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Daddy Was a Number Runner (Contemporary Classics by Women)

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This bittersweet and sharply observed masterpiece recounts a year in the life of twelve-year-old France Coffin. It is the summer of 1934, and nowhere are the effects of the Great Depression more apparent than in Harlem. But Harlem is also home to a community's anger, humor, and vitality, the paradoxical cradle of young Francie's innocence and dreams - just like the daily n This bittersweet and sharply observed masterpiece recounts a year in the life of twelve-year-old France Coffin. It is the summer of 1934, and nowhere are the effects of the Great Depression more apparent than in Harlem. But Harlem is also home to a community's anger, humor, and vitality, the paradoxical cradle of young Francie's innocence and dreams - just like the daily numbers game played for the small glint of hope that it boldly promises but will never fulfill.


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This bittersweet and sharply observed masterpiece recounts a year in the life of twelve-year-old France Coffin. It is the summer of 1934, and nowhere are the effects of the Great Depression more apparent than in Harlem. But Harlem is also home to a community's anger, humor, and vitality, the paradoxical cradle of young Francie's innocence and dreams - just like the daily n This bittersweet and sharply observed masterpiece recounts a year in the life of twelve-year-old France Coffin. It is the summer of 1934, and nowhere are the effects of the Great Depression more apparent than in Harlem. But Harlem is also home to a community's anger, humor, and vitality, the paradoxical cradle of young Francie's innocence and dreams - just like the daily numbers game played for the small glint of hope that it boldly promises but will never fulfill.

30 review for Daddy Was a Number Runner (Contemporary Classics by Women)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is Meriwether’s first novel and chronicles the lives of a poor black family in Harlem during the Depression in the 1930s. It is written from the point of view of Francie Coffin, the twelve year old daughter of the family. Although it is a novel there are elements of autobiography and the virago edition has an introduction by James Baldwin. Meriwether is still active and has received an award for social activism in 2011, this is a flavour of her speech; “I am a writer, and also a dedicated a This is Meriwether’s first novel and chronicles the lives of a poor black family in Harlem during the Depression in the 1930s. It is written from the point of view of Francie Coffin, the twelve year old daughter of the family. Although it is a novel there are elements of autobiography and the virago edition has an introduction by James Baldwin. Meriwether is still active and has received an award for social activism in 2011, this is a flavour of her speech; “I am a writer, and also a dedicated activist and peacenik. In New York City in my twenties I was chapter chairman of my union, marching in May Day Parades and having rotten eggs thrown at my head. In Los Angeles I was arrested in a sit-in against the racist Birch Society and sentenced to five years’ probation. In Bogalusa Louisiana I worked with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); back in New York I was instrumental in keeping Muhammad Ali, then world's heavyweight champion, from fighting in South Africa and breaking a cultural boycott. In Washington, D.C., I was arrested in 2002 in a protest against the disastrous policies of the World Bank and the IMF. Back in New York I was active in several forums breaking the silence about the rampant rape in the Congo and the multinational corporations and countries involved. Last year I helped set up a forum at Riverside Church on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.” It takes place over the period of about a year, 1934-1935, it is located in a particular time as the Joe Louis/Max Baer fight takes place during the novel. Francine is a very engaging narrator, which is just as well because the story is one of an unremitting struggle against poverty and injustice. Francie has the usual twelve year old concerns about family, friends and school. But there is the backdrop of little work, occasional riots and the humiliation of welfare. There are also the numbers, an illegal type of lottery and Francine’s father is a small cog in this, being a number runner. Francine also has to cope with routine sexual harassment from assorted adults; shopkeepers, men in the cinema and others. There is little choice for any of those growing up; for the boys it’s either gangs or poorly paid menial work if there was any work, for the girls prostitution, marriage and babies or laundry/cleaning work. It is a powerful and brilliant evocation of a time and place; portraying the ups and downs of everyday life; the characterization is also very good. Baldwin sums it up well: “Shit, says Francine, sitting on the stoop as the book ends, looking outward at the land of the free, and trying, with one thin bony black hand to stem the blood which is beginning to rush from a nearly mortal wound. That monosyllable resounds all over this country, all over the world: it is a judgement on this civilization rendered the more implacable by being delivered by a child. The mortal wound is not physical, the book, so far from being a melodrama, is very brilliantly understated. The wound is the wound made upon the recognition that one is regarded as a worthless human being.” Well worth reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bridgett Davis

    This book, when I read it as a child sometime in the early 70's, changed my life. I didn't know, before then, that there was such a thing as a novel with a little black girl as a protagonist. I decided right then and there: I wanted to be a writer, tell my own little-girl story. This book, when I read it as a child sometime in the early 70's, changed my life. I didn't know, before then, that there was such a thing as a novel with a little black girl as a protagonist. I decided right then and there: I wanted to be a writer, tell my own little-girl story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Reggie

