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Scarlet Sister Mary

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3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  534 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Julia Peterkin pioneered in demonstrating the literary potential for serious depictions of the African American experience. Rejecting the prevailing sentimental stereotypes of her times, she portrayed her black characters with sympathy and understanding, endowing them with the full dimensions of human consciousness. In these novels and stories, she tapped the richness of r ...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published January 9th 2004 by University of Georgia Press (first published 1928)
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Pulitzer Winners: Fiction & Novels
84th out of 87 books — 908 voters
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Books Set in South Carolina
36th out of 56 books — 31 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,037)
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Becky
I treasure having found this book. It satisfied a lot of my current interests - southern literature, Pulitzer Prize winners, and books based around my home state of South Carolina. It's obviously never been that popular based on the # and average of ratings out there and it being awarded the Pulitzer Prize was so heavily challenged by Dr. Richard S. Burton, chairperson of Pulitzer's fiction-literature jury, that he ended up resigning when his nomination, Victim and Victor by Dr. John B. Oliver, ...more
Ben
Pulitzer 1929 - Scarlet Sister Mary is about a former slave post civil war and her life as she goes from being a single woman looking for a husband to an independent woman. I was surprised to find out that Julia Peterkin was a former white plantation owner herself. Considering the book was written in 1929 it is surprising forward in its themes. Something else that was surprising was that there isn't a single white character in the book. Although they are mentioned none of them actually appear. T ...more
Agnes Mack
I didn't dislike this book but it was a bit of a chore to get through. It told the tale of a black community trying to figure out their new freedom. It followed the life of Sister Mary and her dozen children. None of the characters particularly stood out to me and I wasn't really taken in by the narrative. It was interesting from a historical perspective, but I would have liked to see more emotion coming from it, or being elicited from me.

In summation : I can't say that I'm particularly thrilled
...more
Roxanne Russell
I can't believe I made it to 31 with a focus on American Literature in my education, and I was never required to read this excellent story of an independent, realistic Gullah woman. Time on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Sun Also Rises was wasted in comparison to the quality of simple but lyrical form and profound but individualistic revelation in this book. Peterkin captures a language and culture of this regional people as though it is her own, because partly it was. I've wondered many times wh ...more
Amanda
This one was a little difficult for me to find. I had to special order it at the library and then they sent me the 1928 edition. Since it was hard to find, I assumed that it was going to be a heavy slow read. However, I was pleasantly surprised that it really wasn't. It was far less dry than some of the other early Pulitzer winners I've read.
Some of the sentiments in the book are now obviously outdated, but I'd say for its time, it's a pretty decent book.
Kathryn
21/2 stars

This was a difficult book for me to find, and I lucked out at a used bookstore. That said, the book left me disappointed. Like other readers, I found the dialect a challenge to follow, and the story - while interesting - seemed to summarize in parts. There is a fifteen year leap in the action, for example, that nearly lost me.

Not the best of the Pulitzers I've read. I'm interested now to read the book some on the committee wanted to win.
Nancy
I wrote my senior thesis on this novel, which i LOVED. The seminar class was Southern Renaissance Lit-- betcha didn't even know the South had one, eh? Well Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner will tell you otherwise.
Christian Engler
Written by former plantation mistress Julia Peterkin, Scarlet Sister Mary is a novel of intellect, individualism, coltish word play, tradition and most importantly, respect. The novel, like, Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Color Purple, is written in an old southern vernacular, and it tells the story of Sister Mary or Si May-e, a young and sprightly woman at the novel's start. It is some time after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and freedon (used loosely, historically speaking), has c ...more
Marty
Yet another of the Pulitzer Prize winners in the fiction category (1929) that Steve and I are reading. This one is about post-reconstruction south - from the perspective of a plantation community of African Americans. The white plantation owners are long gone, but the blacks have a thriving community in the old plantation housing, while the "big" house is long vacant. The story focuses on Mary - or Si May ee as she is called by friends and family - a young, strong woman who is in an out of favor ...more
Mary Hope
A beautiful book. Loved the Gullah dialect, but I've grown up hearing it. May be difficult for people who haven't heard it. The theme of sin and church forgiveness or condemnation is powerful. Every chapter begins with description of the changes in nature as time goes on. What a woman Sister Mary is.
Michael
This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1929 and tells the story of Southern life through the eyes of Mary.

She is a former slave who still lives on the Blue Brook Plantation. She never knew her real parents but thinks of Maum Hannah and Buddah Ben as the closest thing to parents that she has.

