MAMA'S GIRL by Veronica Chambers


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 An absorbing, often perturbing chronicle of a young African- American woman's coming of age. Chambers, a contributing editor of Glamour (and formerly a contributor to Kirkus), offers a revealing glimpse into her youth as an overachiever among adults who dismiss or reject her. (Put into a special class for gifted children, Chambers eagerly reports the news to her mother, who responds with a flat, ``That's nice.'') There is little at first to distinguish her childhood from those of the many children of hard-working families living in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in the 1970s. A secretary, Veronica's mother, a Panamanian immigrant, returns home at day's end with barely enough energy to tend to her two children's needs. But then Chambers's father decides to act on his dream to become ``the first famous black ventriloquist.'' He quits his job, is away for longer and longer periods of time, and finally abandons his wife and children. Things quickly fall apart. The family travels from Brooklyn to Los Angeles's South-Central district and back east. Chambers decides to live with her father when it becomes evident that her new stepfather cannot tolerate her. In a chilling series of episodes Chambers describes her stepmother's abuse and her father's remoteness. Despite her suffering, Chambers's mother never asks her to return home, though she does talk to her daughter almost every day. Admission to a private college in New England becomes the ambitious girl's salvation, and once on her own, she finds a way to reconcile with her mother. ``In my mother's arms,'' she says, ``I found healing.'' The author's brother does not fare as well, slipping into a hard, dangerous life on the streets. This provocative memoir is valuable not only as a family chronicle, but as a commentary on growing up African-American and on the complex feelings that assail those who leave poverty behind and move into the middle class. (Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection; first serial to Glamour; author tour)

Pub Date: June 18th, 1996
ISBN: 1-57322-030-2
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996


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