    Update: 2/10/2020 I read this classic novel in 2019 and loved it. So much so that I think I want to reread it in 2020. Probably make it an end of the year favorite all over again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amaka

    Francie’s story touched my heart. I wanted her to leave 5th Avenue, away from “the struggle” but that’s really what I loved about the book so much. She was not a victim but a hero in so many ways. As a 12 year old growing up during the Great Depression, life was hard. And it sucked that Blacks were treated so poorly even when they tried to make an earnest living. Francie was just a little girl trying to navigate through the good and very bad parts of her environment. Her dad ran numbers and when Francie’s story touched my heart. I wanted her to leave 5th Avenue, away from “the struggle” but that’s really what I loved about the book so much. She was not a victim but a hero in so many ways. As a 12 year old growing up during the Great Depression, life was hard. And it sucked that Blacks were treated so poorly even when they tried to make an earnest living. Francie was just a little girl trying to navigate through the good and very bad parts of her environment. Her dad ran numbers and when that didn’t work, turned to other odd jobs. Her mother was resilient learning early on that she could not be too proud to ask for help, eventually getting herself a job and applying for relief, what we now call welfare. Her brothers were smart men dealt different cards from the very beginning- James Junior wasn’t a fan of school and wasn’t interested in college like his brother, Sterling. James Junior felt more comfortable running with the notorious gang, Ebony Earls- devastating his family. Francie wanted to keep the family together. Because she was the youngest, she was often tormented by the neighborhood kids. She accepted this punishment as a way of life and kept daydreaming about life outside of 5th Ave. I wanted to rescue Francie from the disgusting grown men who lurked in the stairwells, on the streets and inside the grocery stores. She wasn’t safe at all and each day was a new battle. I admire her drive and precious inquiring mind. Although this book is fiction, I rooted for Francie the whole way and hope that she made it out.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nakia

