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I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots

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4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  499 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Beginning in the late 1950s, this novel tells the story of Marietta Cook, a tall girl growing up in Pine Gardens, a Gullah-speaking village in South Carolina. When Marietta's mother passes, she heads to Charleston in search of her uncle - only to find a lover and return pregnant with twins two years later. She raises her sons back home in the low country before moving the ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 15th 1993 by Anchor (first published 1992)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Caroline
This is my second? third? Susan Straight novel. When I finally took a second to look at the back flap author blurb, you could have punched in the face I was so shocked. She's ...white.... Does...does she live in an all Black neighborhood? Black hubbie?

Anywho, this book is pretty good. If it weren't for having to re-read the Gullah parts, it's almost as good as Blacker than a Thousand Midnights.

The best part is that, although a white woman writing this, this isn't some "poor black people wallow
...more
K.S.R.
Oct 12, 2007 K.S.R. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
Wow. The protagonist in this story is a woman of incredible strength and depth of character that makes me want -- still to this day -- to be able to forge ahead through the challenges of life with dignity.
Judith
Dec 11, 2013 Judith rated it really liked it
I Been in Sorrow’s Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots by Susan Straight opens in a Gullah-speaking village in South Carolina where 14-year-old Marietta Cook’s mother is ailing. After she dies, Marietta makes her way to Charleston. Already as tall as a man, with skin like her father's -- as dark as night -- she gets herself a job doing men's work: cleaning fish, hauling goods and mopping floors. In time, she also finds a lover, so when her pregnancy begins to show, she returns to her home ...more
Peggy
Apr 09, 2014 Peggy rated it it was amazing
I've been putting off reading this book even though I bought it for my Kindle weeks ago. I've never heard of Susan Straight, and wasn't sure what the book would be about, reading the title. I am a student of African American history, and culture. I knew I would probably like the book, but was afraid to be disappointed.

I definitely wasn't disappointed! This book has a poignancy and a seriousness to it that made it very hard to put down. I read into the night two nights, and finished the book in t
...more
Janey Skinner
Apr 01, 2015 Janey Skinner rated it really liked it
This is a moving account of a woman's path through life, standing up for herself and her own, resisting the structures of slavery that persisted into the 20th century (and on to today). Marietta is a captivating character, and I especially enjoyed how Marietta's close relationships were portrayed - with the older generation (whether birth family or found family), with her sons, with the first man she feel for and with the last one, too. The writing is lyrical and vivid. I was struck, early in ...more
Donna Davis
How many white authors have the nerve to write as if they can see into the very soul of an African-American protagonist? I only know of one, and I think she carries it off really well.

There's good reason for it: Straight grew up as virtually the only Caucasian in a Black neighborhood in Riverside, California. Culturally, she considers herself Black.

