Cover image for Sugar's life in the hood : the story of a former welfare mother
Sugar's life in the hood : the story of a former welfare mother
Turner, Sugar, 1945-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Austin : University of Texas Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xxi, 243 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.97.T98 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



All her life, Sugar Turner has had to hustle to survive. An African American woman living in the inner city, she has been a single mother juggling welfare checks, food stamps, boyfriends and husbands, illegal jobs, and home businesses to make ends meet for herself and her five children. Her life' path has also wandered through the wilderness of crack addiction and prostitution, but her strong faith in God and her willingness to work hard for a better life pulled her through. Today, Turner is off welfare and is completing her education. She is computer literate, holds a job in the local school system, has sent three of her children to college, and is happily married. In this engrossing book, Sugar Turner collaborates with anthropologist Tracy Bachrach Ehlers in telling her story. Through conversations with Ehlers, diary entries, and letters, Turner vividly and openly describes all aspects of her life, including motherhood, relationships with men, welfare and work, and her attachment to her friends, family, and life in the "hood." Ehlers also gives her reactions to Turner' story, discussing not only how it belies the "welfare queen" stereotype, but also how it forced her to confront her own lingering confusions about race, her own bigotry. What emerges from this book is a fascinating story of two women from radically different backgrounds becoming equal witnesses to each other' lives. By allowing us into the real world of an inner-city African American mother, they replace with compassion and insight the stereotypes, half-truths, and scorn that too often dominate public discourse.

Author Notes

Sugar Turner is the pseudonym the subject of this book has chosen to protect her privacy. She lives in an African American neighborhood in a midwestern city and works as a community outreach director for the local school system
Tracy Bachrach Ehlers is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Denver. In 2001, she was named University Scholar/Teacher of the Year by the United Methodist Church

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

The phrase welfare mother appears regularly in newspaper articles and is heard frequently on television news programs. This book provides a much-needed context for that all-too-common expression. Turner and coauthor Ehlers, an anthropology professor, tell the story of a single mother living from welfare check to welfare check, battling an addiction to crack and resorting now and then to prostitution to feed herself and her children. Relying on an unshakable determination to escape poverty and not succumb to hopelessness, Turner successfully pulled herself out of this life and into a better one. Now working in the school system in a midwestern city (we aren't told exactly where), Turner, who never tells us her real name, looks back on her 17 years at the bottom with wisdom and honesty. Inspirational is a much overused term, but it applies here. It's impossible to read this book and not develop an intense respect and admiration for the author. A moving look at the welfare life and a powerful testament to one woman's strength and resilience. David Pitt

Table of Contents

Molly Ivins
Forewordp. ix
Sugar's Prefacep. xiii
Sugar's Shoutsp. xvii
Tracy's Acknowledgmentsp. xix
Tracy's Introductionp. 1
1. The List of Menp. 31
2. The Hustle: Welfare and Workp. 68
3. The Mr. Lester Chroniclesp. 131
4. Mother, Daughter, Sister, Womanp. 160
5. Feeling Blessedp. 214
Epiloguep. 231