Instagram: @sunshineinthedelta

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Excerpt from the book:

Now I know I'm a sinner,

And I have a hard time bein' a saint.

I ain't no good girl, and I refuse to act what I ain't.

See I wear lipstick, and I drink red wine, too;

I may have kissed my cousin,

But I fell in love with you.

Juke-joint Sally -- I slap my hip to the beat;

I love the blues, and when I'm on the dance floor,

I'm doing voodoo with my feet.

I go to church on Sundays dressed real cute,

But as soon as service is done,

I'm back to my Delta roots,

Standin' at the edge of a turn road, talking to the sun,

'Cause he's the only one awake when my job is done.

I wear my crown on my hips, and I do my dance

While the brothers drank moonshine,

Startin' at me in a trance.

I'm a Southern girl -- I love my Delta ways;

Mama likes when I'm a good girl,

But the boys love when I misbehave.

Cooking and cleaning, cornbread in the oven;

Some say I'm loose -- I just call it Delta loving.

Young black sister, can you see my roots?

My granddaddy was a dranker,

And, dammit, I am, too.

© 2018 by Kheiston Tilford. Kheiston Tilford Consulting and Services