Part 2 of yesterdays Sneak Peek.
My apologies for the delay on this; I have recently come back to town and this week has been busy trying to get back on schedule. But, as promised, here are the final sneak peeks of Beyond The Colored Line:
Note: This excerpt is part of a book written by Yecheilyah Ysrayl. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or stolen in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher. The exception would be in the case of brief quotations embodied in the critical articles and reviews and pages where permission is specifically granted by Yecheilyah Ysrayl.
“Never limit yourself sweetheart.”
Aunt Sara was sitting at the vanity table applying red lipstick to lips that I didn’t think could get any redder. Aunt Sara was a thin but shapely woman, filling out the beautiful dark red dress that went down to her ankles, but held snug at the waist with a petite black belt. She wore black heels, and her red hat sat on the bed next to me as I sat watching her perfectly apply more make-up. She was in the middle of another lecture.
“We got the whole world just waiting for us and the least we can do is oblige. Besides, it’s not like you’re betraying anyone or denying anything. You have just as much a right to this life as anybody.”
It was Tuesday night and Aunt Sara was going out again. She tilted her head this way and that in the mirror and smiled her approval.
Mama lost the house. She tried to do the best she could with the visitors and such, but the depression didn’t allow for people to want to travel much. And the taxes came to be too much for a laundry woman’s salary. We moved to Chicago where things weren’t much better. The Great Depression was particularly severe here because of the city’s reliance on manufacturing, the hardest hit area nationally. Only 50 percent of the Chicagoans who had worked in the manufacturing sector in 1927 were still working by the time we arrived, especially Negroes. By now, 40 to 50 percent of Negro workers in Chicago were unemployed, including Aunt Sara. She was a school teacher, but wasn’t making any money. By the end of the year, the city would owe teachers more than eight months’ pay. But Chicago’s population grew enormously because of the mass lynching’s taking place in The South. Negroes escaped Mississippi as if running from a plague. And for just $11.10 they were brought by train to a new world. Everything was still segregated. In fact, Chicago is the most segregated place I’d ever seen. But you could hold your head up in Chicago. So to us, it still offered a freedom that didn’t exist in in The South. It was the land of milk and honey. And the crisis didn’t seem to affect Aunt Sara as it did Mama anyway. She didn’t particularly like being a part of the life Sara lived and she was depressed over our situation.
“Speaking of the whole world, what is it with you and that Timmy boy?” Sara puckered her lips for a final review as she spoke.
“Tommy Aunty, his name is Tommy,” I said.
Tommy and I had become rather close as we got older, though I couldn’t decide if we were dating or not. Aunt Sara clasped her hands together as she stood and sat next to me on the bed, “Oh, my memory these days.”
“Tommy’s a good friend, nothing special.” I lied.
“That’s my girl,” said Sara, grabbing her hat and putting it on, admiring herself again in the mirror as she spoke.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for you two to see each other no how. There’s not much room for opportunity with such men. You must learn to play the game sweetheart.”
“Are we so different?” I asked.
Sara turned to face me, “You can drink your coffee black all you wanna, but I’d prefer a little cream to taste. I swear I don’t know what’s gotten into your Mother, teaching you to hate yourself is what she doing. There’s nothing wrong with embracing who you are, you remember that.”
I sunk down in my seat, embarrassed. I knew where she was going with this. Every day was Saturday for Aunt Sara. Uncle Bob, as we were instructed to call him (though marriage didn’t exist between them) was Sara’s new man, a wealthy doctor on Chicago’s North side. The problems of the Great Depression affected every group of Americans, but no group was harder hit than Negroes living in the cities trying to live like rich white folk. In some Northern cities, whites called for Negroes to be fired from any jobs as long as there were whites out of work. Otherwise, the depression meant nothing to Negroes who had been depressed in America for nearly 400 years. For this reason, we were Aunt Sara’s little secret hidden securely inside Uncle Bob’s pocket. She didn’t just pass for white, Aunt Sara was white. And coming from a white mother and half white father no one second guessed us, not even Bob.
“I tell you what, the ladies and I are attending a small gathering this evening, and you should come along.”
“But I’m only sixteen,” I said.
Sara smiled, “And? Who’s asking questions? Today you’re sixteen years old sitting in a house wasting your life away. But tonight, tonight you are the most beautiful twenty-one year old they’d ever lay their eyes on. The most beautiful white woman they’d ever seen.”