She's written several good novels, but this one may be the most memorable so far. Her protagonist lives in an almost unreachable island off the Carol
...more
Rebecca
Jun 01, 2013 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Sad book to read, but so interesting. I was surprised to learn about the perspective of another, one I assumed was a lot like me. I don't realize the assumptions I make. For example, the main character, Marietta, is at a football game, wearing her new "Africa" print top. A white man approaches her and asks if this is her first football game. "You're from Africa, right?" When she tells her daughter-in-law about this later, the daughter-in-law says, "What was he going to do if you were? Start ...more
Denise
Apr 27, 2008 Denise rated it really liked it
A compelling novel set (at first) in 1960s backwoods South Carolina. A little tricky to get past the regional black patois at the beginning, but after that a fast read. Very good local color of the Charleston area and later on of Southern California.
jessica
Apr 04, 2007 jessica rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
susan straight is one of my absolute favorite authors. every single book of hers is amazing and will take you to places (i'm thinking that ..) you've never been. if i told you the plot, it wouldn't even begin to do it justice - just read it!
Wendy
Jul 01, 2007 Wendy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: folks
Surprisingly moving - it made me cry on the beach in Australia. I like this Susan Straight: She has a sense of history and an interest in how people get to where they are both geographically and in their interior lives. I want to try more by her.
Evan Snyder
Jul 30, 2016 Evan Snyder rated it liked it
Shelves: bernstein
I had to re-start this one many times, but finally got through it. On the first two attempts I didn't get past the first 20 pages, specifically the very beginning of the book where Marietta is at the basket selling stands with her mother and the other women. Between the Gullah-speak and the sitting around selling baskets, something it seemed neither Marietta nor I cared about at all, I didn't get engaged. However, once she runs away to Charleston, things got more interesting. When all was said ...more
Coralie
Dec 27, 2009 Coralie added it
Shelves: 2009
Marietta grew up in the Low Country of South Carolina, she speaks Gullah but is not from the islands. She is a very large, very black girl who is not a favorite among the women of the neighborhood. She doesn't like to help do the daily work. She would rather fish and hang out in the woods. When Marietta is 15, her mother dies and she tries to escape the control of her aunt and the other neighborhood women by going to Charleston in search of her uncle. In Charleston, Marietta learns about life in ...more
J
Mar 26, 2014 J rated it really liked it
In "I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots" the story begins with the women of Pine Garden, a close knit community formed by the descendants of slaves, selling their wares on the roadside of the highway leading to Charleston, SC. We meet 6 feet tall, 14 year old Marietta, who is described as "wild" beacuse she'd rather spend her days in trees reading or fishing and shrimping with the menfolk than learning the intricate basket weaving technique of the women.

After the sudden death
...more
Jessica
Aug 04, 2011 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Another great read! Since I don't usually read the book description on the inside jacket, I initially had a hard time understanding what was going on with the dialect. After getting into the first few chapters I realized that this it was gullah or creole. The title, an old saying passed on from generation to generation, may lead some readers to believe this book is on the heavy side but it isn't. Sure, the characters face hardships but who doesn't! I love how the author gets you thinking about ...more
Jana
Mar 03, 2008 Jana rated it liked it
i picked up this book because of the title, best title i've ever seen. really good book, you fall into it so far you start thinking in the way the characters speak. getting near the end now tho and having trouble finishing, starting to drag. still, i recommend it. she takes you in so that you don't even realize you are walking along with the main character and seeing everything she sees.
few weeks later..... i can't finish this book. i absolutely loved the first 2/3rds but it's been dragging to m
...more
Susie
Dec 13, 2014 Susie rated it liked it
I am enjoying Susan Straight's writings. Our book club will be discussing a variety of her works and this is the 2nd I have read. Her immersion into the dialects of her characters is fascinating to me. I find myself wondering what her background is. This book takes us through the life of a woman who starts impoverished but with the desire for something different. As with Take One Candle Light a Room we traverse from the south to the LA area (other direction in Candle. Both have been interesting ...more
Poupina
Sep 01, 2016 Poupina rated it liked it
Looks like someone else is a fan of Zora! So I, naturally, had to pick this book up.

"I have been in Sorrow's kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” - Zora Neale Hurston

Straight, with yet another book in dialect - this time in Gullah, spoken in the South Carolinas and sea islands; and, even though I speak French fluently and understand Creole French, I can't say if it's all right in this book. I can sa
...more
Maggie
Mar 10, 2016 Maggie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
good heavens! i thought this book fantastic, in a most positive sense ... whenever i picked it up to read it, i found myself in marietta's world and didn't want to leave ... such an engaging STORY about living as a southern black woman, single mother, smart, hard-working, and devoted to her family yet uneducated and never for an instant narcissistic!! ubuntu -- family/community first ... and the setting for this story is a community i envy ... highly highly recommended! now to find time to read ...more
Jeana
Oct 24, 2008 Jeana rated it liked it
ok. this book is really about style, not plot. the plot isn't anything special. "gullah grrl goes to big city, gets pregnant, comes home, leaves home, raises sons." yay.

but it's the language and the way the language illustrates feeling that is interesting about this book.

interesting. not necessarily compelling. because the plot's so thin, there were many times when i thought, "why, self? why is self reading this?" i did want to know how it ended, but it wasn't that big a deal.

so. one needs to be
...more
Hans
May 04, 2013 Hans rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars - Though this book is often quiet and slow, the result is quite powerful and unexpected...just like the central character Marietta Cook. This is a book that will stick with me for a long time.

