This is a true story of the struggle, survival, and ultimate success of a large black family in south Alabama who, in the middle decades of the 20th century, lifted themselves out of poverty to achieve the American dream of property ownership. Descended from slaves and sharecroppers in the Black Belt region, this family of hard-working parents and their thirteen children is mentored by its matriarch, Moa, the author’s beloved great grandmother, who passes on to the family, along with other cultural wealth, her recipe for moonshine.
Without rancor or blame, and even with occasional humor, The Pecan Orchard offers a window into the inequities between blacks and whites in a small southern town still emerging from Jim Crow attitudes.
Told in clean, straightforward prose, the story radiates the suffocating midday heat of summertime cotton fields and the biting winter wind sifting through porous shanty walls. It conveys the implicit shame in “Colored Only” restrooms, drinking fountains, and eating areas; the beaming satisfaction of a job well done recognized by others; the “yessum” manners required of southern society; and the joyful moments, shared memories, and loving bonds that sustain—and even raise—a proud family.