Women Like Me

Delta Winds cover 2008Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Women Like Me

Rosaline Smith

As time passes, customs are passed down to the next generation. Customs reflect values, morals, and tradition. In the short story "Women Like Us," Haitian author Edwidge Danticat reveals the core tradition of women of color, their morals and dedication. During segregation, black women were required to perform their duties in compliance with their bosses' demands. The narrator of this story is a daughter who wants to write because it is a calling that must be answered. As a young black woman in this new millennium, I express myself through more than just my outward appearance. I am also showing my mind. Like Danticat, I, too, want to write because it is a passion for me, not just a hobby. Writing takes the place of bodily action and restores verbal expression. As an only child of a single mother, I have done what is expected of me, but in the privacy of my heart and mind I write to reveal to myself what exactly is true to me. I may have things expected of me, but I would rather continue showing what I have inherited through my writing.

In "Women Like Us," the narrator's mother is worried about her daughter's urge to write. The mother tries to make her daughter understand that as a young black woman, the daughter should become a homemaker. "[Writing] was an act of indolence, something to be done in a corner when you could have been learning to cook." The mother wants her to understand that being a woman is through the way she handles her hands and the work that they do. The mother's belief is that a woman's place is in the kitchen and not in writing down silly thoughts. The mother is distressed about her daughter's unwillingness to do anything more than write. The mother and the women before her expressed their feelings through cooking and caring for family. The lessons of life, such as having dignity and respect for others, are taught when braiding hair and cooking meals. To the girl, writing is showing her dedication to her morals and past ancestors.

The narrator says that when she was little, she would hear the voices of 999 women not just telling but screaming for her to write. When she writes, she writes the stories and the experiences of women who came before her. Her need to write them down is significant, so that the stories can live on through written proof. Maybe the generation that comes after her will forget and not fully grasp the depth of dedication the women before her convey. Danticat describes braiding as taking a handful of coarse, unruly strands and attempting to bring them unity. She knows that if she can just write everything down, she will be the ultimate tie between the lost and rekindled passion of the black woman. The conflict between mother and daughter is created by the mother being uncertain with the change in tradition and the daughter's devotion to her writing. The mother believes that if she does not consistently let her daughter know the sacrifices she and her mother and the women before her made, all their efforts for a better life will go to waste: "There are nine hundred and ninety-nine women who went before you and worked their fingers to coconut rind so you can stand here before me holding that old torn notebook that you cradle against your breast like your prettiest Sunday braids. I would rather you had spit in my face." The daughter knows her mother has expectations of her, but she also feels that her duty is to transfer the past into the future. She writes in the old book the new experiences and the renewed lives of hundreds of women that cannot speak for themselves. She is a link, the spokeswoman for strength, dignity, and power.

When the daughter looks in the mirror, she sees the faces of women who came before her, who struggled through life viewed as slaves. Now she can tell their stories as women and as people who did more than stay in the kitchen. It is time to bring the black woman forward and give her a voice that can be heard, but more importantly read, read by all women and men of every color. The times change when she picks up her pencil and begins to write, as a young woman, instead of picking up an apron and being defined by it. She wears her apron after she writes down her thoughts, emotions, and experiences. No more is she going to let her dreams and words disappear into food, which gives sustenance. Now her very words will provide sustenance and give life to past and future generations.

Now is my chance as a young black woman to be perceived by my writing also and not just by my physical labor. Now my words are being heard. This is obtainable because of the women before me. They had the patience and dedication to back down, and fight battles that could be won. And as a woman, a black woman, I am continuing the war. We are no longer silent; our words are being read and given life by future women, who are inspired by our sacrifices.