    Really enjoyed this coming of age story of Francie Coffin growing up in Harlem in the 1930s. Most times funny, but many times sad, this is definitely a classic. Picked it up from the library, but I'll be adding this to my personal collection. Really enjoyed this coming of age story of Francie Coffin growing up in Harlem in the 1930s. Most times funny, but many times sad, this is definitely a classic. Picked it up from the library, but I'll be adding this to my personal collection.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    Depressing in its apparent realism wonderfully evoked by a real talent, and in the way nothing seems to have really changed in the intervening hundredish years of contemporary pop culture and reporting are even remotely accurate. It’s hard to call it America’s Great Shame because it appears to have SO MANY Great Shames but to treat an entire people and their culture in this way really makes them no better than Nazis.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I read this on my Kindle I was so glad to see if offered. I first read this well written classic book way back in the 1970s when I was a teenager. It had only been out as a book a couple years then. that book stayed with me all these years. Daddy Was a Number Runner takes place in the 1930s depression in Harlem. It is seen through the eyes of Francie an African american, 12 year old girl. We seen Francie's life in Harlem over the course of a year. Louise Meriwether did an excellent job describin I read this on my Kindle I was so glad to see if offered. I first read this well written classic book way back in the 1970s when I was a teenager. It had only been out as a book a couple years then. that book stayed with me all these years. Daddy Was a Number Runner takes place in the 1930s depression in Harlem. It is seen through the eyes of Francie an African american, 12 year old girl. We seen Francie's life in Harlem over the course of a year. Louise Meriwether did an excellent job describing what Harlem was like during this time.Francie and her family live in poverty, there is never enough money a lot times not enough food. She has two older brothers. Her father makes some money being a "number runner". this little girl witnesses things she shouldn't' Crime, prostitution. she faces her own dangers in Harlem. It was a tough time for her and her family. This is a very good book to read if you want to get an idea of what Harlem the depression 1930s and growing up is like under the circumstances. I am glad I got the chance to read this very well done book again.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    A brutal and at times ebullient account of life in 1930s Harlem, in the midst of the depression, from a 12 year old girl’s point of view. If things are tough for the boys, who face work in the sewers if they’re lucky and instead join gangs and hang out on street corners, it’s infinitely worse for the girls: either you was a whore like China Doll or you worked in a laundry.. or had a baby every year. The girls take it for granted they would get ‘felt up’ when they go to the shops or the cinema (i A brutal and at times ebullient account of life in 1930s Harlem, in the midst of the depression, from a 12 year old girl’s point of view. If things are tough for the boys, who face work in the sewers if they’re lucky and instead join gangs and hang out on street corners, it’s infinitely worse for the girls: either you was a whore like China Doll or you worked in a laundry.. or had a baby every year. The girls take it for granted they would get ‘felt up’ when they go to the shops or the cinema (if they don’t let themselves get felt up they get less groceries). They all play the numbers in the forlorn hope of getting a windfall. However there is also music, laughter, a lot of fun, and support for each other. When boxer Joe Louis beats an opponent at Madison Sq Gardens, all Harlem are out on the streets: Strangers hugged me and I squeezed then back… The crowd spilled off the pavement into the street, stalling cars, which honked good-naturedly and then gave up as the riders jumped out and joined us in lindying down the middle of Lenox Avenue’.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? -Langston Hughes "Harlem" After finishing “Daddy Was a Number Runner”, I couldn’t help but think of Langston Hughes and his famous poem about dreams in Harlem. It is almost as if that poem was written specifically for Francie Coffin and the people of Har What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? -Langston Hughes "Harlem" After finishing “Daddy Was a Number Runner”, I couldn’t help but think of Langston Hughes and his famous poem about dreams in Harlem. It is almost as if that poem was written specifically for Francie Coffin and the people of Harlem during the Great Depression. Despite all it lacks such as decent housing, jobs, opportunity, or racial justice, it doesn’t lack for dreams. The dreams of young black boys who want to be scientists while cooking up experiments in their family’s cramped and rodent infested kitchens. The dreams of young black girls who want to be taken away to far flung locales by movie stars on their white horses. The dreams of black women who wish they could find a way to keep food on their family’s table. The dreams of black men who dream of having the dignity and respect of men. Yes, Harlem here is awash in dreams. The reality however is this Harlem is awash in spiritual decay and death. One need look no further than the putrid smelling garbage piled up around the city, the boy working in the mortuary, or the very name of our heroine (Coffin). Death is all around these characters and there is no real viable way out for any of them. Francie’s mom is forced to become a maid to support her family and in a particularly painful scene in the book, we know this is the path France will follow. Sukie, Francie’s friend, has a sister who is a prostitute and we know that this is the future awaiting Sukie as well. These characters fight with every ounce of their being to be something else, anything else than what the future holds for them, but we share their pain that they are simply marking time until this future catches up to them. How can it be otherwise when the most prestigious job even the most educated black person can aspire to is seamstress or janitor? When the white people who would potentially hire them, when not holding them in contempt, are offering nickels to young black girls to grope them in dark alleys? No, we know this is a world Francie and her friends will never escape from no matter how much they struggle. Sometimes when it is all stacked up against you, and you’ve banged your head up against every wall in your way, and have barely even turned 14, you can only do what Francie does at the end of this story from a rooftop with her friends. You can only look up at the dark and starry sky, with all its potential, and mutter to yourself… Shit.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    With a foreword by James Baldwin, I knew I was in for something good. Francie is a pre-teen Black girl living in 30s Harlem in a tenement with her father, mother and two brothers. The book makes no bones about the realities of poverty, structural racism, addiction and sexual assault. Despite these heavy themes, Francie’s voice shines through and I found myself invested in her well-being and life in Harlem. In a far out parallel, I’m vaguely reminded of Spike Lee’s Crooklyn - another work set in With a foreword by James Baldwin, I knew I was in for something good. Francie is a pre-teen Black girl living in 30s Harlem in a tenement with her father, mother and two brothers. The book makes no bones about the realities of poverty, structural racism, addiction and sexual assault. Despite these heavy themes, Francie’s voice shines through and I found myself invested in her well-being and life in Harlem. In a far out parallel, I’m vaguely reminded of Spike Lee’s Crooklyn - another work set in New York (although Brooklyn) told through the eyes of a young Black girl.

