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What is Everyday Use by Alice Walker about?

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Quick Answer

"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker is about a reunion between an African-American woman, Mrs. Johnson, and her daughter, Dee. Dee's time away from her family at college has changed her, and both the mother and the daughter no longer understand each other.

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Full Answer

The story begins with Mrs. Johnson and her youngest daughter, Maggie, waiting for Dee to arrive. Dee arrives with a Muslim man who is either her boyfriend or husband, although her mother never asks if they are married. Dee uses a traditional African greeting, while the man uses a Muslim greeting and intimidates Maggie by attempting a unique handshake with her. Dee also tells her mother that she has taken a new name, "Wangero," because the name "Dee" comes from those who oppressed her.

The man doesn't eat the collard greens or pork Mrs. Johnson has prepared. During and after dinner, Dee asks for several of her mother's items, including a butter churn that her uncle carved from a tree, and quilts made from her grandmother's clothing. However, she only wants the items for decoration. Mrs. Johnson refuses to give her the quilts, as she plans to give them to Maggie, who could actually use them. Dee and the man leave, with Dee claiming that neither Mrs. Johnson nor Maggie understands their heritage.

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