In "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker, Dee tells Maggie, "It's really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama live you'd never know it." What does Dee mean? Is it a new day for Maggie and Mama? Do they want it to be? Would the new day require them to make sacrifices? Is there anything ironic about Dee's connection to her heritage?
Dee is saying that it is a new day for women in the United States. Dee has been away at college and has embraced ideas of modern life. She has discovered her African heritage and seems to be committed to cultural movements that include civil rights in terms of race and gender. In other words, Dee recognizes that the modern African-American woman has many more opportunities than were once possible. It is therefore a new day for women because of these cultural movements.
When she sees Mama and Maggie living exactly the same as they always have, she tries to bring the point home that they might be missing out on modern cultural movements that promise new opportunities for African-American women. Mama and Maggie are comfortable with their lifestyles. Not to mention, Mama notices that part of Dee's new interest in modernity and African heritage seems a bit superficial. In addition, they watch the way Dee behaves and they notice that Dee has essentially forsaken her family heritage: her African-American heritage. In fact, she only wants the quilts in order to display them. Her sense of honoring her family heritage is superficial, all for show. She might have similar thoughts on her African heritage. And if this is the case, she is missing the substance of what the "new day" is. It is hard to criticize Dee because we don't know for sure how sincere she with her progressive ideas. But some of her behavior does suggest that she does not present her case to Mama and Maggie very well because it comes across as a bit superficial.