Winner of the 1994
Charles H. and N. Mildred Nilon Award for Excellence in Minority
This compelling novel about a small town black family living not far from Chicago is distinguished by the river of lucid and poetic language in which it is told. Through a powerful flow of vernacular speech and the varied rhythms of memory, a story emerges that is as moving as it is true, as individual as it is American.
Opening in the Midwest region of 1950s America, the story draws us into the intricate relations among the troubled members of a singular, haunted, African-American family. Sex, love, betrayal, violence—all these collide to result in a tragedy as well as the coming of age of the young woman, Hassalia, who is the novel's protagonist. Now, more than 25 years later, in a reckoning with the past, and an awful replaying of it, Hassalia may be facing her own death.
She pulls the reader along as she pieces together how and why her world began to spin out of control with the death of her grandmother, the much feared, warily respected family matriarch: Ma Rhetta. For it is the shattering even that resurrects long-buried anguish and, in the process, triggers Hassalia's delayed transformation from treeclimbing tomboy to womanhood.
"In The Cares of the Day, Ivan Webster has written a memorable family chronicle, one filled with concrete, stunning voices, and vivid black characters who survive betrayal and the burdens of oppression in the pre-Civil Rights era. Like Hassalia, the youngest family member who hears and inherits these powerfully delivered oral histories, the reader is transformed by-and then allowed to transcend-the racial pains of the past. Webster's literary debut is a reason for celebration.—Charles Johnson, prize-winning author of The Middle Passage
"There has been a crying need for the black men to find their voice and raise it…not only in protest but in thoughtful examination. The Cares of the Day brings a new voice to the very human problem of 'then how shall we proceed?' I hope we proceed by taking to our hearts the gift Ivan Webster is giving us. A wonderful new perspective on the lives we are living."—Nikki Giovanni, author of Racism 101
Esther. "Little Man, why don't you come out of those overhalls and act like some kind of woman? With your bulldagger-looking self, I don't know what folks are s'posed to think. You trying to scare somebody, Has, with your skinny, mannish self? Running around here in some ol' piece of leather you call a aviator jacket. It's something Kim gave you from outta all of his junk. Nobody in this world knows where he gets all of that junk. And you don't think nothing of putting it on and wearing it 'cause it makes you look like some shif'less bum off the street. Come from nowhere and nobody knows where you going. You're trying to be like that piece of man jumped off the train last week Mama fed out on the back porch. Beetsy wasn't scared, but I've got a baby girl ain't scared of nothing. I was scared, but Mama's baby wasn't, were you, Beetsy sugar? See, Has, now this little chile of mine got her some nerve, you understand what I'm saying? She just went out right on the porch and stood there and watched that man eat that plate full of grits and gravy Mama gave him. Ate like he didn't eat nothing for days. Jumping on and off trains! Mama's little Sugar Beet went right up to him and asked him where he was from and where he was going. Said he was from 'Way yonder' and going 'Down the line'. Down the line! Railroad nigger going down that ol' railroad line to Chicago, where he was gon' beg on the streets. And you, Has, around here looking like something the train left, in overhalls, beat up tennis shoes and a leather jacket. I don't know what you think you look like, Hassalia, but, girl, I wish you could see yourself. Ain't no man gon' be following behind no woman dresses like him and talks like him, all low down in your throat, like you might go up'side his head if he jumps wrong. You're just acting out, Little Man, that's all you're doing.
The Cares of the Day
The Cares of the Day