It is 1925 and Johnnie Mae is living in Georgetown with her mother, Alice, her stepfather, Willie, and her six year old sister Clara. 12 year old Johnnie Mae's life changes forever on the day her baby sister Clara drowns in the Potomac River. Having been in charge of babysitting her sister that afternoon, Johnnie Mae is left devastated and haunted by her sister's passing. In the aftermath of Clara's death Johnnie Mae sees Clara everywhere - in her dreams, in her mother's kitchen and in her new school friend, Pearl, who Johnnie Mae believes is the reincarnation of Clara. Johnnie Mae becomes an excellent swimmer, despite the protestations of her resentful stepfather. Johnnie Mae becomes obsessed with the white's only pool at Valta Place, which becomes Johnnie Mae's own personal glass ceiling. She cannot forget that the reason she, Clara and her friends decided to swim in the Potomac on that fateful day was due to their inability to swim at the white's only pool. Memories of Clara are weaved throughout Johnnie Mae's days as she attends school, goes trick or treating, delivers laundry for extra money and joins the swim team. Bubbling beneath the surface of the Bynum household is the palpable grief of Clara's parents and the burgeoning womanhood of Johnnie Mae. As Johnnie Mae struggles to survive her familys' tragedy she finds herself taking a personal stance against the segregated world she inhabits.
This report prepared by Sandra Calhoune