If the author's mother, Cecilia, were more of a saint and this book simply documented how a poor black woman raised her daughter to be a successful professional, Mama's Girl wouldn't be half so moving. It's the complexity of Cecilia's character and the harrowing difficulties she and daughter Veronica, now 26, went through in Brooklyn and Los Angeles that make the book extraordinary.
Mother and daughter are bound by love but separated by sharply different experiences. The young Cecilia had neither money nor opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer—instead, she has toiled as a secretary for 30 years. She was almost afraid to hope for better for her daughter, who scaled numerous hurdles to go to college, discover a love of journalism and in due course land an editing job at The New York Times. Before long, Cecilia has a new fear: that the daughter she calls a Buppie—short for black upwardly mobile professional—is drifting away.
Chambers shows just how keenly she shares her mother's identity in this intensely personal and perceptive memoir. (Riverhead, $22)