Hegedus, Bethany. 2009. Between Us Baxters. Westside Books. 306 pages.
Like Moses, Meemaw had ten commandments.
Meet Polly Baxter our twelve-year-old narrator. Being twelve is never exactly easy. But for Polly growing up in the late fifties in the South, it's a tricky business. You see, Polly and her mother are rule-breakers. Their best friends are negroes. They don't follow the social code of the South that would prohibit them from socializing outside their race. But it's even trickier than that in a way. Their best friends--the Biggses--are more affluent than they are. The Baxters rely on the Biggses in several ways--a mixture of friendship and charity. And Polly wears hand me downs from her best friend, Timbre Ann. Polly has mixed feelings about this. She's ashamed to be wearing hand-me-downs from a 'colored' girl and she's jealous that Timbre Ann can afford these store bought clothes in the first place. As the novel progresses, Polly becomes increasingly jealous that her friend though socially despised (and facing threats by the KKK) falls into the 'haves' while her family is struggling to get by, struggling to get food on the table. The Baxters seem destined to be in the 'have-nots.' And they're not the only ones. There seems to be an ever-increasing population of disgruntled whites--among them Polly's father--who doesn't think it fair that black businesses should be so successful while their own businesses are either failing or nonexistent. (For example, some of them don't work at all and just spend their days and nights getting drunk and complaining about how awful they have it.)
There is plenty of tension in Between Us Baxters. Plenty of complexity. The Baxters are looked down upon by many people. Including the mother's family. There is strife and frustration and anger flowing all the time. Polly is not living in a peaceful home.
Generally, I liked it. I thought it was interesting to see the world through Polly's eyes. On the one hand, she's grown up being best friends with Timbre-Ann. The two are so close they seem more like sisters in some ways. But on the other hand, there is rivalry and tension between them as jealousy and frustration and disappointment and fear come into the picture. Feelings that quite honestly are beyond race. To be twelve is to go through some of these things. Friendships and relationships are constantly being tried--put to the test--as angst comes out due to natural growing pains.
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