Cashay by Margaret McMullan
You try to hold life up & it pushes back. Pushes down, down, down. You do all you can & it still goes wrong. What makes you think you can help me?
Living in the projects in Chicago with her mother and one-year-younger sister Sashay, Cashay helps her sister with homework and keeps them both focused on staying out of trouble. Although she’s very good with math and numbers, Cashay flunked seventh grade on purpose just so she and Sashay could start high school together. Despite all Cashay’s efforts, Sashay is accidentally killed during a drive by shooting. Cashay begins acting out with bad behavior at school and is referred to an after school program that includes anger management and mentoring. When her first mentor, a nun, doesn’t work out, Cashay gets a single white woman stockbroker as a mentor, and against all odds they begin to make a real connection. When Cashay’s mother relapses to using crack cocaine after being clean for three years, life takes on more bleakness than ever. Whether she can manage to find her way through a life that becomes desperate, presents challenges that Cashay must find a way overcome if she is to survive.
This book is short enough that I read it in one day, but the characters and content have so much richness that I went back to the beginning and read it again. Every character became a real person to me and I hoped the author would help each of them find their way in the world. Cashay especially inspired me with the way she tackled her problems, even when she was scared. I am looking forward to reading more of Margaret McMullan’s books.
Reviewed by Ellie Goldstein-Erickson