Study Guide

Having Our Say Part III, Chapter 9: Bessie

By Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth

Part III, Chapter 9: Bessie

  • To this day, Bessie is still a little mad about that whole incident. Who could blame her?
  • Bessie believes that she gets her feistiness from her mom—neither woman takes any malarkey from anyone. Her father, on the other hand, is usually "gentle and calm" because he wants to present the family in a "dignified fashion" (3.9.4).
  • The family has to hunt for food, but they never kill for sport. Once, Lemuel trips while holding a shotgun and is shot in the hand, but this near-death experience inspires to become a doctor.
  • Later, the typhoid epidemic hits St. Aug's. Although Sadie gets a mild case of "walking typhus," Bessie gets super sick and is "hospitalized for about six weeks" (3.9.9). It isn't until she convinces her hospital neighbor to give her a piece of cornbread that she finally recovers.
  • Luckily, Nanny is "real fussy about germs" and "ahead of her time about vitamins and minerals" (3.9.19). In fact, she makes breakfast cereal before breakfast cereal is a thing!
  • The one thing the kids know nothing about is sex. Although Bessie occasionally sneaks into the barn for some illicit romance novel sessions, it's not until she's an adult that she actually learns what sex is.
  • The Delanys are "good Christian [...] citizens" and "Americans" (3.9.24-25). Their one vice? Late-night jam sessions. Aw yeah.