"The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in 'orchestrated chaos' with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. 'Mommy,' a fiercely protective woman with 'dark eyes full of pep and fire,' herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion--and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain."
Williams tells the story of his very unusual youth. Of mixed-race parentage, he was raised as a white in Virginia and as a black in Ohio. We experience with him his pain, his struggles, and his triumphs.
When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully -- the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.