  11. 4 out of 5

    El

    Francie Coffin is an African-American twelve-year-old girl growing up in Harlem with her parents and two older brothers, Sterling and Junior. It's the 1930s. Times are rough. Really rough. Francie sleeps on the bed bug-ridden sofa in the living room; their dad runs numbers; Sterling is struggling to stay on the straight and narrow; Junior has already failed; their mom tries to find ways to feed the family on the same tinned food night after night, and to protect her family from the neighborhood, Francie Coffin is an African-American twelve-year-old girl growing up in Harlem with her parents and two older brothers, Sterling and Junior. It's the 1930s. Times are rough. Really rough. Francie sleeps on the bed bug-ridden sofa in the living room; their dad runs numbers; Sterling is struggling to stay on the straight and narrow; Junior has already failed; their mom tries to find ways to feed the family on the same tinned food night after night, and to protect her family from the neighborhood, the police, and themselves. We read about all of these events from Francie's young eyes. It is shocking at times, even in 2019, to read some of the experiences that Francie and her family endured. It's a coming-of-age story, so there are references to sex, violence, menstruation, incest, abuse, you name it. Meriwether attacks these topics head-on in a brave and refreshing way. There are no vague terms for abuse in this book, the camera does not pan away when something uncomfortable happens, for lack of a better phrase. We see what Francie sees, we have to process what Francie processes - we are in it together, for better or worse. When her best friend, Sukie, beats up Francie periodically (we learn why later on in the story), we feel Francie's physical and emotional pain. In the foreword, James Baldwin compares Francie in Meriwether's story to the Francie of Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which took place about twenty years before Meriwether's book.Compare the heroine of this book - to say nothing of the landscape - with the heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and you will see to what extent poverty wears a color - and also, as we put it in Harlem, arrives at an attitude. By this time, the heroine of Tree...is among those troubled Americans, that silent (!) majority which wonders what black Francie wants, and why she's so unreliable as a maid. (p5-6)The landscape that Baldwin references is the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn in Smith's novel, written in 1943, and, obviously, Harlem in Meriwether's book, written in 1970. Having read both books now, I find Meriwether's novel more realistic, grittier. I'm one of the few who didn't care that much for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, long assuming that it was because I read it too late in my life (rather than as a younger reader as so many who clearly love the book). But after reading Meriwether's book that covers some similar situations, but illustrates the real issues that go just beyond class, I find Meriwether's book much more relevant to shit going on in our country today, including (but not limited to) wrongful incarceration. I'm not sure why this book isn't as well-known as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - perhaps it's because of some of the subjects Meriwether touches on. It's an uncomfortable read at times, and would be very triggering for some readers. Be aware of that going into it, but I would recommend this book to most readers. Uncomfortable reading does not mean it should not be read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Walt

    The book follows a twelve-year-old girl growing up in 1930s Black Harlem. The book offers a fascinating look into poverty in urban areas. Although set in the 1930s, I thought the book was closer to the pos-WW2 era. The time frame is not as important as the story. The heroine of the story learns many things while growing up. Her experiences could be those of any child living in the 1930s. She observed and felt a lot more anger than many other 1930s writers. Her best friend constantly wanted to be The book follows a twelve-year-old girl growing up in 1930s Black Harlem. The book offers a fascinating look into poverty in urban areas. Although set in the 1930s, I thought the book was closer to the pos-WW2 era. The time frame is not as important as the story. The heroine of the story learns many things while growing up. Her experiences could be those of any child living in the 1930s. She observed and felt a lot more anger than many other 1930s writers. Her best friend constantly wanted to beat her up, violence and aggression were constant among her brothers who were gang members, her father had anger issues, and of course, the police.... What I found most interesting was how the heroine adapted to her environment. Young, naive, and good-natured, she increased her swearing throughout the book, she began stealing from shops, she developed her own anger and was looking for trouble, and she proudly relates how she threw rotten tomatoes at the police. The book is the story how an innocent grows up into a teenager (or adult) with simmering anger and fear. Sex also has a significant role in the book. The heroine's best friend has an older sister who is a prostitute. The heroine's brother emulates pimps, and probably replaces the main pimp in the book. The heroine, herself not even a teenager, uses sex appeal to get money or free food. She does not have sexual relations; but flashes pervy white males or allows them to grope her. She begins her foray into this marketplace by not understanding the motives of these creepy white men; but by the end of the book, she knows all too well. Race has a significant role in the book. Her African-American community is plagued with poverty. She grows up seeing that the few whites in her neighborhood are crooked, pervy, or stuck up. This translates to her increasingly resenting and possibly hating whites. The first five white people she meets in the book are all pervert males. Meriwether seems to see this, and quickly introduces two whites who are shopkeepers....with new prejudices. The book is not so much a study on race relations because it is told solely from the point of view of a young child. However, the antagonism is clearly present. I bought the book hoping to learn more about the numbers business. Meriwether does not go into the business except to describe the superstitious nature of the players. Her story is a brief window on the life of a young girl in crushing poverty. The value is showing how a young child develops prejudices that are often seen in adults.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christa