One Year Later
I laughed as Tommy and I strolled down the Negro area of town, arm linked in arm. We had decided to stop fooling ourselves and had begun dating. I must say, being with Tommy was one of the most refreshing parts of my life: smart, colored, and hilariously funny. His presence alone gave me a sense of relaxation I didn’t feel at home. I didn’t have to pretend or fear discovery. It was a relief being with him, and a lot of fun too. Indeed, the love I had for that man could never be mistaken and could never be traded. He was my first love and I love him still.
Tommy held open the door to The Shack, a mom and pop restaurant owned by Negroes. As I entered the restaurant, however, my foot stopped mid-air over the threshold.
It was Annie, one of the first friends I’d met in Aunt Sara’s circle. I had begun living a double life. It was easier than I’d expected. I had, after all, enjoyed the private education, the fine dresses, and the parties. I found myself looking forward to the freedom of going where I wanted and buying what I needed. We were one of the few European families doing well during the depression and loved by everyone. Aunt Sara and Bob got closer. We were invited to his inner circle of friends and family, which meant standing on top the highest hill and waving. Even Mama began to lighten up just a bit. Things were going well, until now.
“Annie, what a surprise!” I said as Annie and I hugged each other, planting dainty kisses on each other’s cheeks, fake grins all over the place. Annie looked Tommy up and down, while he held onto the door, as if she had just spotted a piece of trash on the ground that must be disposed of quickly.
“You must be the servant. I’m Anne, how do you do?”
Tommy let the door slip from his hands, closing quietly as Annie held out her hand; covered in a crisp white glove made of finer cotton than spread across his kitchen table. Tommy’s family were sharecroppers. Silently he wondered how many barrels of cotton it took to make it glow in the darkness. He looked at Stella, staring deeply into the green eyes he once adored, and the reality of the present situation lit a fire inside of his chest. He hoped he wouldn’t fall down dead from a heart attack. It would be a shame for his dad to find out his son died cause of a thing as a woman’s glove.
Tommy said nothing, just kept his eyes fixed on mine. I didn’t want to look away, but I couldn’t help but to feel them shooting little prickly darts into my skin, and it was beginning to burn. I had to think of something. Quick. I pleaded with his eyes.
“Why of course, where are my manners? Thomas, this is a friend of mine Annie. Annie this is Thomas, the new driver.”
I hopelessly tried to catch sight of his eyes. I wanted to plead mercy, but Thomas’ eyes searched instead for something on the ground. I turned my attention back to Annie.
“Why of course,” said Annie. “I was just telling Daddy about how difficult it is to find one these days. Why we just replaced a cook last week. Poor Mama was devastated,” we laughed, only hers was real.
“I told her we’d just have to get Miss Pearl to do it, but you know Daddy couldn’t stand for that. A housekeeper cooking? Why the next ball would be simply atrocious,” we laughed again as I silently prayed for a miracle.
“Anywho,” continued Annie, “I am off, but do come by tomorrow. The women and I are having tea, you know Mama’s dying to show off the furniture.”
“Of course,” I said as we hugged and kissed again.
As I waved goodbye to Annie, I turned to plead my case to Tommy, who was already halfway down the street. And just like that, our friendship had ended.
I’m so grateful you’ve taken the time to read this far, I hope it means you are enjoying the story. If you’d like to continue reading and find out what happens next, you can get the book from Kindle for just $2.99 when it releases this summer and less than $10 in paperback.
I plan on writing another book in this series later this year, and with your permissions I’ll let you know when that’s available and send you some more free chapters. Until then, if you want to know what I’m up to, you can follow me on Twitter @: https://twitter.com/ahouseofpoetry.
Today is the debut release of Part 1 of Book #2, “Beyond The Colored Line” in the Stella Series.Below is a reminder of what this book series is all about:
Stella is a work of Historical fiction, and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom. The 3-Part series focuses on the history of one family in their struggle for racial identity. Discover in this Trilogy how 3 individuals living in separate time periods strive to overcome the same struggle, carefully knit together by one blood.
Log-Line for Book 2:
“Determined to be accepted by society, a black woman desperately seeks to hide her true identity when a prevailing conversation with her aunt provokes her to pass for white.”
Find out in this Stella Sequel what’s truly Beyond The Colored Line.
Disclaimer: The following post is excerpted from a book written by Yecheilyah Ysrayl and is property of Yecheilyah Ysrayl. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or stolen. Permission is only given to re-blog, social media sharing for promotional purposes and the case of brief quotations embodied in the critical articles and reviews and pages where permission is specifically granted by Yecheilyah Ysrayl.
Copyright © 2015, All Rights Reserved.
