Who Does She Think She Is?: A Novel

Who Does She Think She Is?: A Novel

by Benilde Little


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Who Does She Think She Is? is a richly evocative multigenerational story of three irrepressible women from the bestselling author of Good Hair and The Itch.

Aisha Branch is in the midst of planning her elaborate wedding to a White man from old-line wealth when the unthinkable happens—she falls for another man, hard. All the drama stirs up old feelings in her mother and grandmother, and as Aisha confronts a painful dilemma, the three Branch women take turns telling their own stories, reflecting separately on their lives and relationships. With her signature dry wit, quietly resonant insight and sharp yet compassionate eye, Benilde Little deftly explores one family’s expectations, anxieties, and abiding love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684854830
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 06/01/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 903,228
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.44(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Benilde Little is the bestselling author of the novels Good Hair (selected as one of the ten best books of 1996 by the Los Angeles Times), The Itch, Acting Out, and Who Does She Think She Is? A former reporter for People and senior editor at Essence, she lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband and son. Her daughter is away at college. Follower her on Twitter and Instagram @BenildeLittle and read her blog, Welcome to My Breakdown, at BenildeLittle.Wordpress.com.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Aisha Branch McCovney, daughter of Camille Branch and stepdaughter of Lemuel McCovney of Llewellyn Park, will marry Harrison "Will" Fitzhugh, son of Meredith Powell Fitzhugh Martin of New York and Venice and William Garrison Fitzhugh of New York and Millbrook. The couple will wed at the groom's family home in Newport, Rhode Island next June.

The bride, twenty-six, graduated from Newark Academy in Livingston and cum laude from the University of Virginia, and is an assistant media buyer with Rowe/Day, the advertising firm. The groom, twenty-seven, graduated from Harvard and the Sorbonne, and is an art director at the same firm, which is where the couple met.

The bride's stepfather is the senior partner of the law firm McCovney, Lewis & Brown, in East Orange. The bride's mother is the head of social work at the Newark Emergency Services for Children.

The bridegroom's father is a private investor. The bridegroom's mother is a painter. The bridegroom's great-grandfather, Garrison Granger Fitzhugh, was founding partner of the Continental Insurance Company; his grandfather, Granger William Fitzhugh, was CEO. The groom's maternal great-grandfather founded Mercantile Steel.

Geneva sighed and neatly folded a copy of the hometown newspaper, placing it on the kitchen table so that Mabel, the lady who comes twice a week to tidy things up a bit, could see the announcement. Baby girl getting married, Mabel would say. Seems like just yesterday she was runnin' through this house wit' me yellin' after her to slow down. Always was in a rush. That little girl was someum' else. Marrying a White boy, a rich White boy. You go 'head, Miss I-esh-a. Miss Geneva can die a happy woman now—her grandbaby finally doing it right, she'd say, always emphasizing the I sound at the beginning of her name, I-e-sha, driving Geneva crazy in the process.

The phones started ringing, as Geneva knew they would once the news landed in the Beacon-Herald.

"Yes, Pearl, that's my little Aisha. Mm-hmm, she's twenty-six already. I know, seems like we just had her christened."

"Yes, I'm very pleased. He's a very nice young man, comes from a very respectable family."

"Well, I know, you seeing more and more of it these days. The girls say there just aren't that many of our men to go around, you know, who are going on, finishing their education and stretching themselves."

"Yes, I suppose you're right. It's a different world."

"Alright now, mmmm, and thank you for calling. Yes, see you at church."

"'Bye now."

She hung up her kitchen wall phone.

There was still a lot to be done. Camille is so lackadaisical. You have to stay on her about every detail. She was supposed to start calling florists to get estimates. She gets so caught up with her so-called clients and tryin' to save the world, she'd forget her own head if it wasn't attached and if it didn't have all that hair and mess everywhere.

Geneva exhaled in exasperation, as she'd been doing for most of Camille's forty-five years. She took a last sip of tea and put the cup in the sink, turned on the water and swirled it around the ring in the cup.

At seventy she had more energy than many twenty years younger.

"Ew, look at the time," she said to no one. "I'm going to be late for service."

Geneva would not be late; she never was, for anything. What she would be was not early. She'd already laid out what she was going to wear — her coral suit, matching hat, beige pumps, hose and purse.

She was alone now in the high ranch she and her late husband, Major, had bought with an eye toward their twilight years. Now, the wide halls and spacious rooms were too much for just one person, but she couldn't bring herself to part with it. If she really tried she could still smell Major's aftershave in the master bath and the smell comforted her, just the way she liked — in private.

Geneva wheeled her late model Buick around the church parking lot, mumbling curse words because her usual parking space was taken, as were all the choice spots. And to add insult, she didn't even know the offender. Used to be time when she knew everybody who was a member of First Presbyterian, but now they got all kinds of new people coming in, driving these awful trucks, vans, SUBs, whatever they're called, taking up two spaces. It's just abominable. Camille and Lem of course had one and had the nerve to be a Cadillac — it's just foolishness. Geneva ended up having to park on the street. Walking up to the church, seeing it from the front, she was struck by how beautiful the architecture was and for a moment she felt sad that Aisha wouldn't be getting married there. It would be nice to continue the tradition, but what was she talking about, Camille killed that idea a long time ago, going and getting herself in trouble like some common...

The sedate organ music took Geneva's mind off her daughter for a while and she smiled as she walked down the aisle to her seat in the third pew, right aisle. She mouthed thank-yous to the ladies who wordlessly complimented her hat, and sat down.

Marjorie Blessitt sang "How Blessed Thou Art" and Geneva let the music soothe her soul.

Copyright © 2005 by Benilde Little

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for Who Does She Think She Is?
1) What are the main generational differences between Aisha, Camille and Geneva? How do these differences manifest in each woman?
2) Discuss the men in the novel. How do they differ from generation to generation? How does race affect the men in the novel, and how the women perceive them?
3) What do you think first attracts Aisha to Will and vice versa? What is the main reason Aisha agrees to marry Will, and how does her perception of him change throughout the novel?
4) Both Geneva and Camille have different views on how to raise children. What are their main differences of opinion? Which views do you relate to the most and why?
5) Discuss Miles and Aisha's relationship. Why do you think their initial attraction is so strong? What is the overall effect of their significant age difference? Do you think their relationship is a strong one? Why or why not?
6) Abby and Geneva are from roughly the same generation—they are only 10 years apart in age—but they have very different perceptions and opinions of the world. Compare and contrast their characters. Why do you think Geneva is at first reluctant to accept Abby into her life, in sharp contrast with both Aisha and Camille?
7) Describe Aisha and Cedra's friendship. How do their personalities differ? Why do you think they begin to grow apart?
8) What prompts Geneva to reconcile her relationship with both M.J. and Camille? What was the reason for the emotional distance between herself and her children? How much of this estrangement was a result of generational differences and how much was more personal?
9) For much of the novel, Aisha finds herself dissatisfied with her work while, in contrast, Camille is very fulfilled by her line of work. How do their professions give these characters a sense of identity? What do their professions say about their personalities? What does Aisha's drastic career change from fashion magazines to charity work signify?
10) How are the three main characters most changed throughout the novel? Do you identify with Geneva, Camille or Aisha? Why? Where do you envision these women in the future?

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