    I came across this book by accident, and after reading it, I'm really surprised that I hadn't heard of it before. I think this should be required reading in schools--a book that really gives you a look into a specific time in history, but is actually interesting and accessible to the kids reading it. The book tells the story of twelve-year-old Francie as she navigates her growing-up years through the increasingly rough streets of Harlem. Through the eyes of Francie, the reader sees just how desol I came across this book by accident, and after reading it, I'm really surprised that I hadn't heard of it before. I think this should be required reading in schools--a book that really gives you a look into a specific time in history, but is actually interesting and accessible to the kids reading it. The book tells the story of twelve-year-old Francie as she navigates her growing-up years through the increasingly rough streets of Harlem. Through the eyes of Francie, the reader sees just how desolate the Depression-era landscape can be--jobs are scarce, men are out of work, and children become adults way before their time. One the most striking parts of the book, to me, was the two contradictory sides of Francie. On one side, she seemed very nearly adult--setting up the family's "jumper" to steal electricity and knowing exactly which shopkeepers to avoid being alone with--but on the other, she was very childlike, like when she innocently mentions to her mother she found her father lounging on the bed of a neighbor woman, never grasping the enormity of what that actually meant. It was completely shocking to me how rampant sexual assault and molestation was, and how the girls in the neighborhood knew so early on what they needed to do to protect themselves. Still, it was very disturbing how the shopkeepers in the book took it as their due to fondle or molest the young girls, knowing full well the girls would keep coming back since their families needed the store's provisions on credit. Parts of this book were hard to read, but the story seemed so important that it seemed vital to finish. Plus, the writer crafted such a quickly-paced story that I never felt any drag in which I could even think about putting it down. If teachers are looking for a book on the effects of the Depression in poor urban areas, I really think they should give this a shot.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the black man in this country must make his own life. The crying Negro must die. The cringing Negro must die. If he don’t kill hisself the environment will, and we been dying for too long. The man who gets the power is the man who develops his own strength. I ain’t talking about strength in his muscles but in his mind. We got to get better education. We got to build Negro economic and political freedom. And if we don’t, in fifty years from now, or sooner, this “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the black man in this country must make his own life. The crying Negro must die. The cringing Negro must die. If he don’t kill hisself the environment will, and we been dying for too long. The man who gets the power is the man who develops his own strength. I ain’t talking about strength in his muscles but in his mind. We got to get better education. We got to build Negro economic and political freedom. And if we don’t, in fifty years from now, or sooner, this country will be bloody with race wars.” This novel captures honestly and not without controversy the life of POC living in Harlem during the Great Depression.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lynecia

    A vivid portrayal, of a down-on-their-luck Harlem family, during The Great Depression. I'm glad I gave this one a re-read. I don't think I picked up on the socio-economic, historical, or political and cultural nuances that are here the first time. A vivid portrayal, of a down-on-their-luck Harlem family, during The Great Depression. I'm glad I gave this one a re-read. I don't think I picked up on the socio-economic, historical, or political and cultural nuances that are here the first time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Venessia

    This book is indeed a classic. So beautiful!!! Full review here: https://bibliophileonabudget.wordpres... This book is indeed a classic. So beautiful!!! Full review here: https://bibliophileonabudget.wordpres...

  17. 5 out of 5

    SheAintGotNoShoes

    This book was a real page turner, I really wanted to see how everybody turned out, though it was such a grim and dismal book, I had low expectations for a glorious fairy tale ending. I did however have some issues with it. I am not a fan of crass vocabulary for body parts and sexual activity and this book had quite a bit of it, mostly coming from the children's mouths rather than adults. This book contains an act of extreme cruelty and a miserable death of an innocent animal, which will never sit This book was a real page turner, I really wanted to see how everybody turned out, though it was such a grim and dismal book, I had low expectations for a glorious fairy tale ending. I did however have some issues with it. I am not a fan of crass vocabulary for body parts and sexual activity and this book had quite a bit of it, mostly coming from the children's mouths rather than adults. This book contains an act of extreme cruelty and a miserable death of an innocent animal, which will never sit well with me being an animal lover my entire life. The last very very disturbing thing is the graphic descriptions of child molestation and its absolute flat, matter of fact way of putting it. I myself as an 11 year old back in 1972 was partially grabbed off the street by a pedophile and had to fight within an inch of my life to make him release my wrists - I fought so hard, he decided I wasn't worth all the effort and drove away. I am haunted to this day about it and if asked to speak about it, I could not in such an emotion-less tone as this book describes.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jay Moran

