Summary: Chapter 7: Marriage on Ice

The police cannot find Zizmo’s body, but the family receives special permission from the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Chicago to hold an Orthodox funeral. At the funeral, Sourmelina grieves deeply, showing more attention to her husband than she did during his life. When the forty-day mourning period ends, she puts on an orange dress instead of wearing black for the rest of her life.

Desdemona asks Sourmelina how to avoid getting pregnant. Celibacy is the only way Sourmelina knows, so Desdemona refuses to have sex with Lefty. This angers and hurts him, so he reinstitutes sex segregation in the household.

Lefty tries to find a job but lacks credentials. Eventually, he opens a speakeasy called The Zebra Room in the basement. He becomes an excellent barkeep, and the speakeasy is popular. It’s not the casino he once dreamed of opening, but he works hard and enjoys it.

Desdemona continues to eschew sex but sometimes gives in, as much from her own need as Lefty’s. She gets pregnant and gives birth to a daughter, Zoë, who had no birth defects. The house begins to feel crowded, so Sourmelina and Theodora move into the boarding house next door.

The Great Depression hits, and Lefty loses customers rapidly. One night, he stares at Desdemona, asleep in bed with the children, and feels alienated from his family. He demands she find a job.Desdemona sees an ad for a silk worker in the classifieds. She takes the trolley to the address and finds herself in the Black neighborhood of Detroit. There she meets Sister Wanda, who placed the advertisement, at a temple. Sister Wanda tells Desdemona that she can’t hire a white person because the head of the temple, Minister Fard, preaches self-reliance. However, when Desdemona explains she was born in Turkey, Sister Wanda coyly suggests that might mean she’s mixed race. Desdemona agrees and gets the job.

This temple is the headquarters of The Nation of Islam, a Black religious and cultural liberation movement founded by Minister Fard, though he goes by many names and has a mysterious past.