Ordinary Times; Extraordinary Measures
by Danielle Davis
About the book
Neomi Jean Hattisburg is a young Negro woman who comes of age during the Jim Crow South of the 1930s. Her father, a railroad porter, and her mother, a domestic worker, instill in Neomi and her brother a strong sense of faith and respect. Neomi, however, finds herself confused because of her appearance, (she looks White), and the way she is treated by Whites and Negroes as a result.
Prospects for employment for Negroes is limited pretty much to domestic work or the town factory. It’s not the life Neomi wants for herself and she feels rebellious; determined that she is meant for more, but unsure what or how. When she falls in love with Moses Jackson, a young man she never paid attention to when they attended the Negro school together, his focused plans to attend college and become an attorney to work for civil rights helps her gain clarity of her own. They make plans together to further their education and eventually marry.
Their plans are interrupted by the outbreak of WWII and the bombing of Pearl Harbor when Moses feels compelled to enlist in the armed services. As he goes through training with the 332nd Airborne Unit, Neomi continues to save toward their dreams, working as a domestic worker in the home of a wealthy white family.
One evening, while working late, Neomi is raped by the son of her employers. Overwhelmed by shame and unwarranted guilt, the discovery several weeks later that she is pregnant makes her decide that, in order to avoid bringing shame on Moses and her family, she must leave, and start a new life elsewhere. Knowing that it will be difficult to provide for herself and her child with employment available to Negroes, she decides to pass for White. Taking the savings she’d been putting away for her life with Moses, she makes her way to Chicago to start her new life.
In Chicago, she manages to secure employment on the sales floor in a major department store. She sets about living a White life, telling everyone her “husband” was lost in the war to explain her growing pregnancy. Over the next few years, she gives birth to a daughter, makes her way up to department head at the store, and works hard to forget Moses. It is in the store that Ted, the son and heir to the department store chain, notices and takes interest in her. They begin dating and eventually marry.
The marriage is successful in that they truly love each other and Ted steps in as a great dad to Neomi’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter. Neomi finds herself living a lifestyle she could only have imagined, even though she must come to terms with herself over living a privileged life while her own people struggle for equality.
The first child she and her husband have together looks just like Ted, and it only solidifies their marriage. However, when their second child is born, he is obviously a Negro, and Neomi’s false world falls to pieces. It is the journey Neomi must travel, the trials and tribulations her choices bring her to during turbulent times, and the faith that gets her through it all, that combine to make Ordinary Times; Extraordinary Measures not only a must-read, but also a must movie project.
October 20, 2020