By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Sometimes, you just don’t feel like you belong.
Everybody knows more than you do, and your inexperience shows. Or you’re the wrong gender, the wrong age, the wrong political affiliation to fit in properly. And then there are the times when you wonder if the color of your skin keeps you from belonging. As in the new book “The Mamas” by Helena Andrews-Dyer, join the club.
Back a decade or so ago, Helena Andrews-Dyer and her husband, Rob, were content with the status quo. They lived in a cute Washington D.C. condo. They were able to travel, dine out, stay up late, and do pretty much whatever they wished – until the deluge began.
Within seven months, seven of Andrews-Dyer’s friends had announced pregnancies and the year 2013 was going to be nothing but baby bumps and baby showers. And no, no, no, she wasn’t ready for that! Nope, she was “the loud and proud only child of a loud and proud lesbian single mother.” She didn’t need a baby.
And when a baby arrived anyhow, she didn’t need a mother’s group to get by.
At least that’s what she told herself.
But she did need the community, advice, and the camaraderie they offered. At issue was that most of the women in her neighborhood – and in the mother’s group – were white.
Would she – could she – fit in?
With her firstborn strapped to her chest, Andrews-Dyer went to her first meet-up and it was good. Eager to join everything, she immediately signed up for multiple mom-and-baby classes when she noticed that the group was a lot like high school, complete with an activist, a hippie-mom, and a mean girl. But the question remained: did Andrews-Dyer, a Black mother with a Black daughter really, truly fit in with a mostly-white moms group?
A badly-timed vacation and a whole-family diagnosis of Covid-19 told the truth…
If ever there was a time for a book like “The Mamas,” now is it.
Issues of racism seem to be on everyone’s mind today, and this whole book is one gigantic look at the subject on all its sides – but there’s also an equally-gigantic twist here. Author Helena Andrews-Dyer is “Black with a capital B,” she’s gonna tell you about it, and she’ll make you laugh. She’s also going to tell you when she might have been just a little wrong.
And (at the risk of spoiling), she was wrong about her first impressions.
But mothers and mothering while Black aren’t the only things “The Mamas” tackles.
Andrews-Dyer writes about “the talk” Black boys get, and how heartbreaking it is to even think about having to have it. She writes about how friendship can bowl you over when you least expect it, and she muses about the difficulty of parenting one’s parent.
There’s a lot of funny inside “The Mamas,” but a lot is left to think about here, too. If you’re a mother (to be) or if you’ve been studying or living with racism, this book belongs on your shelf.