Author: Veronica Chambers
Publisher: The Berkley Publishing Group
Audience: Girls 12-19.
Summary: This is a non-fiction book of an African American female, Veronica Chambers. It traces her stormy life from childhood to adulthood. The book vividly details the distant relationship of her mother, the abusive, neglectful relationship of her father, and the cruel stepmother. This book is a testimony of a young girl’s strength, resilience and endurance. With all odds against her, Veronica, beat the odds from poverty to upper middle class by striving to be only the best she could be. This book looks deep into the mother-daughter relationship and what daughters really want from their mothers. This book was selected by the American Library Association as One of 1997′s Best Books for Young Adults.
Literary Elements at work in the story:
Characters: This book traces Veronica’s troubled, turbulent, life from the age of five years old. It is centered around her family; her mother, Cecilia, her father, Mr. Chambers and her younger brother, Malcolm X. It traces her life from being a competitive child playing double-dutch jump rope in the streets of New York to a college student at age sixteen; a former editor at The New York Times Magazine and Premier and is currently a contributing editor at Glamour.
Plot: The book focuses on a dysfunctional family who struggles with their own individual demons. Veronica, the main character, never receives the attention, nor the praise for her achievements in school from either parent. Veronica is both neglected and rejected during her high school years by her mother and father. However, the book tells Veronica’s story of perseverance, and how she becomes a very successful African American woman.
Point of View: The point of view is told from the author’s eyes. It is a record of events in Veronica’s life which shaped and molder her into adulthood. Her story is one of much conflict, rejection, pain, and violence which she overcomes with self-motivation, love and forgiveness.
Tone/Mood: The tone of the book is very emotional, insightful and heartbreaking.
Theme: Pain. Forgiveness. Rejection. Resurrection. Relationships. Reconciliation. Healing. Anger.
Language: This book is very smooth and easy to read. Some of the language is very vivid and detailed which brings the reader into the story. It is simply written with language that is fluid, precise, powerful and heartfelt.
Perspective: Multicultural. This book can relate to any culture. It is the memoir of an African American female. Physical and mental abuse is happening in all of our families. We all yearn for a loving and meaningful relationship with our family. When this does not happen, there is pain and rejection that eventually surfaces in some manner.
Theology: Throughout the reading of this book I could feel the emotional pain that the entire family was enduring. Within the African American family the mother is always the person who holds things together, encourages you, and pushes you to survive and succeed no matter what the situation or the circumstances may be. Difficulties in relations are a given, and the parent-child connection is the most complex of all. Some of us are raised by unstable people, people suffering from emotional traumas, addictions, anger, grief, etc. We are raised by people who are grappling with their own personal issues, struggling to order their own lives. Within this book their were many relationships with conflicts. As children we depend on our parents for love, nurture, acceptance, support, protection, as well as our basic needs, etc. In many families children do not receive this emotional bond. This book deals with the human brokenness embodied in this family individually and collectively. Yet, the Bible teaches us that when our mother and father forsakes us, the Lord will take us up. Cecilia mother taught she and Malcolm X the 23rd Psalm. I feel by reciting this scripture during bad moments in her life, help Cecilia to survive. Scripture have power, and this scripture kept her going.
As Cecilia matured I feel she began to understand some of the pain her mother had experienced. She began to look beyond her mother’s faults, to forgive and build a positive relationship with her. Cecilia matured and was able somewhat to let go of her painful past. Holding on to the painful past brings the pain forward to the present and projects it to the future. I feel by forgiving her mother, Cecilia was resurrected as an African American woman. She was able to open up to her mother and share her true feelings. She was able to keep moving, never giving up.
Scripture: Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, Psalm 27:10, Luke 6:35-38, Matthew 5:44, 45, Colossians 3:21
Faith Talk Questions:
- What strengths and weaknesses do you see in Cecilia? In her mother?
- Abusive relationships are not issues the church open their arms to a lot of times. Instead, it is mostly kept quiet and contained. How do you feel the church can respond to this horrific, degrading concern?
- Veronica had a personal ritual of reciting the 23rd Psalm. What rituals do you feel strengthen our faith and bring us closer to God’s presence?
Review prepared by Vera Witherspoon, MDiv, Entering cohort Fall 2005