Chapter 7 Summary

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The seventh chapter, “Marriage on Ice,” begins with Jimmy’s funeral. His body has not yet been recovered from inside the lake, though the authorities explain that bodies recovered from a winter lake are often preserved very well. Regardless, the family is able to have a funeral, at which Lina cries out against Jimmy and against God for leaving her a widow and alone with a child to support. After forty days of mourning, Lina emerges from her room in an orange dress, which shocks Desdemona since widows should wear black for life. However, Lina maintains that forty days is long enough.

Desdemona raises both Milton and Lina’s daughter, Theodora. The two are brought up so close that their shadows touch each other wherever they go. However, Cal explains, Detroit is not a remote mountain village and before long, Milton takes interest in his slingshot and spends time with other boys his age. Though Desdemona is devoted to the children, she is terrified of having another. She asks Lina how to keep from having children and learns that she can continue breastfeeding Milton and refraining from having sex with Lefty. In spite of this advice, they sometimes have sex, and Zoë Helen Stephanides is born in spite of Desdemona’s fears over birth defects. When Milton begins to spend time with other boys, Theodora devotes her time to Desdemona’s second child. After Zoë is born, Lina leaves the house and mortgage to Lefty and Desdemona and begins work as a florist.

Desdemona does not explain her thoughts and fears to her husband, but she does begin to turn away from him. Cal explains that

with the birth of his son, Eleutherios Stephanides saw his future and continuing diminishment in the eyes of his wife, and as he buried his face in his pillow, he understood the complaint of fathers everywhere who lived like boarders in their own homes.

Lefty begins to resent Desdemona, and consequently he begins to insist that traditional gender roles be observed in the house, including that Desdemona stay in the kitchen when he is entertaining guests.

Although Lefty is not happy in his marriage, he does his best to provide for the family. He feels that bootlegging is too dangerous and attempts to obtain work as a translator or as a professor at a university, but no one will hire him. He ultimately ends up emptying one room of the house, building a bar, and eventually opening a speakeasy called the “Zebra Room,” inside of which he hangs a zebra skin that Jimmy left. In the speakeasy, Lefty learns how to tend bar. Though it is not the casino that he had envisioned while on the ship to America, Lefty soon finds that he is good at running the speakeasy and waiting on customers. However, when the Great Depression hits, his business starts to wane. One night, Lefty comes to bed to find Milton and Zoë in bed with Desdemona. He sends them to bed and begins to stroke Desdemona. She complains that she is sleeping and when Lefty explains that he is trying to wake her up, she scolds him. In response, Lefty explains that he works all day and feels separate from the family. Desdemona argues that she works hard as well raising the children. To the contrary of his earlier exhortations, Lefty tells her that she must get a job.

Desdemona and Lina look through the classified section of the newspaper together and find a want ad for a silk worker. The job is in a Detroit ghetto called “Black Bottom,” and the streetcar conductor...

(This entire section contains 804 words.)

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is surprised when he reads that a white woman would go to an address in Black Bottom. However, Desdemona perseveres, finds Hastings Street, and applies for a job. The people inside the building, which is not a factory after all, are black and they are all wearing fezzes. In her interview with Sister Wanda, who introduces herself as “Supreme Captain, Temple No. 1,” Desdemona explains that she is Greek but was born in Turkey. When asked whether she is of mixed descent, Desdemona lies and says that she is in order to get the job. Sister Wanda explains that their leader, Minister Fard, is also of mixed descent, though Cal explains “Minister Fard” has had many names depending on where he has gone. Minister Fard is teaching Sister Wanda and her peers to become self-reliant and Muslim so that they can reconnect with their ancestry. However, no applicant thus far has been able to tend to the silkworms. When Desdemona sees the first silk worm, she begins to teach the Muslim Girls Training and General Civilization Class. The first thing they must do when caring for silkworms is to become pure. Sister Wanda replies “we trying, Des. Praise Allah. We trying.”

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