She is pregnant and about to marry a man who is known to be wild. Buddah feels that she would be better off marrying another person who is better suited to marriage.

There is also realistic dialogue and good desc
...more
Phillip
This is my second Julia Peterkin book. Scarlet Sister Mary is a continuation of the struggle post Civil war blacks endured on the farm. I am astounded at the talent Mrs Peterkin displays painting such a vivid picture of the rural south. She had a great courage to devote her skills to a subject that was nearly taboo in her time. She brings the reader into the sights and smells and heartbreak of poverty and isolation of those shunned by their own people. The only criticism I have is the blaring ab ...more
Tamara
Aug 03, 2008 Tamara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sheila
Recommended to Tamara by: Pulitzer
Shelves: pulitzer-winners
This is the story of Mary, a former slave who still lives and works on the cotton plantation even after the slaves have been freed. The story tells of her marriage to a Roamin'Man, and the subsequent birth of her son. The father leaves, and when she comes out of her grief, she takes a fresh view on life with a little help from some black magic from the local witch doctor. She is known for her sins, taking in men to fill her house with children. Eventually, shock and despair bring Mary to repenta ...more
Aaron
Interesting as an artifact of the time. This is a novel written by a white woman in the 1920's about a southern African-American farming community. Some aspects of the book (mostly, the dialect and general setting of the community) remind me of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. The main difference is that this is written by someone outside of the Af-Am community, and suffers from her imposition of quaintness and idealization on that community. Still, there is much good inside th ...more
Eva
This was a controversial Pulitzer Prize winning book. The controversy being was it worthy of winning the Pulitzer. I thought it certainly merited winning. This book is a depiction of uneducated black folks living in South Carolina in the early days of the 20th century. White folks don't even enter the story, at all, except for one time when a doctor was needed. The names of the characters were hilarious but the story was sad overall.
Debra
Aug 13, 2010 Debra is currently reading it
What did I like about this book? What I liked least was the view of the church: every Wednesday, the deacons got together and decided who was able to take communion on Sunday; God let's children die or lose a leg if their mom is a sinner. I did like the strong central character, but as you can surmise from the title, she had too many babies out of wedlock to be a church member....
Linda
This book seems like a precursor to Zora Neale Hurston's works - it has the dialect of an isolated black community in South Carolina, and a very strong female character in Sister Mary - in all her strengths and weaknesses. I really cared about all the characters - plus the descriptions of the land and the seasons were beautiful.
Priyanka Gupta
There is absolutely nothing great about this book.. Neither the writing style nor the story.

And yet I liked reading in its own simple way the author takes you back to the little house where Wang Lung lives with his family and builds one after another his entire family :)
Melody
Most racist book I have ever read. That this won a Pulitzer is a real tribute to how far race relations in this country have come. Read this for historical perspective, and for no other reason.
Wendi Hassan
I've started reading all the Pulitzer Prize/Fiction books, and this was the most difficult one to find yet. Already the language is exquisite. Looking forward to the journey
Melissa
*sigh* A precursor to Zora Neale Hurston's use of Gullah dialect in fiction (cool, to be sure) but not a novel that has well withstood the test of time. 1929 Pulitzer winner.
Cerelle Centeno
This took a while to read because it's written in an old-timey Southern vernacular. Not sure I loved it, but it reminds me of a place I used to live...
Judy
Another book about the Gullah tradition. Had a lot in common with the book I read by Susan Straight even though it was published in 1928.
Lynda
My challenge is to read all the Pulitzer by the end of 2013.... Love this one... And would smoke a pipe if it was acceptable ...
James Rosenzweig
My thoughts while reading, as well as my final review, can be found on my blog: http://followingpulitzer.wordpress.com
Danielle
Excellent story of the follies of love and how to be a strong woman. Relevant today as it was back in 1928.
Gail
I love books about the American south. This one is worth every minute for all kinds of reasons. Pick it up!
Hoyadaisy
Compelling, intimate portrait of a complicated woman. Exquisite portrayal of Gullah culture.
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Tackling the Puli...: Scarlet Sister Mary (Julia Peterkin, 1929) 9 24 Sep 05, 2013 12:24PM  
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Born October 31, 1880, Laurens County, SC

Died August 1961 near Fort Motte, SC

Won Pulitzer Prize for Novel with Scarlet Sister Mary in 1929.
More about Julia Peterkin...
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“Everything has its way of speaking and telling things worth knowing. Even the little grass-blades have their way of saying things as plain as words when human lips let them fall...the choice bits of wisdom...were never written down in any books.” 2 likes
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