    It was storming, one of those reddish days that looks like the earth's on fire. It got darker and darker, all in the middle of the day, like the sun had gone off somewhere and died. The rain came down with a roar. The thunder boomed, the lightning cracked across the sky, and as I pressed my nose against the living-room window looking out at the storm, I shivered just a little, for who could tell that this wasn't doomsday. Gabriel, Gabriel, blow on your horn and all ye dead rise up to be judged. O It was storming, one of those reddish days that looks like the earth's on fire. It got darker and darker, all in the middle of the day, like the sun had gone off somewhere and died. The rain came down with a roar. The thunder boomed, the lightning cracked across the sky, and as I pressed my nose against the living-room window looking out at the storm, I shivered just a little, for who could tell that this wasn't doomsday. Gabriel, Gabriel, blow on your horn and all ye dead rise up to be judged. One of the things that drew me to this book was James Baldwin's foreword: We have seen this life from the point of view of a black boy growing into a menaced and probably brief manhood; I don't know that we have ever seen it from the point of view of a black girl on the edge of a terrifying womanhood. Daddy Was a Number Runner is the coming of age story of Francie Coffin, a young girl living in Harlem with her family who are struggling to get by, both financially and as a Black family in America. This is a novel that looks closely at community - how it is simultaneously loving and supportive but also a place of apathy, violence, and abuse. While Francie is trying to navigate her way through puberty, the men around her are trying to use her body for their own sexual gratification, be it touching her body in exchange for goods/money, or directly trying to take her virginity. Within the first few pages of the book, Meriwether details a man who exposes himself to Francie, seemingly every time he sees her, and this also happens to the other girls of her age in her neighbourhood. This is all told through this young girl's eyes, so there is an aspect of innocence and confusion as to what is happening to her. On top of all of that, she is also trying to understand her own sexuality, exploring it through pornographic comic strips that she shares with her friends. This is handled so brilliantly by Meriwether as she deals with Francie's conflicting emotions regarding what the men are doing to her without ever placing the blame on her. I love the way in which the book explores family relationships, particularly the ways in which they shift as a child grows up and becomes more aware of the subtle family dynamics that they weren't aware of when they were younger. It's very quickly established that Francie is closer to her dad, who she calls Daddy, whereas she calls her mum the more formal Mother. Her father is more lenient with her, not disciplining her the same way that he does her older brothers, while on the other hand, her mother is strict, making Francie run errands that embarrass her, and Francie often states that her mother feels like a stranger to her. However, as Francie gets older, these dynamics begin to change, and she comes to understand that the love she receives from her parents are indeed different but, ultimately, that her mother's love is more substantial and consistent. I really loved the way Meriwether portrayed this - she doesn't do it with loud, dramatic scenes where feelings are overtly stated. Instead, she shows it gradually through small, seemingly insignificant moments, and how they make Francie feel, which I thought was much more effective and realistic. The majority of the book focuses on the Coffin family and their small community, but she also touches on topics such as police brutality, riots, gangs, and systemic racism. So many moments from those scenes could be transplanted into the news today and they wouldn't feel out of place. Baldwin said: Louise Meriwether has told everyone who can read or feel what it means to be a black man or a woman in this country, and that still stands today's America n 2020. I think this classic should be recommended in the same breath as other coming of age stories such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and To Kill a Mockingbird.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ms bookworm

    2.5 stars...I feel like something is missing in this novel,this is my honest view.I have a love hate relationship with this book. I feel the message was there but did not come across as well as it could have, I came across this book by reading another fictional book based in Harlem. For me this book gives the reader a message of what it was like to be African American, poor and living in Harlem in the heart of the 1930's Great Depression in America. This is what I loved the overview it gave via 2.5 stars...I feel like something is missing in this novel,this is my honest view.I have a love hate relationship with this book. I feel the message was there but did not come across as well as it could have, I came across this book by reading another fictional book based in Harlem. For me this book gives the reader a message of what it was like to be African American, poor and living in Harlem in the heart of the 1930's Great Depression in America. This is what I loved the overview it gave via Francie a 12 year old girl, but on the other hand I also hated this basic general overview of the situation for many African Americans during the great depression it lacks depth of the REAL hardship , political and environmental goings on during this period. I say it lacks depth, as after I finished reading it I did about an hours research into the Great Depression and learned so much more about the effect it had on America, the UK and African Americans. A lot of the political movements, trade union work and discrimination against African Americans eg wages paid at up to 30% lower than white Americans being forced out of unskilled work that was mainly done by African Americans were left out, therefore the message of life for this race was not fully told as well as it could have been. I did not know a lot about the Great Depression before I read this book and knew no more upon finishing it! Research enlightened me which is shame.... But the positive is at least the book sparked an interest and lead to digging deeper. If this depth was portrayed it would of gained a solid 3.5- 4 stars. The writing style is straight forward and easy to read, characters are a bit one dimensional over all it was an Ok read. I am convinced there must be other novels written slightly more better on this important historical time with a focus on African Americans. Was it a page turner? Sadly no not for me, is there an important message to take from the book? Yes but in a small dose. Would I recommend? To those interested in coming if age / historical fiction and black literature books. Sadly don't expect great history lesson!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Thomas Clifton

    I think alot of the time, we write about what we know. and in reading this book I come to ask myself... what exactly does Louise know? her writing is so simply complex... which seems odd but it is a perfect sense of what is happening and why it is happening and why you don't want it to happen.. but you will it to happen along with her words on the next few pages until the next few becomes the rest of the book. I love it I think alot of the time, we write about what we know. and in reading this book I come to ask myself... what exactly does Louise know? her writing is so simply complex... which seems odd but it is a perfect sense of what is happening and why it is happening and why you don't want it to happen.. but you will it to happen along with her words on the next few pages until the next few becomes the rest of the book. I love it

