Everyday Use by Alice WalkerAlice Walkers early story, Everyday Use, has remained a cornerstone of her work. Her use of quilting as a metaphor for the creative legacy that African Americans inherited from their maternal ancestors changed the way we define art, womens culture, and African American lives. By putting African American womens voices at the center of the narrative for the first time, Everyday Use anticipated the focus of an entire generation of black women writers.
This casebook includes an introduction by the editor, a chronology of Walkers life, an authoritative text of Everyday Use and of In Search of Our Mothers Gardens, an interview with Walker, six critical essays, and a bibliography. The contributors are Charlotte Pierce-Baker, Houston A. Baker, Jr., Thadious M. Davis, Margot Anne Kelley, John OBrien, Elaine Showalter, and Mary Helen Washington.
I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon. A yard like this is more comfortable than most people know. It is not just a yard. It is like an extended living room. When the hard clay is swept clean as a floor and the fine sand around the edges lined with tiny, irregular grooves, anyone can come and sit and look up into the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house.
But she has written numerous other novels, stories, poems, and essays. They are nervously waiting for a visit from Maggie's sister Dee, to whom life has always come easy. Dee announces that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, saying that she couldn't stand to use a name from oppressors. This decision hurts her mother, who named her after a lineage of family members. During the visit, Dee lays claim to certain family heirlooms, such as the top and dasher of a butter churn, whittled by relatives. But unlike Maggie, who uses the butter churn to make butter, Dee wants to treat them like antiques or artwork.
It was first published in as part of Walker's short story collection In Love and Trouble. The short story is told in first person by "Mama", an African-American woman living in the Deep South with one of her two daughters., You know, because it's got love… and trouble, trouble, trouble. Walker published this collection of stories in , exactly a decade before she won the Pulitzer Prize for a little book you might've heard of called The Color Purple.
On a deeper level, Alice Walker is exploring the concept of heritage as it applies to African-Americans. This was a time when African-Americans were struggling to define their personal identities in cultural terms. She uses the principal characters of Mama, Dee Wangero , and Maggie to clarify this theme. Mama narrates the story. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day. This description, along with her reference to a 2nd grade education , leads the reader to conclude that this woman takes pride in the practical aspects of her nature and that she has not spent a great deal of time contemplating abstract concepts such as heritage. However, her lack of education and refinement does not prevent her from having an inherent understanding of heritage based on her love and respect for those who came before her.
Mama fantasizes about reunion scenes on television programs in which a successful daughter embraces the parents who have made her success possible. Whereas Mama is sheepish about the thought of looking a white man in the eye, Dee is more assertive. Mama remembers the house fire that happened more than a decade ago, when she carried Maggie, badly burned, out of the house. Dee watched the flames engulf the house she despised. Back then, Mama believed that Dee hated Maggie, until Mama and the community raised enough money to send Dee to school in Augusta.