A Peek at a Girlhood Diary: 'Miss American Pie'

Margaret Sartor

Margaret Sartor teaches at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. hide caption

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A Bill Withers Memory

Margaret Sartor offers up an account of growing up in Louisiana in Miss American Pie: A Diary of Love, Secrets, and Growing Up in the 1970s. The book offers a memoir of adolescence, told through diary entries written during Sartor's girlhood.

Sartor began writing diary entries at the age of 12 and a half. It was a five-year diary, Sartor writes, "but I filled it up in three [years]. I continue to keep diaries."

Sartor is an editor of books including What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney and Their Eyes Meeting the World, by Robert Coles.

Excerpt: 'Miss American Pie'

Cover

1972

"It wasn't my hair. It was a tree."

July 1

Spent the night with Wanda and a bunch of boys came over. We were all talking outside and Tony sat by me, so Wanda got mad because she likes Tony. Now I like Tony but I'm afraid to tell Wanda.

July 3

A 111 year old lady in our church died yesterday. I thought she was already dead.

July 13

I was at Wanda's and we were listening to her Bill Withers record ("Lean On Me" is my favorite song) and I thought I was getting sick because my stomach started hurting, but I went to the bathroom and my underwear was all brown (I thought it would be red) and I realized I had started my period!! I stuffed my underwear full of toilet paper and didn't tell Wanda and I went home. Mama gave me a belt and a Kotex pad and some aspirin and now I'm having cramps and feel like I'm wearing a diaper.

July 14

Candy is limping again. Getting poison ivy. Wish I had a drink.

July 15

Switched hiding place of diary. Taking pills to stop itching of poison ivy.

July 16

George the dog got hold of a kitten. I took it to Dr. Cummings and he put it to sleep because two legs & its backbone were broken.

- 1972 -

July 17

I found another cat & kittens at the stables and brought them home so George wouldn't get them.

July 23

Wore a halter top today. Bought a new bra.

July 25

My parents told me I could change to River View (the new white school) if I wanted but I don't. Tommy Townsend next door says he might have to.

July 27

I remember exactly when Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed because I was in the kitchen and Mrs. Stringfellow from down the street was there and she said, "Maybe it's for the best" and Mama made me go outside.

July 30

There was a picture in the paper of a wood statue of the Virgin Mary in New Orleans with tears in her eyes and her nose dripping. I taped it on the wall in my room.

August 1

The squirrel died and I buried her in the horse pen.

August 4

Pam made fun of me in front of Tommy Townsend because I was swishing my spit without realizing it. I got mad and Pam said I'm too serious by half. She can be such a pissbutt.

August 9

Today everyone was angry. Mama was angry at Stella and Mary, who were angry at each other. Mama was angry at Daddy because he didn't care enough about who was angry. Daddy left and Stella started crying and Mary went outside and slammed the door. Mama made a racket in the kitchen. Bill went to his room and read comic books. I hated it.

August 10

Stella left for college today and Mary leaves for college in a week. At dinner, Momma Doll said, "My granddaughters are growing up too fast." (It doesn't seem too fast to me.)

August 11

Wanda spent the night. We drank vodka, gin, bourbon with Tab.

My parents never notice because I pour a little bit out of each bottle. I heard Mama say that the newspaper said that President Nixon says the war in Vietnam is over.

August 12

I'm 13 years old — officially a teenager. Got a set of heat rollers.

August 13

We had a garage sale at our house and I made $2.05. Mary

made $60.

August 14

Mary and Stella have baby books with lots of pictures and writing. My baby book has only three pictures and Bill doesn't even have a baby book. That's why I tell him he's adopted.

- 1972 -

August 15

Rode with Pam in the woods & had two glasses of vodka and orange juice. (screwballs)

August 16

Mary's boyfriend Riley is here to pick her up to take her back to college. We all like him. He's going to visit here for a few days and sleep on the living room sofa.

August 17

After dinner Daddy set up the movie projector and showed old family movies. Mary was so embarrassed in front of Riley that shewent to her room and cried but Daddy didn't notice. I thought the movies were funny. Up until the sixth grade, I was a really cute kid.

August 20

I think I like E.N. (His real name is Edgar Napoleon.)

August 22

First day of 8th grade at Robert E. Lee Junior High. I was introduced at assembly as the new mascot but I didn't have to wear the costume. I have a good schedule — except mean old Mrs. Potts.

August 23

Saw E.N. but I didn't talk to him because I couldn't think of anything to say.

August 24

Daddy took piano lessons for NINE years! He said his mother made Uncle Henry take violin lessons, but Uncle Henry hated it. So one day Uncle Henry got so fed up he smashed his violin to pieces and that was that.

August 26

Rode Rex. He reared and acted bad and I could hardly control him. Storm warnings were out.

September 1

At the Montgomery High football game there was a Jesus freak out on the track praying for everyone and people were making fun of him. I felt sorry for him.

Books Featured In This Story

Miss American Pie

A Diary of Love, Secrets, and Growing Up in the 1970s

by Margaret Sartor

Hardcover, 272 pages | purchase

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Miss American Pie
Subtitle
A Diary of Love, Secrets, and Growing Up in the 1970s
Author
Margaret Sartor

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Lean on Me: The Best of Bill Withers

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Lean on Me: The Best of Bill Withers
Artist
Bill Withers
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Released
1994

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