Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Part 2: High School, Chapter 15

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 2: High School, Chapter 15 of Anne Moody's memoir Coming of Age in Mississippi.

Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 2, Chapter 15 : High School | Summary



When Anne goes back to school in the fall, she's bored by the work and earns good grades without trying. Her classmates now seem childish. To challenge herself she stays busy with extracurricular activities like gymnastics and tumbling, basketball, and playwriting. At a school talent show Anne and her friends perform an African dance and get in trouble for their skimpy outfits.

In the summer Anne returns to New Orleans. She finds work washing dishes at a restaurant called Maple Hill. At first she's overwhelmed by the fast-paced work and all the good food white customers throw away. But she enjoys working with Grandma Winnie. She's surprised by all the attention she receives from male waiters and cooks. Two coworkers, Lily White and Lola, are men whose feminine appearance and features confuse Anne. As she rides the bus home with Winnie, she reflects on Winnie's "life of hardship." Her grandmother always hoped for a better life but never found one.

Anne starts busing dishes at Maple Hill and later becomes a waitress. She initially struggles to fit in with her coworkers but soon begins to like the job and atmosphere. She befriends Lily White, whose given name is James, and goes to see one of his dance performances. Though Lola first intimidates Anne, he gives her fashion and styling advice she learns to appreciate.


This chapter shows Anne's physical and psychological growth. She's increasingly dissatisfied with the school activities she once enjoyed, and feels distant from the world around her. She wonders why no one else sees what she sees or experiences the world the way she does. Anne will continue to feel this way throughout the book as she searches for community and a sense of purpose. Her changes demonstrate the universal trauma and confusion of coming of age.

At Maple Hill she feels the culture shock of a transition from rural to urban life. The contrast between "Mississippi rednecks" and New Orleans city dwellers makes her feel even more out of place. For the first time she observes gender fluidity and homosexuality in the black community, and sees how black people can thrive outside of the cultural mainstream. And her mastery of different restaurant jobs gives her assurance she can live independently and thrive, too.

Anne's redefining and recreating herself. Lola's interest in her appearance helps Anne, always interested in clothing and self-presentation, discover she can use her wardrobe to shape whatever identity she chooses.

When Anne thinks about older female members of her family, she sees their lack of self-determination and hope. Winnie has sacrificed her own dreams for her children. Mama's allowed hardship to discourage her. Anne longs to be different. This growing dissatisfaction will finally lead her to leave home forever.

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