Mama: A Novel

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A “funny [and] touching” novel of an African American woman determined to triumph, by the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Waiting to Exhale (Detroit Free Press).
 
Mildred Peacock is fed up with poverty—and with the jealous rampages of her husband, Crook. When Crook runs over her foot with his ’59 Mercury, she finally kicks him out to raise her five kids on her own.
 
Resourceful and sly, sassy and sexy, she’s willing to do just about anything to pay the bills. But she loses job after job, and one man after another, until alcohol and pills are her only comfort. But as long as her children need her, she has no intention of giving up, in this “tough novel about a tough family,” from the author of Disappearing Acts and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (The New Yorker).
 
“Earthy, realistic characters who can walk out of the pages and onto the streets of black America . . . an admirable novel.” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
“A touching tale of one mother’s unwavering strength.” —Detroit Monthly
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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Jan 16, 1987
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Pages
260
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ISBN
9780547524047
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / African American / Women
Fiction / Family Life / General
Fiction / Literary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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“Avery’s evolution—a black woman trying to claim her place—is as heartbreaking as it is humorous, powerful as it is poignant.” —Los Angeles Times
 
As a young girl, Avery escaped the violent streets of Los Angeles to a more gentrified existence in suburban West Covina. But this new life, filled with school, visits to 7–Eleven to gawk at Tiger Beat magazine, and outings to Dodger Stadium, is soon interrupted by a reminder of the past in the form of her violent cousin Keith.
 
When Keith moves in with her family, he triggers a series of events that will follow Avery throughout her life: to her studies at USC, to her burgeoning career as a painter and artist, and into her relationship with a wealthy Italian who sequesters her in his glass-walled house in the Hollywood Hills. The past will even intrude upon Avery’s first gallery show, proving her mother’s adage: Every goodbye ain’t gone.
 
“In this debut novel, Johnson brilliantly knits the dual narratives together, maintaining a dynamic balance between nimble language and rowdy, vulnerable characters. The real achievement is the honest, compassionate, and unflinching willingness to honor teenage struggles for identity, confidence, and love while listening to Led Zeppelin and rooting for the Dodgers.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
 
“[An] extraordinary novel . . . Avery is about as complex and compelling a heroine as I’ve read recently . . . a luminous, funny, and poignant tale that speaks directly to a whole generation raised in a state of cultural confusion.” —Danzy Senna, author of You Are Free and Caucasia
“If you enjoyed An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, read The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls...an absorbing commentary on love, family and forgiveness.”—The Washington Post 

“A fast-paced, intriguing story...the novel’s real achievement is its uncommon perceptiveness on the origins and variations of addiction.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
One of the most anticipated reads of 2019 from Vogue, Vanity Fair, Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Essence, Bustle, HelloGiggles and Cosmo!
 
“The Mothers meets An American Marriage” (HelloGiggles) in this dazzling debut novel about mothers and daughters, identity and family, and how the relationships that sustain you can also be the ones that consume you.

The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.
 
Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband, Proctor, are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.
 
As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.
The bestselling, critically acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The World We Found deftly explores issues of race, class, privilege, and power and asks us to consider uncomfortable moral questions in this probing, ambitious, emotionally wrenching novel of two families—one black, one white.

During a terrible heat wave in 1991—the worst in a decade—ten-year-old Anton has been locked in an apartment in the projects, alone, for seven days, without air conditioning or a fan. With no electricity, the refrigerator and lights do not work. Hot, hungry, and desperate, Anton shatters a window and climbs out. Cutting his leg on the broken glass, he is covered in blood when the police find him.

Juanita, his mother, is discovered in a crack house less than three blocks away, nearly unconscious and half-naked. When she comes to, she repeatedly asks for her baby boy. She never meant to leave Anton—she went out for a quick hit and was headed right back, until her drug dealer raped her and kept her high. Though the bond between mother and son is extremely strong, Anton is placed with child services while Juanita goes to jail.

The Harvard-educated son of a US senator, Judge David Coleman is a scion of northeastern white privilege. Desperate to have a child in the house again after the tragic death of his teenage son, David uses his power and connections to keep his new foster son, Anton, with him and his wife, Delores—actions that will have devastating consequences in the years to come.

