by Nina Foxx
“Momma set me on the jukebox.” So begins the personal story of Denise (Sweetie) Wooten, set between a post-civil rights era New York City and a growing, but stale rural Alabama. We are thrust in the midst of a family longing for normalcy, but instead struggling with illness and all that comes with it; denial, anger and misunderstanding and love.
As cultures clash, we see the family through a child’s eyes and walk with her as she makes sense of war fought far away, but with effects close to home, and a tragedy that changes her life forever.
More truth than not, Momma: Gone is a story of survival, where all the lessons are taught by the child who must eventually lead them through and a classic American story of overcoming life’s misfortunes to find the bloom on the other side. Momma: Gone A Personal Story by Nina Foxx was shortlisted for a Doctorow Award in Innovative Fiction
Praise for Momma: Gone A Personal Story, by Nina Foxx
A grief laden journey that will tug at your heart. Profoundly moving.
—Anita Doreen Diggs, author The Other Side of the Game, former editor, Random House
Chapter Excerpt from Momma: Gone
Momma put me up on the jukebox. I could see everything from there, even all the people in the room.
“Sweetie is my little lady,” she said. She steadied herself with one hand and pushed away from the bar with the other. Her skin was fair and the bluish veins showed through like she was much older than her thirty years. They all turned and looked and smiled at us with that plastered-on, woozy kind of smile. The smell that goes along with men in bars followed their heads as they turned and I could smell it, strong, leaping out at me. I heard Gramma call this “preserved-in-alcohol.” I smiled because I knew I was supposed to, but I was a little scared. Butterflies swam in my stomach. I bounced my legs off the jukebox to help calm them down.
From where I was sitting, I could see over the top of everyone in the room. Momma and I were the only two ladies here. I guess the other ladies don’t need medicine, only men and Momma. Momma says that other ladies take their medicine at home, but Daddy doesn’t let her have hers there so we go to get it. Sometimes, just like now, she takes me with her. I really don’t understand it all; medicine is supposed to make you better, but Momma seems to get sicker and sicker after she has it.
Freda Payne is singing “Bring the Boys Home.”
Everyone has forgotten about me.
“Turn it up, Jeffrey. Turn it up.” Momma closed her eyes slowly and opened them again. Her head moved to something deeper than just the rhythm of the song.
“Bring ’em back alive!” Freda said. Whenever I hear this song I wondered who she was talking about. Momma liked it and she played it over and over at home. She played it so much and danced and cried out for June-Bug till Daddy threw the record player in the yard. I was sad when he did that; I couldn’t play my Muffin Man song anymore. We tried to make the record player work again, but it was no good trying; it just wouldn’t go. Daddy apologized to Momma and when I asked him why he did it, he said because that song made Momma sad and he couldn’t stand to see her cry. Maybe that is why I didn’t get beat like other kids on our block; I cry as soon as I get in trouble, so Daddy just leaves me alone.
I don’t know where June-Bug went but I sure wish he would come back. They said he went someplace to fight folks. Momma and Freda want him back like I do.
“How come he can fight and I can’t?” I asked the same question over and over but I never got an answer. It’s almost like they think I don’t understand how things work, but I do. More than they want to say.
June-Bug is the best big brother a little sister could have. He buys me ice cream and takes me everywhere he goes, even to see karate movies. He has an Afro and people call him Red because he is the color of the Alabama Red dirt that Auntie calls “bay-bay” dirt. She bakes it in the ovens sometimes and eats it too. I like when she does stuff like this; folks in New York never bake no dirt, but folks in Alabama ain’t ever seen too many folks like June-Bug neither.
I want an Afro like June-Bug but Momma says no Afro for me. We tried it in secret one time but my hair wouldn’t stand up. To tell the truth, his don’t stand up either, not really. His ‘fro was always sort of flat on one side, but that is okay with me, he still looks cool.
“Elva, can that sweetie pie of yours dance?”
One man hollers at Momma although he doesn’t have to. He was standing right by her and the music ain’t really that loud. The fat man kept wiping the bar and Momma laughed. She put me on the floor at the same time.
Momma: Gone A Personal Story, by Nina Foxx
(May 2, 2014) Link: http://amzn.com/0615902162