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The Justus Girls

About the Book

The Justus Girls

[The] lesson in boys, booze and music would stay with Rachael forever. Of equal importance was the knowledge of having a true friend, someone who had your back, who would stand up to a houseful of guys way across town, in the name of friendship. She vowed that day to return the favor, if Peach ever needed her.

Rachael, called Roach by her friends and later renamed Rasheeda in her Muslim faith, is one of four tight girlfriends growing up in West Philly during the 1950s and 60s. Along with Peaches, Sally Mae (“Mustang Sally”), and Jan, Roach navigates the storms of living in a tough, blue-collar neighborhood.

The four girls, daughters of the porters, maids, and factory workers “who took the early bus,” begin to call themselves the Justus Girls in the late 1950s after they form a high-stepping precision drill team that becomes a local sensation. The Justus Girls rapped before there was a Snoop Dog, shook their booty before anyone dreamed of Destiny’s Child. But when Slim Lambright’s richly told tale of African-American life and women friends opens, it is thirty years later, and Peaches has just been murdered. The question for the remaining Justus Girls is only partly who killed the wild child, who became a hard-drinking, hard-living waitress at the White Devil Bar and Grill. What the Justus Girls need to resolve even more urgently, as memories return and secrets emerge, is how their friendship failed her.

Examining each woman’s life in a series of flashbacks, Slim Lambright turns a tough, unflinching gaze at a wide spectrum of black life. Foster homes and matriarchal families, country ways versus city street smarts, Baptist churches and Muslim temples, loving drag queens and child-molesting old men come alive in a narrative that sways with rhythm and jumps with the beat of the Marvelettes, Temptations, and Tina Turner and the Ikettes. And as the Justus Girls make the passage from childhood to womanhood, their futures are shaped by alcohol, sex, the husbands they choose, and the dreams they pursue. For Peaches, life will end in a gunshot. For the other Justus Girls, that sharp, sudden tragedy is a wake-up call to complete their journey of finding themselves.

Slim Lambright’s original, exciting voice offers up emotional truths, challenging us all to examine our personal and cultural values in a novel with soul -- and a huge heart.

The Justus Girls
by Slim Lambright

  • Publication Date: June 19, 2001
  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0060184760
  • ISBN-13: 9780060184766