Study Guide

Tar Beach Family

By Faith Ringgold


[quilt border] (1)

The quilt squares that run along the bottom of every page remind us of families and family heirlooms.

I could see our tiny rooftop, with Mommy and Daddy […] and Be Be, my baby brother, lying real still on the mattress […] (3-4)

You know how sometimes at a family dinner there will be a kids' table? Well, this is like that, except it's a mattress.

Sleeping on Tar Beach was magical. (5)

Cassie's still at that age where hanging out with your family every night is super cool.

[image of Mommy, Daddy, and Baby Cassie] (7)

The artwork flashes back to when our girl Cassie was born. You know this is in Cassie's imagination because that hospital room looks huge.

Daddy worked on that bridge, hoisting cables. Since then, I've wanted that bridge to be mine. (8)

Cassie is a little bit possessive of the bridge that Daddy made. This makes a lot of sense when it becomes clear that he's not around anymore.

Daddy took me to see the new union building he is working on. (11)

Cassie and her dad seem really close—he takes her to work before Take Your Daughter To Work Day was a thing.

But still he can't join the union because Grandpa wasn't a member. (13)

One way that unions used to keep people of color out was to say their parents hadn't been members. It was just a gross, racist lie.

And Mommy won't cry all winter when he goes to look for work and doesn't come home. (16)

It sounds like Mr. and Mrs. Lightfoot have been having some problems. Fingers crossed they get back together someday.

And Mommy can laugh and sleep late like Mrs. Honey […] (17)

Cassie wants nothing more than to see her family happy. She's a sweet kid.

I'll take Be Be with me. He has threatened to tell Mommy and Daddy if I leave him behind. (23)

Don't you just hate it when you have to take your little brother flying at night?