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rozanna Lilley

    Immensely readable coming of age story about a girl growing up in Harlem. The grinding poverty and relentless sexual assaults she endures are conveyed with a surprisingly light touch. It has a very cinematic feel - you can almost see the rats in the kitchen, the whores on every corner and the empty promises of adulthood around each tenement-packed corner.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jazmon Logon

    I've share this book with so many friends after I read it, it was brilliantly written. For my friends it reminded them of a time in their lives when things seem simple. For me, it painted a picture of a culture and a way of life my family never lived. It was very eye-opening to me. It's a Harlem that I will never see but was able to experience through the writing of Louise Meriwether. I've share this book with so many friends after I read it, it was brilliantly written. For my friends it reminded them of a time in their lives when things seem simple. For me, it painted a picture of a culture and a way of life my family never lived. It was very eye-opening to me. It's a Harlem that I will never see but was able to experience through the writing of Louise Meriwether.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Immersive, vicious, a Spike Lee style bildungsroman filled with anguish and anger, hope and despair, vibrantly told.

  24. 4 out of 5

    ☯Emily Ginder

    Francie is a young girl living in Harlem in 1934 during the Depression. It is a story of how the lack of employment burdens the black men of the community and how this places an economic hardship on the family and especially the black women who must find a way to feed their children when there is no money. Racism is an over-arching problem for everyone in Harlem. Francie lives in an apartment which is not maintained by the landlord. There are rats in the apartment as well as bed bugs in the sofas Francie is a young girl living in Harlem in 1934 during the Depression. It is a story of how the lack of employment burdens the black men of the community and how this places an economic hardship on the family and especially the black women who must find a way to feed their children when there is no money. Racism is an over-arching problem for everyone in Harlem. Francie lives in an apartment which is not maintained by the landlord. There are rats in the apartment as well as bed bugs in the sofas and couches used as beds. There is inadequate blankets and heating and many times not enough food to feed a growing family. Going on welfare is demeaning, but necessary, but the whites in charge of relief are unsympathetic to the plights of underemployment and make the lives of the blacks even more humiliating than it was before. The young people in the book reject education as the means out of poverty, dropping out of school. Instead they choose prostitution or become a pimp or join gangs as a way to earn an income. The young girls are sexually harassed at young ages, usually by old white men. Finally each girl has to find a way to solve this problem by herself, since no guidance is provided by the parents. We follow Francie's life for a year as her family falls apart. We see how crime and racism affects each of the families in the neighborhood. There are no answers or resolution at the end of the book. There is no one to rescue them from their drudgery by waving a magic wand.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Patty Simpson