(view spoiler)
Stephanie
I'd been hearing the title for a long time and wanted to read this, so when I saw it on the shelf at a library book sale I jumped on it. Susan Straight does an amazing job with the inner thoughts of an introverted woman from rural South Carolina as she travels through life. The dialect is well written and Marietta is definitely a character I care about. That said, The book ended... poorly? Abruptly? Strangely? Like a sequel was coming? Definitely unsatisfying conclusion.
Cynthia
Jan 30, 2009 Cynthia rated it really liked it
Things I Love about this book:
1. The title. Completely awesome.
2. The author's name. Cool.
3. The cover art, by Michael Schwab. The stark print depicts the protagonist, Marietta Cook, from below, half her face in shadow. Her fists appear to be clenched.
4. The author, Susan Straight, is a tiny white woman. Her character Marietta, is a very large woman with blue-black skin. I don't know if this takes cultural sensitivity or just guts, but either way, Straight pulls it off. Loved it.
Shannon Barber
Oct 25, 2011 Shannon Barber rated it really liked it
This is a really lovely novel. I really enjoy Susan Straight's usage of Gullah. In general the language in this book is very beautiful, compelling and well worth the read. I will say that if you are a person who has trouble reading dialects this book may not be for you. If you have read Irvine Welsh's books and had trouble this one may take some time.
Marina Aimer
Nov 14, 2012 Marina Aimer rated it it was amazing
What an incredible story! I read it years ago and again several months ago, and it just stays with me. Marietta is such a strong and admirable character. I love the sense of place in the work, and the many rich details. I think about her when I have difficult choices to make, or when hardship finds me and I am tempted to complain... Excellent story!
Mylissa
Sep 07, 2015 Mylissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-books
I was really intrigued by this book because I wasn't really sure where it was headed. It meandered here, it meandered there, there were sorrows, there were joys, failures and successes. An interesting tale of a woman finding herself, long after she is a grown woman and helping others on the way to finding themselves.
Chris Laskey
Jun 23, 2016 Chris Laskey rated it really liked it
2nd Read. The amazing journey of Marietta- Big Ma - providing the reader with a powerful and revealing work, that while fiction, reads like a biography. It feels that real. Straight captures various cultural styles from dirt poor southern Gullah through L.A low and high suburbs all in dialect and manners that feels thoroughly authentic.
Tammey
Feb 10, 2014 Tammey rated it it was amazing
Such an awesome read. I picked this book up on a clearance, not really expecting much until I read the first page. I was hooked from the beginning. The dialect was a little confusing at first, but once I immersed myself, it flowed like honey. The main character, Marietta Cook, is the epitome of resilience. Highly recommend.
Suzie
Mar 24, 2008 Suzie rated it really liked it
I read this book about 8 years ago or so. I was struggling a little with baby blues and the title just grabbed me. Could not put this book down. I really would like to re read this book at some point.
Barbara
Oct 05, 2012 Barbara rated it really liked it
This is the second time I've read this book, and I loved it. It's a little difficult to understand the gulla dialogue, but Marietta is an amazing woman who overcame poverty and loneliness to make a life for herself and her twin boys ("weself")!
Jane
Jul 10, 2007 Jane rated it really liked it
I stumbled on this book by accident, had never heard a thing about it, which made its greatness all the more sideswipingly astonishing. A powerful story with delicately drawn characters and amazing dialogue without a skerrick of sentimentality. Just beautiful.
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Susan Straight's newest novel is "Between Heaven and Here." It is the last in the Rio Seco Trilogy, which began with "A Million Nightingales" and "Take One Candle Light a Room." She has published eight novels, a novel for young readers and a children's book. She has also written essays and articles for numerous national publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Nation and
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