Of course, when Dee says this, it is highly ironic, as is proven by the episode with the quilts. For it is Dee, not Maggie and Mama, who does not understand her heritage. Consider how Mama lovingly describes the history and the past of the quilts which have been made by her grandmother out of old dresses and shirts. Dee, of course, completely ignores and rejects these aspects of the quilts, seeing them only as a beautiful curiosity that she wants to own. It is Dee who, in her rejection of her immediate past and embracing of her African roots, is ignoring and downplaying her heritage, which is what forces Mama to react so strongly against her an give the quilts to Maggie.
My heritage is Irish, Scottish, English and French on my Mom's side and German (with some Cherokee mixed in) on my Dad's side. Being married to an Italian, we've sort of just given in to the idea that we are a loud-mouthed and opinionated bunch with tempers. :)
However, what we are MOST is American. Hot dogs, t-shirts, jeans, and baseball. We live in the country and skip rocks on the pond. We go barefooted in summer except on Sunday when we cram our reluctant feet into shoes and go to church.
Our traditions include Christmas tree decorating as a family, meals together for dinner, reading together, sports, and we play video games together as a family for fun...who knew I was such a rockin' Guitar Hero? Ha!
I think Maggie and Mama are all about their heritage. It's about life together and what they have learned from each other and about each other. The talents and lessons Maggie has spent time with her grandmother to make part of herself. That's heritage, and Dee has no knowledge of it. She has only the superficial "act" of African heritage.
What a wonderful post, Linda! Heritage is so important, and I love when people are given a chance to explain that importance to the next generation.
Just of interest - My great-great-grandfather came to the United States from Scotland, settled somewhere in Georgia, and married a Cherokee lady. We don't know a heck of a lot more than that, except that one of their sons fought for the Confederacy (he would have been one of my great-uncles), and his father had to travel a long way to get him and take him home when he was injured in battle.
I wish I knew more about their family (MY family) as I, too, believe heritage to be so very important. It's all history...history isn't just about famous people; in fact, history is really made by the regular folks, just trying to live their lives and see their children raised the best way they know how.
Great topic, but I, too, have not read the book in question. One to add to my reading list apparently!
I have not read this story, but your question intrigues me. I hope you don't mind my giving an opinion.
A person's heritage includes many things. I am from the South, so my heritage includes frequently having to answer questions about how I feel about a war that took place 100 years before I was born.
I am the first member of my family on both sides to have a college degree. My heritage does not include an appreciation of education. Females should be stay at home mothers and certainly married before the age of 18.
My paternal grandmother was Cherokee, and she was trained to be a healer. My heritage from her was supposed to have been knowledge of healing as well. But she grew up as an Indian in the South in the 1920s and 30s--not a pleasant time for persons of any color but white. She was my grandfather's second wife and married him only because he was forced to marry her. His first wife left him because he beat her, and my Granny, who was just a teenager, was hired to take care of their son. After Granny had two sons of her own by him, the local KKK came to visit and forced a shotgun wedding. She was ashamed of being nonwhite. So my heritage from her is anger at other people's ignorance.
My brother, sister, and I are the only blondes on the paternal side of our family. Somehow our mother's genes were stronger than our dad's Cherokee genes. So part of my heritage is not fitting in.
I guess what I'm trying to get at is that it's not always a bad thing to "forget your heritage." My sister and I are teachers. Her daughters want to be teachers. We are creating a new heritage for ourselves.
By the way, "Everyday Use" is a short story by Alice Walker.
I'm a teacher in Vancouver, WA and right now my sophomore class is reading "Everyday Use". In looking at this story it's easy to see that Dee is wrong when she says Momma and Maggie don't understand their heritage. Momma and Maggie understand their heritage by carrying on with their everyday lives using the things that's been passed down to them from years ago. At one point, Maggie mentions that she doesn't need a blanket to remember her grandmother.
Even though Dee is seen as the "bad person" in this story, I believe Dee also brings in a side of heritage that many people ignore. Dee shows pride in her heritage. I write this with the knowledge that Dee did not present that image in the best way, but nevertheless, she presented that image.
I'm originally from Louisiana, and I've been in Washington for the past 4 years. I don't know much about my family, but from the little research I've done, most of my family is from somewhere in the South. During the summer of 2005, I started investigating a little more about my relatives, but there's only so far you can go without having to pay for service.
Just some thoughts to share.