Synopses & Reviews
A dazzling fiction debut from the author of Mamas Girl
, Miss Black America
is the warm and tender story of Angela, a young girl growing up in 1970s Brooklyn. Angela goes to school one ordinary day and returns home to find her glamorous and fiercely independent mother gone. Her magician father, Teddo, left to raise Angela alone, insists on keeping Melanies disappearance shrouded in mystery. As Angela grows to womanhood and struggles to understand her mothers motivation for escaping the bonds of her family, she wryly observes, “My father was a magician, but my mother was the real Houdini.”
A universal story that is both finely tuned and elegant, Miss Black America captures the intricacies, pleasures, contradictions, and complexities at the heart of every family. Spare and finely told, this novel will seep beneath your skin and stay with you long after the last page has been turned.
About the Author
VERONICA CHAMBERS is the author of Having It All? and Mamas Girl. She was formerly a culture writer for Newsweek, a staff writer at Premiere magazine, and an executive editor of Savoy magazine, as well as a frequent contributor to Glamour; O, The Oprah Magazine; the New York Times; and other publications. The daughter of a magician, she lives in Philadelphia with her husband.
Reading Group Guide
1. Angela links Melanies abandonment with Assata Shakurs prison break. How are the two women similar? How are they different? Is there anything revolutionary about either womans desire and means of escaping the restraints that hold them back?
2. In the first year of Melanies absence several historical events occur. Discuss how these cultural reference points influence how Angela deals with her mothers abandonment. Do they help her grieve? Hinder that process? Both?
3. Melanie talks about the legacy of the women in her family. How does her abandonment of Angela and Teddo echo her familys history? How does it stand in contrast to what the Brown women would have done? What does it reflect about Melanie, Mona, and Angela? Is there strength in the legacy? Fear? Love?
4. There is strong yearning for both the American Dream and the idealistic goals of the Black Movement. How does this cultural conflict play itself out in the family? What are the consequences and contradictions that arise from their attempts to attain both dreams? How does Melanie and Teddos thirst for fame and recognition alienate Angela?
5. Teddo prides himself on being a race man. Discuss how his actions, including his Sammy Davis impression toward the end of the novel, contradict his espoused beliefs.
6. What is the role of magic in the novel? How does illusion and disillusion affect each character? How is magic often linked to freedom?
7. Discuss Angelas encounters with Edward and Sammy. How is her reaction to each of these men shaped by her relationship with Teddo? By the absence of Melanie?
8. Angela and Teddo achieve a small measure of fame and are further rewarded with a week with Muhammad Ali. What is the significance of the boxer in the novel? How does he help Teddo and Angela come to terms with their circumstances? How does he bring them closer together?
9. Teddo eventually finds a way to send Angela to an upstate prep school. Is this also a form of abandonment? A way for him to escape? Is it a way to also free Angela?
10. Angela achieves success as an adult. Discuss her decision not to find Melanie. Has she truly moved on from the memories and desire for her mother? What does her choice of lifestyle and career say about her development without Melanie? With Teddo?