Jessica George's debut Maame takes on big issues of race, culture, and the challenges of growing up between two cultures while shining in its details: wonderful dialogue, messy moments, and the main character's hard-won self-discovery and growth.
Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman.
Young adult Maddie's life in London is exhausting. She's the primary caregiver for her father, who has Parkinson's disease; she pays the bills; her mother spends the majority of her time in Ghana yet manages to micromanage Maddie's religious faith and life from across the globe; her older brother never seems to be around to help; and she's the only Black person at work with a boss who shifts all of the blame and none of the accolades her way.
Her nickname, Maame, has long conveyed upon her a womanlike responsibility about which she has mixed feelings, when she stops to think about it. But there's little time for introspection when so much needs doing day to day.
When her mom shows up from Ghana, Maddie jumps at the chance for some independence; a late bloomer, she finds a flat share and revels in finally being on her own. Maddie is inexperienced and has been somewhat isolated in her caregiver role (although she has close friends, who are wonderful characters in the story), so she's got a lot of learning to do and mistakes to make.
But she seems destined to be continually pushed around and taken advantage of--by her family, her boss, her flatmate, and her love interest.
That is, until she decides that she simply isn't going to take it anymore. Tragedy, misfortune, and a passionate desire to take charge of her life together spur a satisfying turnaround--with plenty of realistic missteps--and show Maddie her own inner strength.
Jessica George offers a wonderful story with messy moments of love, some humor, big issues of race, loss, anger, lies and betrayal, and underneath it all, the constant, stressful push and pull between Maddie's two cultures.
Maame explores Maddie's search to establish herself in the world, and I loved rooting for her the whole way.
I received a prepublication copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and St. Martin's Press.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
This is Jessica George's first book. I can't wait to read what she writes next.
The issues of race and of young-woman Maddie making her way in the world in London in Maame reminded me somewhat of Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo's interconnected stories about Black women in contemporary Britain.