Day 9 of the A to Z Challenge is the letter “J”:
J is for Jubie Lee Franklin
The fact that Miss Jubie Lee Franklin is not one of my point-of-view characters in The Red Kimono does not minimize her importance to the story. Nor does it minimize my affection for her.
Jubie is a young Black girl from the town of McGehee, Arkansas, near the Rohwer Relocation Center where Sachi and her family are sent for internment. She’s a sassy, spunky, adventurous, mischievous girl–almost the opposite of Sachi. Even the color of their skin is as different as can be, but they share one important thing–both of their fathers were killed because of the color of their skin.
I based Jubie on two friends that lived across the street from us when I was growing up in California. As a little girl (and even sometimes today) I was shy and inhibited. But Maria and Nina were funny, spunky and sassy. I remember watching them when they’d come over, practically in awe of their free spirits and often wishing I could be more like them. I so loved the sound of their laughter, I can still hear it today.
Though I don’t have any photos of either Maria or Nina as little girls, thanks to Facebook, Nina has shared a photo of her daughter, Kendall. Kendall looks much as I remember Nina at that age, and she is the perfect representation of what Jubie looked like in my mind as I wrote her scenes.
Jubie may not have been a point-of-view character in The Red Kimono, but I came to love her so much she is one of the “stars” of the sequel.
MORAL TO THIS STORY? Have you ever seen the t-shirts that say, “Be careful. You might end up in my novel?” Better watch out. Sometimes it really happens. 🙂
In the following excerpt, it’s Valentine’s Day. Sachi has just arrived at Jubie’s house to perform dances they have taught each other for Jubie’s mother and aunt. Sachi will be dancing the jitterbug, wearing Mrs. Franklin’s poofy red skirt, and Jubie will be dancing a Japanese dance, wearing Sachi’s mother’s red kimono that Sachi “borrowed” without permission.
Sachi picked up a cookie and took a bite. Turning to walk down the tiny hall, she called back. “Thank you, Mrs. Franklin.” At Jubie’s bedroom doorway, she announced, “I’m here! Your mama made us some cookies.”
“I know,” Jubie said, and rushed to her closet. “Looky here! Mama found this skirt for you to wear when you do your jitterbug.” She held up a red skirt with a poofy white lace slip.
“Ooh! With that on, even my jitterbug will look good.”
Jubie held it to Sachi’s waist. “Might have to pin it to make it fit.”
Sachi took her backpack off and put it on Jubie’s bed. “I have something for you, too.” Slowly, and with great drama, she pulled the red kimono out.
Jubie’s eyes widened. “Lordy, lordy. Ain’t that pretty!” She touched the red silk, then traced a white crane with her slender, dark fingers.
“It’s my mama’s,” Sachi whispered. “So you’ll need to be very careful with it.”
“’Course I will. Can I put it on now?”
“Yes! I’ll help you. I didn’t bring the obi—that’s the belt. There are too many pieces to a kimono. It would take us forever to put it all on properly. Today, we’ll just tie it together with your belt.”
Jubie slid the kimono on over her clothes, gently running her hands over the silk. “I ain’t never touched nothing so soft before. So cool and smooth. I ain’t never gonna wanna take it off.” She pulled the belt from the loops of her blue jeans.
“I almost forgot,” Sachi exclaimed, rummaging again through her satchel. “I made this for you.” She pulled out a white envelope that said “Jubie” on the front. When she noticed half of the envelope from Private Collins was stuck to Jubie’s card, her eyes widened, and she grabbed it and shoved it back in the satchel.
Jubie’s gaze first followed Sachi’s swift hand to the backpack, then to the card Sachi held for her. “For me?” She gently opened the envelope and smiled. “You made this? It’s so pretty. I ain’t never had no handmade valentine card before.”
“You can put it in the valentines box you made.”
Jubie frowned. “I don’t have a card for you,” she whispered, then burst into a sly smile and opened her nightstand drawer. “But I do have this.” She handed Sachi something wrapped in a cloth napkin.
Sachi carefully opened the red-stained napkin and found inside a heart-shaped cookie, decorated with red frosting. “Jubie! It’s beautiful, and delicious, too, I’ll bet.”
“Yeah, it’s good all right. I know ’cause I ate all the ones with mistakes. ’Bout five of ’em.” She stuck out her tongue and held up her hands. “See? I got red all over me.”
Sachi took a bite. “Mmm. Best valentine cookie I’ve ever had.”
Jubie watched Sachi quietly. That was kind of unusual for Jubie—to be quiet.
“What?” Sachi asked.
“Mind if I ask you what was that piece of envelope you tried so hard to hide?”
It was a long story, and Sachi didn’t feel like explaining the whole thing. “It was nothing. Just a piece of garbage that was at the bottom of my pack.”
Jubie rolled her eyes. “You a bad liar. But anyways, for some reason you don’t wanna talk about it now.” She picked up the red skirt. “Okay. Put this on. You just let me know when you ready to talk, hear?”
“I know.” Sachi fluffed up the skirt and swirled around. “How do I look?”
Bunching up the waistline, Jubie replied, “Almost perfect.” She called into the living room. “Ma, we need some help taking in the skirt now.”
Mrs. Franklin and Auntie Bess appeared at the bedroom door. “Ooh, don’t you girls look pretty,” Mrs. Franklin said.
Auntie Bess clapped her hands. “Sachi, what a fine-looking robe you brought for Jubie to wear.”
Jubie extended her arms and slowly turned around. “It’s a kimono, Auntie Bess. And it’s Sachi’s mama’s.”
Sachi felt her cheeks burn, and she wished Jubie hadn’t told them that part.