Rating: 4 stars
In the tradition of “Roots” and “Queen,” Mama Flora’s Family” is a sweeping epic of contemporary American history, culled from the unpublished works of award-winning writer Alex Haley. It is the poignant story of three generations of an African-American family who start out as destitute sharecroppers in Tennessee. Mama Flora is the heart and strength of the family, shepherding her children through hard times after the murder of her husband by white landholders. She has passionate ambitions for her son Willie, but he dashes her dreams by abandoning his church-going roots and moving to Chicago. After fighting in the Second World War, he marries his childhood sweetheart and struggles to build a new urban life for his family.
Flora’s dreams are realized by Ruthana, her sister’s child, whom Mama Flora adopts. Ruthana graduates from college, and as a social worker in Harlem, counsels underprivileged women. Through her love for the radical poet Ben, Ruthana begins to understand her heritage, and after a sojourn in Africa comes to a redemptive understanding of herself.
In Chicago, Willie’s twin son and daughter embrace Muslim militancy and Black Power, and eventually, drugs on their rocky road through the 1960s. Mama Flora struggles to maintain her family, but she also is caught up in the turbulent times. “Mama Flora’s Family” is an American tale as dramatic and touching as anything Alex Haley ever wrote.
Highly recommended read by the love of my life, Mama Flora’s Family tells the story of three generations in one African American family. It’s a story that makes you reflect on America’s past, about a time that isn’t that long ago. For me, it made me feel sympathetic to Mama Flora and her family because I know I’ll never understand what it’s like to face such strong racism because of the color of my skin. But reading this story from her family’s perspective and the different conflicts they had to endure made me briefly feel like I could understand what they were going through and wish things were different during that time for them.
What I especially enjoyed about reading this book was that the story wasn’t just told from Mama Flora’s perspective. You as the reader had different family members sharing their own stories, talking about their own struggles and challenges they are enduring during this time. I especially enjoyed reading the chapters that were told from Ruthana and Willie’s perspective because they both had interesting lives that I enjoyed reading about. I also loved it too because I loved all of these characters, which made me enjoy reading this book, even more, to see what happened to this family.
I also enjoyed reading Mama Flora’s Family because I found myself learning more about America during this time. Especially because I learned more about black history, something that’s never fully taught in school. I especially loved learning about black culture, reading about the different styles of clothing and hair that changed as time went on and how Mama Flora and her family reacted to these changes. As someone who typically doesn’t read historical fiction of any kind because it doesn’t interest me all that much, I found the story of this family to be a fantastic read and it made me interested in wanting to learn more.
The only criticism I have with this book is that I sometimes found the story at times to be a little too preachy. While I completely understand the reasoning behind this, since Mama Flora herself was very strong in her faith and it was such a big part of her life that she raised her family to have a strong faith foundation. I don’t personally have a problem with that, even though I myself am still working on my own beliefs and what I personally believe to be true when it comes to faith and religion. I just think at times there was just too much of it in the story.
But overall, I really enjoyed reading Mama Flora’s Family. Mama Flora and her family dealt with quite a lot during that time and it was nice to see how they handled those difficult moments. I also enjoyed reading this book because I learned so much from it despite historical fiction not being something I personally enjoy reading. It made me as a reader consider reading more stories like this because I love learning and enjoy reading about real struggles people deal with in life.
I really appreciate my partner recommending this read to me and highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about black history. For those wanting to read about what black families go through when it comes to racism. It opened my eyes further to issues I know I myself will never have to deal with.