The word appears 8 times.
This amazing little book is from the perspective of a 9 year old girl who, through a series of very hard knocks, learns so much about life that, at age 11, she has more wisdom than most of the adults around her. One of the things she learns, through her friendship with a black girl her same age, is that racism is stupid, and that no matter how hard her life has been, her black friend has it rougher than her - only for the reason that she is black.
The word is used by racists in the book, but Ellen herself, though she has some prejudice to start, is never a racist. This book was a wonderful read.
...In the first scene Ellen is describing her grandmother berating her father at her mother's funeral:
Nobody wants to be the one that stops her. She calls him a nigger and trash so long and loud she gets horse. Just churning hate and nerve with forty years of my mama on fire under her. She may not sit through this service.
Amen and my mama's mama is up and out the door. She does not yell anything back. No nigger or trash. Just out.
And my daddy will fool himself into thinking that is all. She is gone. Good. I do not have to pay for her girl.
Now get it right. It was she had rather some real niggers have my mama's things than any of us that drink and carry on like trash. That is hard to figure out because you know I do not drink.
--- Ellen is sent to work in the field with the black workers. She doesn't know what to do so her Grandmother says:
Ask a nigger what to do is what she said before she drove off. Five or six people were already chopping and they were far down the rows and not noticing me.
Yeah old Ellen runs up and down the road with her little nigger friend they might say.
Yeah old Ellen is always bothering so-and-so to give her a ride home from the grocery store.
--- Ellen's Grandmother is berating Ellen for the death of Ellen's mother.
Why you little bitch. You set up in that house like the world owed you a living. In cahoots with your damn daddy. I know all that went on. You laid up all in that house with your daddy's buddies. I'm surprised you don't have some littlenigger baby hanging off your titty. But you left before I could get the both of you at one pop. You and your daddy let her take them pills or more than likely drove her to it.
--- Ellen is talking about having a boyfriend...
Dora just said ha! I didn't know you had a boyfriend.
Well I do!
I've never seen you with one at school. I can see everything you do at recess and lunchtime. I've never seen you talking to anybody hardly except that littlenigger girl. I don't believe you.
She lives in the red brick house between the nigger church and the Porter's store.
That's way on the other side of the school!
Well that's exactly where she lives. I don't make up stories she said to me proud.