The name of the story's narrator is the 14-year-old Phyllisia Cathay. In the story, she explains how she and her 16-year-old sister Ruby moved from the West Indies to live with their father Calvin in Harlem, New York City.
Phyllisia is a bright student who her teacher often goes to first when she asks a question. Unfortunately, the other kids don't appreciate her smartness and berate her for being the teacher's pet. They mimic her accent and call her names such as "monkey" and worse.
Phyllisia states that she wants to make friends with a girl in her class called Edith, who is one of the few people at school who act friendly towards her, but she knows her father would forbid it. Edith is a poor, uncouth girl and Phyllisia's father has sent for her to live with him in Harlem in an attempt to give her a better life. Ironically, however, Phyllisia seems to see the move as a backwards step.