cover image Mama’s Child

Mama’s Child

Joan Steinau Lester. Atria, $15 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-4516-9318-8

Author and journalist Lester follows up her first novel (Black, White, Other: In Search of Nina Armstrong, a YA title about a biracial teen) by tracing the conflicts of a mixed-race family from the 1960s to the mid-2000s. Elizabeth O’Leary, of Irish and Jewish heritage, meets and falls in love with an African-American musician, Solomon Jordan, after she joins the Civil Rights movement in 1963. The couple marry and settle down in Northern California to raise their two children, Che and Ruby, the latter of whom has a problematic relationship with her mother. As Elizabeth is caught up in the burgeoning women’s movement, she and Solomon split, and he moves to N.Y.C. to teach at Columbia University, taking Che with him. Ruby feels the lack of a black role model in her life, and the ensuing tensions that build between her and Elizabeth culminate in Ruby moving east and cutting her mother out of her life. Unfortunately, the path to their eventual reconciliation is strewn with stereotypes, detracting from what could have been an illuminating exploration of racial identity. Agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (May)