“Women on television have friends they can count on. My mother’s favorite TV show was The Golden Girls, about these four old ladies that live together…solving each other’s problems, being each other’s bridge over troubled water. With my Grandma Bunny a year in the ground, my mama didn’t have anybody but me.”Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones
First – I left out a small part of the quote because Chaurisse was wrong. The Golden Girls did not live in an apartment. I was visiting last night in the house they shared with Blanche paying a 7% interest rate. [Season 1 Episode 25 The Way We Met] #thegoldengirls
Second – am I glad I circled back to Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow after my false start with An American Marriage—I know you loved it don’t cancel me let’s just move on)! Yes I am.
After reading Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, I remembered I had Silver Sparrow on my shelf. I knew it had something to do with two Black girls growing up in Atlanta in the 1980s. Dana, knows her father James, is a bigamist, living with his first family—wife Laverne and daughter Chaurisse, the same age as Dana.
While there are a lot of themes we could discuss from this book, I’d like to delve into loneliness & longing. Dana’s storyline was very familiar to me up to a point. I can remember being that kid who wondered why my father wasn’t around (I even called him by his first name) but unlike Dana, my father was never around (he and my mother divorced when I was a small kid).
As a teenager I learned he remarried and had kids which would make them my half siblings. Like Dana, I wondered, at that age, what it would have been like to grow up with a full time father. The loneliness of being the only child (for 12 years) pressed and vexed me while reading Dana’s story.
But then there’s Chaurisse, the daughter Dana thinks has it all. But little do we know all that transpired in the lives of Laverne and James prior to Chaurisse’s birth, when Chaurisse tells her story. The story of how her became a bride at age 14 when she learns she’s pregnant. What that meant for her mother’s dreams and aspirations, to go to Spelman.
Chaurisse who told me she figured out in kindergarten she wasn’t pretty. As she gets older she understands the difference between her and the ‘silver girls’, those “natural beauties, who also smoothed on a layer of pretty from a jar.” If you could be friends with oney, they’d teach you how to shine but they run together. So imagine when Chaurisse befriends her very own silver girl, her sister (she doesn’t know), Dana.
But one more thing, because Black hair needs to be unpacked in a discussion too. Wanting the long flowing hair. Dana had it & says it’s a hassle – Chaurisse wanted it but her mother was a master hair integrationist.
When Dana said “I just want to cut it off. Long hair is a hassle. I’m tired of living like this”, the ephinany I had feels multifaceted. Dana is tired of living with the loneliness and the longing for what Chaurisse has. But she doesn’t realize the same is true for Chaurisse.
There is so much wound up in our (Black) hair some of us have carried for years and the natural hair movement (I was late to that too) feels like a reckoning with ‘getting a handle on who we really are.’ How many of us have been playing pretend for years because the acceptance of what is pretty hasn’t looked like you or me, with hair like yours or mine. There is much to digest in this book. I’m so glad I read this and am excited to see what other gems are to be found from Tayari Jones.