Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mama's Child by Joan Steinau Lester



Mama' Child is a moving story of a bi-racial couple and the family they create. Elizabeth and Soloman met in the turbulent 50's. Elizabeth had left her home in the north to move to the south and teach black children, what she didn't expect was to lose her heart to the smooth talking musician fighting for equal rights. The chemistry was electric and from the beginning it was a done deal between the two of them, the white girl and the black man. Elizabeth stood beside Soloman with their black panther compatriots and fought for something better in the world. They brought two beautiful mixed children into the world that seemed to get crazier and crazier. Until Elizabeth couldn't even attend the meetings any longer and was forced to stay home while the children were allowed to attend. Both parents were brilliant teachers but as the topics heated up so did the sparks in their relationship until, sadly, the fire was to strong and they decided to go their separate ways. 

The focus of this novel is on the relationship between Elizabeth, Lizzie as she asks the children to call her after the divorce, and her daughter Ruby. She only reluctantly allows Soloman to take Che in the divorce and only then because he is coming home drunk and she hopes her soon to be ex husband can help him. Ruby sees this as the ultimate betrayal and maybe that's what begins the spiral downwards in their relationship. They fight constantly between moments of deep closeness like any mother and daughter. 

Lizzie struggles to find herself after losing her husband, she tries to identify with the feminist morals and even has a lesbian relationship. Her daughter disagrees with each of these decisions and hates being dragged to protests for any of the things her mother is passionate about. Until ultimately as an adult a therapist convinces her to stop communication with her mother. Her mother, heartbroken, tries to give her daughter what she needs as years of silence go by. 

I was very excited to read this book, I am white but my middle brother is mixed and I always wondered how life was for him living with an all white family, if he felt like he was missing out on something or felt something lacking because he had no black parent to lead or teach him. If you are reading this book for this reason then I sadly don't suggest it. I did enjoy the book, it's well written and the action moves smoothly. Lizzie is amusing with all of her imperfections and I enjoyed not liking Ruby. It's good to have those characters that you just love to hate. Lizzie isn't a perfect parent, not by any means, especially right after the divorce and as a teenager you always struggle with your parents. But as an adult to constantly accuse your mother, the activist, of being a racist? Ruby nit picked over the smallest things and made her mother feel horrible over them. Even over something as small as a crystal trinket she had picked up at a street vendor and then cutting her mother out of her life. 

It's an interesting read, especially for the descriptions of the 60's and 70's and the activism that was going on at the time. It gives a great idea as to what a lot of black families possibly went through as well. At one point Soloman is writing Ruby about some of his ancestors, slave women who fought and ran for their freedom, which is so amazing, I loved that part. So all in all a great read for entertainment value! I would recommend it for that reason.