"Everyday Use" is narrated by a woman who describes herself as "a large,
big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands." She has enjoyed a rugged
farming life in the country and now lives in a small, tin-roofed house
surrounded by a clay yard in the middle of a cow pasture. She anticipates
that soon her daughter Maggie will be married and she will be living
The story opens as the two women await a visit from the older daughter, Dee,
and a man who may be her husband--her mother is not sure whether they are
actually married. Dee, who was always scornful of her family's way of life,
has gone to college and now seems almost as distant as a film star; her
mother imagines being reunited with her on a television show such as "This
Is Your Life," where the celebrity guest is confronted with her humble
origins. Maggie, who is not bright and who bears severe burn scars from a
house fire many years before, is even more intimidated by her glamorous
To her mother's surprise, Dee arrives wearing an ankle-length, gold and
orange dress, jangling golden earrings and bracelets, and hair that "stands
straight up like the wool on a sheep." She greets them with an African
salutation, while her companion offers a Muslim greeting and tries to give
Maggie a ceremonial handshake that she does not understand. Moreover, Dee
says that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, because "I
couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me."
Dee's friend has an unpronounceable name, which the mother finally reduces
to "Hakim-a-barber." As a Muslim, he will not eat the pork that she has
prepared for their meal.
Whereas Dee had been scornful...