    An excellent book. Showing the typical life of a preteen in Harlem during the depression through her own eyes - it did remind me of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", which I think was intentional on the author's part. Life was plenty hard for the impoverished family in ATGiB - this book makes it pretty clear how much worse everything was for black people. It also reminds us that in the North American literature tradition we didn't hear their stories until recently. The plight of the even worse off bla An excellent book. Showing the typical life of a preteen in Harlem during the depression through her own eyes - it did remind me of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", which I think was intentional on the author's part. Life was plenty hard for the impoverished family in ATGiB - this book makes it pretty clear how much worse everything was for black people. It also reminds us that in the North American literature tradition we didn't hear their stories until recently. The plight of the even worse off black society never crossed my mind, when reading ATGiB as a teen. But the real strength of the book is that it tells the story so naturally, from the heroine's viewpoint, so that the sociological and cultural stuff is absorbed without being spelled out for the reader.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    *Daddy Was A Numbers Runner,* by Louise Meriwether should be treated as an American classic novel. It captures the life of 1930's Harlem families through the eyes of a 13-yr. old girl. Written in first person, it reflects the life of the author, who grew up in those times. The book was written in 1978, and the author is now 98 years old. Still it rings sadly true about people caught in situations of low expectation and feelings of helplessness. But this book kept my attention the whole way throu *Daddy Was A Numbers Runner,* by Louise Meriwether should be treated as an American classic novel. It captures the life of 1930's Harlem families through the eyes of a 13-yr. old girl. Written in first person, it reflects the life of the author, who grew up in those times. The book was written in 1978, and the author is now 98 years old. Still it rings sadly true about people caught in situations of low expectation and feelings of helplessness. But this book kept my attention the whole way through and I kept wanting to know--how does it end? The author knew that simple tying up the of the loose ends is not how life works, and she leaves us in a poignant, pivotal point in the lives of her characters. We want to imagine the very best outcomes. I loved the characters in this book, and I think that is what makes a great novel.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    Set in Depression era Harlem, this is a coming of age novel, narrated by 12 year old Francie Coffin, daughter of a poor black family. Her Christian name's the same as the similar-aged heroine of 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' but her life seems very different. Gangs, casual violence and racism figure majorly, luring even brighter kids into the better-paid if risky criminal underworld. And even dreams of moving up the ladder are soon brought crashing down: "If you would take more time with your backsti Set in Depression era Harlem, this is a coming of age novel, narrated by 12 year old Francie Coffin, daughter of a poor black family. Her Christian name's the same as the similar-aged heroine of 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' but her life seems very different. Gangs, casual violence and racism figure majorly, luring even brighter kids into the better-paid if risky criminal underworld. And even dreams of moving up the ladder are soon brought crashing down: "If you would take more time with your backstitch, Francie, you might make a good seamstress one day. That's a very good living, you know." "I don't think I'd like it, Mrs Abowitz. I want to be a secretary when I grow up." "Well, Francie, we have to be practical. There aren't very many jobs for Negroes in that field. And while you're going to school you should learn those things which will stand you in good stead when you have to work." "I like shorthand and typing, Mrs Abowitz," I said, suddenly stubborn, "and I'm gonna be a secretary." She sighed. "I don't know why they teach courses like that to frustrate you people." Francie's parents strive to provide for their family, whether it's her father's work for an illegal gambling syndicate or her mother's pittance from cleaning...and the humiliating battle with the Poor Relief people. Perhaps most surprising to the 21st century reader is the ubiquitous sexual abuse, where holding one's tongue and playing along might net the child a dime or an extra cookie. It's quite well written and brings to life another time and culture, but I didn't find the characters particularly memorable or compelling.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    Powerful evocation of the dead-end existence of slum life (if you can call it living). I was reminded of the newspaper articles of the mid 1970s that began to tell the white world of babies killed and partially devoured by tenement rats etc. Not buried on the back pages, but on the front page. Francie the main character seems clueless--after all, she grows up on the same mean streets as her brothers and friends--but then you realise that she is surviving by self-isolating, hiding between the pag Powerful evocation of the dead-end existence of slum life (if you can call it living). I was reminded of the newspaper articles of the mid 1970s that began to tell the white world of babies killed and partially devoured by tenement rats etc. Not buried on the back pages, but on the front page. Francie the main character seems clueless--after all, she grows up on the same mean streets as her brothers and friends--but then you realise that she is surviving by self-isolating, hiding between the pages of her fairy tale books. I did much the same thing in my own childhood. The tragedy comes when she realises that the cowboy movies and storybooks she escapes into are no longer enough to dull the ache of existence, and when she realises that using her child's body as a medium of exchange will no longer work without placing her in grave danger. Yes, this book is fiction, but it describes a lot of factual stuff. I preferred it to Maya Angelou's angry self aggrandising "autobiographies."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dolores Jefferson

    I recently remembered this book while reading Ta-Nahisi Coates, An American Tragedy. Coates book is full of black angst and I started musing on my life and the history of my people in this America which treats us as shadow people; or as if we have no life of our own that's normal or real except in relation to them - the arbitrary white. Anyway. I began to think of all the black authors that I've read and loved through the years and one of my remembrances was Daddy Was A Number Runner. I loved th I recently remembered this book while reading Ta-Nahisi Coates, An American Tragedy. Coates book is full of black angst and I started musing on my life and the history of my people in this America which treats us as shadow people; or as if we have no life of our own that's normal or real except in relation to them - the arbitrary white. Anyway. I began to think of all the black authors that I've read and loved through the years and one of my remembrances was Daddy Was A Number Runner. I loved this book as a young adult; it was about a girl and her family and the whole life they lead in a Harlem I'd always wanted to visit. This in turn caused me to use the local library's ILL department and order it so I could read it again. The forward is written by James Baldwin, another book friend of mine. After re-reading I will write a more in depth review with asides and nods to The Original Last Poets, Lucille Clifton(RIP), Nikki Giovanni and Langston Hughes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nora Dolan

    Really great historical fiction I read this book when I was a teenager, and these many years later I still remember the impact it had on me then. Some thirty years later, I see this book from an adult perspective. Francie takes you to her home, the ghetto in Harlem. She introduces you to her family, her friends, her neighbors. Through the book, all the personalities are developed beautifully. This book has it all. It is heartwarming, gritty, funny, , cruel. It is about the day to day of a poor b Really great historical fiction I read this book when I was a teenager, and these many years later I still remember the impact it had on me then. Some thirty years later, I see this book from an adult perspective. Francie takes you to her home, the ghetto in Harlem. She introduces you to her family, her friends, her neighbors. Through the book, all the personalities are developed beautifully. This book has it all. It is heartwarming, gritty, funny, , cruel. It is about the day to day of a poor black family during The Depression. It took me right there. I grew up in an urban environment many years later, but there are so many things that haven't changed a whole lot. This book is amazing. Find the time to read it. It is unforgettable.

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