Author Joan Steinau Lester’s “Mama’s Child” draws attention to racism in the modern world that can damage a family as well as highlights the sacred bond between a mother and a daughter.
Elizabeth and Solomon, both revolutionaries, have shared the same passion for reform during their 15-year marriage; but with the pressure of modern racism and other reformers looking down on their biracial union, the decision to call it quits is the launching pad into the heart of the conflicts in “Mama’s Child.”
Elizabeth’s fiery red hair and milky white skin separate her from her teenage daughter, Ruby, who emanates strong features and characteristics of her African-American heritage.
Through the difficulties of trying to adjust to life without her father and brother in the home, Ruby’s point of view gives readers a glimpse of her mother’s newfound self through women’s liberation and the unfamiliar person with whom she shares a home.
While submersing herself in her African-American culture in college and deciding that her mother’s Irish roots are not hers, Ruby draws a clear line of separation — a line that only gets thicker between she and Elizabeth as time goes on.
“Mama’s Child” paints the picture of a teen’s coming-of-age through the lens of biracial families and racism. It unveils the insecurities that are faced when one child cannot decide if she should accept both family histories or pretend one is not there.
Pressure and verbal attacks from Ruby cause Elizabeth to question her revolutionary lifestyle and examine if she too, an Irish woman, follows that same pattern of history that writes of whites always trying to dictate a black’s future. After decades of considering herself one of “them,” Elizabeth has her own coming-of-age story and reignites her passion to fight “the system.”
After tragedy hits and her own biracial child is born, Ruby is faced with the decision and constant pressure to either accept her mother or continue to reject her and leave her in a lifetime of the past.
“Mama’s Child” is the looking glass into the hardships and insecurities faced by those who never gave a second thought about their mix of races growing up and never understood why others did either. The novel is a smart way to bring to attention the every day trials that only a handful of families and couples experience.
Reach the reporter at Natalie.Miranda@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @natalieroxann