Patricia L. Bostic was born during World War II when racial segregation is a way of life, particularly in the south. A few years earlier in the small cotton mill town, her father’s poor judgment forces her parents and eventually their eight children to live in a crude, unpainted, three-room dwelling located in an isolated area of four houses for African Americans. They have no electricity or running water, and a stone-covered spring in the woods becomes a special place for mischief. A single tree, a chinaberry, adjacent to the house serves many purposes.
Home, church, and school are the Littletons’ family core, while their experiences are laced with fun, humor, and mischief. However, when temperamental Hazel, an adult bully, moves next door, there are conflicts, which escalate into unnerving, dangerous situations, especially with Patricia’s easygoing, soft-spoken mother. Hazel ridicules Patricia, who is smart, timid, and labeled a crybaby and stubborn in school.
How can the family escape Hazel’s frightening torture and mockery? Will they ever be able to dig out of the hole that keeps them captive in their cramped shelter?
By high school, Patricia blossoms and becomes popular. In preparation for college, she wonders about those wooden nickels of which her father warns. What will be her victory?