The Big Mama Stories by Shay Youngblood

cover of the book The Big Mama StoriesThe Big Mama Stories by Shay Youngblood
Genre: Black Interest; Fiction
Copyright Year:
Published: 1989
Publisher: Firebrand Books
Format: Trade Paperback
No. of Pages: 112
No. In Series:
ISBN: 9780932379573
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From Publishers Weekly These folktale-like stories, told by a young woman about her ‘mamas’–the several women who raised her following the death of her mother–capture the dialect and climate of the black South of the ’60s. Each work centers around one of the mamas; the narrative voice throughout is intimate and assured–Youngblood maintains a near-flawless cadence and a consistent tone with subtlety and grace. Unfortunately, a taut style cannot compensate for the flatness of her characters and the predictability of their actions. The issues addressed in this fiction debut–obsessive love, parenting, loyalty, continuity, the initiation of a girl into womanhood–are trivialized by cursory treatment of the characters and superficial interpretations. Incompletely or insufficiently differentiated, Youngblood’s women begin to blur. Although she may have intended to overlap their personalities in order to demonstrate that the combined resources of many ‘mamas’ in raising the protagonist are more effective than those of one woman alone, the resulting homogeneity inhibits this collection. Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. Review The narrator of The Big Mama Stories grew up in ‘the projects, ‘ an area with ‘lines that marked us’ and where the best blackberries flourished in the black cemetery. When her biological mother deserted her at five, the narrator was left with Big Mama, who was neither big nor her mother: ‘Just regular. A old Black woman who had a gift for seeing with her heart. ‘ Big Mama, however, is only one of this young girl’s mothers – and they’re not all female. Through their interconnected stories we learn their histories and hear their advice. From Big Mama, an explanation about why she uses snuff becomes a lesson on Black pride. From Miss Corrine, the hairdresser, the narrator learns the truth about her mother along with some advice: ‘if you got to dance or dream or anything at all, take it a step at a time and don’t let nothing and nobody get in your way when you doing right. ‘ There’s Miss Tom ‘who was not a pretty woman, she was handsome like a man’ and Uncle Buck who tells her ‘Sometimes I love Jesus and sometimes I think he hard of hearing. ‘ On occasion all the mothers come together, to heal an illness or to celebrate a rite of passage, and during these events the narrative soars. Whether quiet or jubilant, sad or defiant or thoughtful, each story has power and pride, given freely to the narrator, and through her, to us. — For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let’s Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. — From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister
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