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Literature / Iggie's House

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Not everything is as simple as black and white.
Iggie's House is a 1970 young adult novel by Judy Blume. The story concerns Winnie Barringer, whose best friend Iggie has moved away. The new family moving into Iggie's house are the first African Americans in the neighborhood, the Garbers. While Winnie is quick to make friends with the new kids, she realizes that some people, possibly including her own parents, have trouble seeing past a person's color. She also deals with her own preconceived notions about Black people as she tries to keep the peace between herself and her new friends.

This book provides examples of

  • Armor-Piercing Slap: At one point Winnie loses her temper with Herbie's caustic sarcasm, slaps him across the face, and accuses him of hating anyone who is white.
  • Berserker Tears: Both Herbie and Winnie experience this after seeing the hateful sign Mrs. Landon and Clarice plant on the Garbers' front lawn. Winnie flees home in hysterics, alarming her mother who believes she is sick.
  • Big Friendly Dog: The Garber kids get one by the name of Woozie.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dorothy Landon is described by Winnie as having an immaculate exterior who happens to be involved in a lot of local causes and as never raising her voice, but the woman is also a controlling germ-phobe and a racist - although she'll deny she has anything against the Garbers and will claim she's only acting out of "concern" for their safety and happiness. That facade begins to crack when she leaves a hateful sign on the Garbers' front lawn expressly telling them to leave because "their kind" isn't wanted around there, and completely disintegrates near the end of the story as she all but admits she does hate the Garbers because of their race and tries to convince her neighbors to move away before people like the Garbers turn the neighborhood into a "ghetto."
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  • Cool Aunt: Aunt Myrna compared to Winnie's own mother. Myrna lets Winnie do her own thing without much of any interference.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Herbie is bitingly sarcastic at times, and Winnie finds this hard to take.
  • The Ghost: Iggie. Winnie keeps trying to write a letter to her, but something ends up happening that causes her to tear up her previous letter and start over. By the end of the story, Winnie finally finishes the letter and mails it.
    • Also, Winnie's older brother, Matthew, who is away at camp during the events of that turbulent summer. The book ends with Winnie and her parents going to pick him up. However, Matthew doesn't figure into the overall plot of the story like Iggie does.
  • Henpecked Husband: Winnie privately mocks Mr. Landon as the type to just go along with what his wife says.
  • Jerkass: Big Red, who gets Winnie in trouble for going into the public swimming pool without a bathing cap on. To be fair, he does it as revenge for a joke Winnie plays on him earlier in the book in which she fools Big Red into believing the Garbers are from Africa.
    • Mrs. Landon is probably the biggest one of all.
  • Lying to Protect Your Feelings: Winnie lies to the Garbers about there being other Black families in the neighborhood so as not to make them uncomfortable. Herbie isn't fooled.
  • Modesty Towel: A neighbor lady, Mrs. Axel, wears this and nothing else when sunbathing in her backyard, according to Winnie.
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  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Landon is explained to Winnie as this by a Mr. Berger. It makes Winnie begin to sympathize with Clarice, since it isn't Clarice's fault her mother behaves this way.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Big Red.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Winnie experiences this several times on her first meeting with the Garbers, including asking if they're from Africa and, upon finding out they're from Detroit, asking them if they participated in the 1967 riots and if their father looted stores to get shoes for them. Glenn has the perfect response to clue Winnie in that she's said the wrong thing: "Is that how your father gets shoes for you?"
  • Playing House: Winnie Barringer and the three Garber children play house in a house that's being constructed in the neighborhood while they're on their way to a picnic near the end of the story.
  • The Runaway: Winnie wants to run away from home when her parents think of also leaving the neighborhood, with the intention of stowing away aboard a ship to find her friend Iggie in Japan, but after her parents change their minds about moving, Winnie decides not to run away. She is, however, disappointed that her parents' attitudes toward the Garbers have not evolved.
  • The '60s: In addition to touching on the decade's turbulent race relations and resistance to integration, the book references the 1967 Detroit riots. Another sign of the times is the use of the word "Negro" to refer to Black people, which was considered acceptable then (the term "African-American" would not come into common usage until some time later). Sadly, despite these markers that date the story to the late 1960s, the themes remain very relevant today.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Grove Street is a nice (and predominantly white) suburban neighborhood with some racist households like the Landons that want to keep it that way.
  • Terrified of Germs: Dorothy Landon is so terrified of her daughter Clarice touching, eating, or drinking anything that isn't hers, that Winnie Barringer often refers to the mother as Germs, Inc.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Winnie was looking forward to eating cherry tarts for dessert, but they never get touched as Dorothy Landon interrupts the Barringers' dinner to threaten them into leaving the neighborhood before people like the Garbers take over, only to get epically told off by Winnie's father (though Winnie later realizes this is primarily because he's tired of Mrs. Landon pushing everyone around, not because he supports the Garbers). Winnie also gets a good shot in by telling Mrs. Landon that the Garbers use the same type of peanut butter that they do.
  • Token Black Friend: The Garber kids become this to Winnie. Herbie's distrust of Winnie seems to be based on this, as Glenn explains that the reason for Herbie's harsh behavior toward Winnie is that Herbie doesn't want to be "used" by someone who thinks it's "cool" to have Black friends.
  • Tomboy: Winnie Barringer.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: While Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., published the same year, is perhaps Blume's most famous example of this trope, Iggie's House takes it up to eleven - it's on nearly every page. "I forgot the brownies Mom!" "What brownies Winnie?"
  • You Are What You Hate: Winnie seethes with anger when her mother dares to compare her to Mrs. Landon in the sense that both are crusaders (albeit on opposite sides of the same issue).