Following in his adopted family’s footsteps, Anton, too, rises within the establishment. But when he discovers the truth about his life, his birth mother, and his adopted parents, this man of the law must come to terms with the moral complexities of crimes committed by the people he loves most.

“Nowhere Is a Place is a powerful portrait of family secrets, damage, and healing, probing deep below the surface of an African American family’s history to mend present day relationships . . . Ms. McFadden has a beautiful writing style that is simultaneously lyrical and transparent. In parts of the narrative, time seems to stand still as she describes an event in riveting minute to minute detail. Other times she employs a kind of poetic shorthand that condenses long periods of time, years even, into a few sentences.”
--New York Journal of Books

"An engrossing multigenerational saga . . . With her deep engagement in the material and her brisk but lyrical prose, McFadden creates a poignant epic of resiliency, bringing Sherry to a well-earned awareness of her place atop the shoulders of her ancestors, those who survived so that she might one day, too."
--Publishers Weekly

"Telling her story from two perspectives and on two levels--the mother-daughter relationship and Sherry's fictional account--McFadden brings added texture to this story of reconciliation."
--Booklist

“A poignant tale of self-discovery in the face of a complicated family history.”
--Brooklyn Daily Eagle

"Bernice L. McFadden’s Nowhere Is a Place is a hauntingly-disturbing and redemptive frame story of many generations of a Yamasee Native-American and African-American family from pre-slavery times until July 1995."
--Bowling Green Daily News

"With a good dose of poignancy about life and finding the wisdom of the world for ourselves, Nowhere is a Place is a fine addition to modern literary fiction collections."
--The Midwest Book Review

"Compelling, beautifully written, and profoundly human, McFadden has conjured a tale of a fractured family who journey across the country and back through history to unearth painful truths that unexpectedly reshape their relationships with each other."
--Lynn Nottage, playwright, author of Intimate Apparel

Nothing can mend a broken heart quite like family. Sherry has struggled all her life to understand who she is, where she comes from, and, most important, why her mother slapped her cheek one summer afternoon. The incident has haunted Sherry, and it causes her to dig into her family's past. Like many family histories, it is fractured and stubbornly reluctant to reveal its secrets; but Sherry is determined to know the full story. In just a few days' time, her extended family will gather for a reunion, and Sherry sets off across the country with her mother, Dumpling, to join them. What Sherry and Dumpling find on their trip is far more important than scenic sites here and there--it is the assorted pieces of their family's past. Pulled together, they reveal a history of amazing survival and abundant joy.

Bernice L. McFadden is the author of eight critically acclaimed novels including the classic Sugar, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors' Choice), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of two fiction honor awards from the BCALA. Her sophomore novel, The Warmest December, was praised by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison as "searing and expertly imagined." McFadden lives in Brooklyn, New York.
The tremendous universal appeal of Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale took the book world by storm. With her third novel finally earning her the recognition and respect she richly deserved, Terry McMillan followed up with How Stella Got Her Groove Back, which continued to attract new and loyal fans from all walks of life. In this critical work Richards places these inspirational works, as well as McMillan's earlier writings, in their deserved cultural and literary context. Richards offers an insightful analysis of McMillan's narrative technique, which, while having roots in the blues aesthetic, has created a voice that sings out to readers across the lines of sex and race. McMillan's stories are inhabited by strong, dynamic African American women, yet these characters have universal lessons of life and love to share with all readers who appreciate good fiction.

A richly drawn biographical chapter examines the life of McMillan and the influences her own personal experiences have exerted on her writings. In the following chapter, Richards discusses McMillan's place in the literary tradition in which such writers as Zora Neale Hurston paved the way and inspired McMillan to write realistic, yet humorous accounts of the African American romantic experience. Richards devotes a chapter to each of McMillan's first four novels; Mama (1987), Disappearing Acts (1989), Waiting to Exhale (1992), and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1996). She discusses each novel in terms of plot, narrative style, character development, thematic issues, historical and cultural context, and alternative critical perspective. The comprehensive bibliography, including a list of reviews and index, covers the movie adaptations as well as the books.

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