September 4, 1923
Margaret and Josephine had their hands on their hips again, Josephine taking the lead role as always. The soft wind swayed the handmade dress in all directions, hovering well below her long skinny legs. Her hair was pulled up into a collage of pony tails with twists that never really wanted to stay together. Stella got lost for a minute, slightly envious. She wished her hair was that thick. But instead she was given a sandy blonde that could never keep a braid. School had just started at Crestwood Elementary of Belvedere City, just south of Boone County, Illinois. And already Stella could see this would not be a good year, same as the others.
“I’m not white; I’m Negro, same as you,” said Stella.
Josephine rolled her eyes, “You look white. You sound white. I thinks you white.”
The girls laughed. Meanwhile, Stella’s blood boiled, the blush of anger showing quickly in the space of her cheeks and around her ears.
“You’s white cause we say you’s white,” said Margaret.
“That’s right,” co-signed Josephine, “What kind of name is Stella anyway? What you some kinda slave?”
“Naw,” said Margaret, “she ain’t no slave, naw, she massa.”
Josephine turned her head slightly, laughing hysterically in Margaret’s ear, who saw it coming out the side of her eye.
“Josephine!” yelled Margaret. But it was too late. Stella was already on top of Josephine, pulling at her neatly pressed hair and slamming her face into the dirt. Stella could hear the screams of the teachers nearby calling her name, but she just couldn’t stop.
“I’m not white! I’m not white! I’m the same as you!” Stella yelled.
Josephine was crying now, as Margaret tried to peel Stella off of her.
“I’m Negro the same as you!” she yelled.
Later That Day
Judith stood by the door tapping her feet impatiently against the hardwood, and burning a hole in the back of Stella’s head, who sat silently on the sofa with her head down.
“You’re going to have to learn to control yourself Stella.”
“Did I ask you to say a word?” scolded Judith, answering the door at the same time. Expecting her guest, she opened the door before the bell rang and gracefully let in Mrs. Velma Conner, Stella’s teacher.
“Good afternoon”, said Judith. “I’d like to apologize again for what happened today. May I offer you some coffee?”
“Never mind that,” said Velma. “I don’t specs to be here long.”
“Well let me offer you to a seat then,” said Judith.
Judith sat beside Stella as Velma took the sofa across from them and cleared her throat.
“Stella seems to be having a very difficult time adjusting. Her temper is far too easily tickled, if you catch my meaning.”
“I do,” said Judith.
“We think perhaps she would be better off in a more comfortable environment, somewhere more of her liking, if you catch my meaning,” said Velma.
Judith straightened and looked Velma in her sparkling blue eyes, “Not exactly.”
“Well, Ms. May, the accusations from some of the children are hard to ignore.”
“What accusations?” Judith interrupted.
“Well, you know, children will be children,” Velma laughed slightly. “It’s just that they don’t take very well with our kind. Surely you’d prefer for Stella–.”
“Our kind?” Judith interrupted again.
“Why yes,” said Velma, shaking her head.
“You don’t have to say anything more, Mrs. Conner.”
Judith stood up, smoothed the apron hanging from her waist and approached the door.”
“Go on upstairs so me and your teacher can talk.”
“Yes ma’am,” said Stella, hurrying off upstairs.
Velma remained seated, “Is there a problem?”
Judith smiled, “No, there’s no problem. But I do want you to leave my house.”
Velma stood, pointed her nose into the air and walked toward the door, clearly offended.
“By the way, the school has placed Stella under suspension, you understand why.”
“Oh, I do,” said Judith. “You see, defending ourselves, is what we’re taught.”
An expression of confusion spread across Velma’s face as she stared into the green eyes of the white woman in front of her, disgusted that she would stoop so low as to lay with one of them.
“What we’re taught? I’m not sure I’m following you,” said Velma.
“Oh yes,” said Judith, “It’s one of the first things my Negro father taught me, you know, our kind I guess.”
The pink rushed to the woman’s nose as she hurried out the door.
And that’s how things had been for us growing up. I couldn’t understand what made mama so strong. She loved daddy with every bone in her body, but they couldn’t be together. Society would never have of it. Mama was Negro sure enough as she was white, but Papa didn’t trust it. I thought about Papa that day and all the other days like it as I stood at the top of the stairs and watched as my mother waved goodbye to my racist teacher, with a smile on her face.
– Stella May
I really hope you enjoyed the first part of my book! The fun continues with Part 2 next Thursday. If your enjoying yourself so far, would you mind sharing this on your social networks? Thanks a lot! Also be sure to come back for the continuation next week. And that’s not all, for your convenience, I’ve provided the link to the prologue to Book #1. I love writing and learning and sharing what I’ve learned and I’m really excited to be sharing this journey with you.