Mama's Girl

( 5 )


On the streets of Brooklyn in the 1970s, Veronica Chambers mastered the whirling helixes of a double-dutch jump rope with the same finesse she brought to her schoolwork, her often troubled family life, and the demands of being overachieving and underprivileged. Her mother—a Panamanian immigrant—was too often overwhelmed by the task of raising Veronica and her difficult younger brother on her meager secretary's salary to applaud her daughter's achievements. From an early age, Veronica understood that the best she ...
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On the streets of Brooklyn in the 1970s, Veronica Chambers mastered the whirling helixes of a double-dutch jump rope with the same finesse she brought to her schoolwork, her often troubled family life, and the demands of being overachieving and underprivileged. Her mother—a Panamanian immigrant—was too often overwhelmed by the task of raising Veronica and her difficult younger brother on her meager secretary's salary to applaud her daughter's achievements. From an early age, Veronica understood that the best she could do for her mother was to be a perfect child—to rewrite her Christmas wish lists to her mother's budget, to look after her brother, to get by on her own.

Though her mother seemed to bear out the adage that "black women raise their daughters and mother their sons," Veronica never stopped trying to do more, do better, do it all. And now, as a successful young woman who's achieved more than her mother dared hope for her, she looks back on their mother-daughter bond. The critically acclaimed Mama's Girl is a moving, startlingly honest memoir, in which Chambers shares some important truths about what we all really want from our mothers—and what we can give in return.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"For any daughter who has ever loved and blamed Mama in the same anguished breath...triumphant."&#151Bebe Moore Campbell

"Moving...the story of a strong soul growing up."—USA Today

"While Mama's Girl skillfully traces the evolution of a complicated mother-daughter relationship, it is also a testament to the resilience of black women across generations."—Ms.

"A troubling testament to grit and mother love...While the story of her own achievement under grim, often violent circumstances is extraordinary, the reader is left feeling particularly grateful for [Chambers's] compassion. Her portrait of her Panamanian mother—proud, protective, angry, and in need—is one of the finest and most evenhanded in the genre in recent years."—The New Yorker

"Affecting and eloquent...Chambers's remarkable, as is her spare, lilting writing style...On the often painful circumstances she has faced—her mother's coldness, what it means to be black in the post-civil rights era—Chambers writes with probity. And she illustrates her thoughts with well-culled details that are telling and lyrically rendered: A."—Entertainment Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While billed as a memoir from the "post-civil rights generation," Chambers's remarkable story-told with admirable if sometimes frustrating control-is very much her own. If anything, it echoes the American stories of early European immigrants' children, though here the immigrants are blacks from the West Indies. Chambers grew up in Brooklyn in the 1970s, her mother enduring, her father violent and philandering. The marriage broke up. Cecilia Chambers downplayed her daughter's scholastic achievements, more worried about her struggling son, and never discussed sex. So the author absorbed the world on her own, in school, in the hair salon, ambitious to reap the opportunities black trailblazers had sown. A fight with her mother sent her to her father; there she survived a stepmother of fairy-tale cruelty and her dad's rage. She escaped, at 16, to Simon's Rock College in the Berkshires, where she learned to claim her black identity and was launched on a path of academic and professional success including a stint as an editor of the New York Times Magazine. Chambers writes of a tender, belated rapprochement with her mother, and a daughter's gift-in money and support-that allows Cecilia to be finally "more than just coping." Some threads of Chambers's story, particularly the path of her imprisoned brother, are underdeveloped, but this remains an impressive debut, all the more so since the author is just 25. First serial to Glamour; BOMC alternate; author tour. June
Library Journal
Chambers, a contributing editor to Glamour magazine, presents an honest, open, and ultimately warm memoir of her relationship with her mother and of growing up African American in Brooklyn in the post-Civil Rights Seventies. The author reveals the harsh realities of her parents' and stepparents' physically and emotionally abusive behavior. However, she captures the reader's sympathies not by recounting negative circumstances but by stressing the need to rise above them and make one's own choices. A successful college student and career woman, Chambers embodies the triumphs of the Sixties' Civil Rights movementtriumphs that her mother believed in but never expected for herself and was scared to see in her daughter. By understanding her mother's fears, Chambers gently forced her to see life differently. Recommended for school and public libraries as well as academic libraries with comprehensive African American studies collections.Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
School Library Journal
YAA personal story of perseverance and achievement, this book is Chamber's self-examination as an African American woman. She fought the odds and has already succeeded far beyond the limits set for her by society and family. Her self-motivation was such that she constantly achieved academically in spite of moving from one school to another and coping with family abuse and lack of support for her educational goals. She graduated from college, secured internships with Sassy and Life magazines; she was chosen as one of Glamour magazine's Top Ten College Women of 1990. She is currently an editor of The New York Times magazine. Still in her 20s, this young woman has goals and dreams that she is still reaching in spite of growing up in severely dysfunctional family environments. Her autobiographical account reads beautifully and smoothly but far from easily as readers may keep asking themselves how this person was able to overcome so much in her life to attain such a high level of success at so young an age. Her story is not finished; her relationship with her mother is still evolving and maturing as she herself is becoming a fulfilled and contributing adult. Her early bitterness and anger toward her parents are mellowing into awareness and acceptance. A compelling, positive story for any collection serving YAs.Dottie Kraft, Fairfax County Public Schools
Kirkus Reviews
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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573225991
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 958,852
  • Lexile: 950L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2004

    You'll Love It

    Mama's Girl was a book that i loved so much. A lot of the things that are going on in this book people can really relate to. This book got me to thinking 'Am I really making the right choice.' When I was reading this book I found out the hard times Veronica went through. I now am very thankful for my close relationship with my mama (although she does pry into my business).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2004


    After I read MAMA'S GIRL years ago, I recommended it to all my female cousins. And any woman who would listen. Most of them read and raved about this book. Some sections evoke powerful emotions, as Ms. Chambers depicts an extremely difficult home environment. The story of Ms. Chambers' struggle to get a college education is an inspiration to ALL young women. In addition, MAMA's GIRL would contribute to lively classroom/book club discussions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2001

    Lively and poetic

    Lively, poetic--very well done. Wonderful insights into the lives of Black women in the US across three generations. Recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2001

    2 Thumbs Up!

    This was a really amazing book. It is about a young girl who grows up without her parents support. She goes through her teen years arguing with her mother more, her father beating her, etc... This was a great book that i would recomend to others

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2000

    A Future Magazine Editor!

    This book is my favorite book now. I never thought of being a magazine editor until I read this book! It will bring tears to oyur eyes to see how hard Ms. Chambers life has been. I realy recomend this book to anyone!!!

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