Read My Book: Miss G and Me tells author’s mother-daughter story

Author Jennifer S. Wallace did not see women of color represented in books while growing up. That’s why she decided to write her story about her.

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As a little girl, I loved stories and was a voracious reader. I gravitated toward narratives about outsiders, underdogs, people who wanted to make a change. I loved Anne of Green Gables and wanted to be like Anne, but I was not an orphan and did not have red hair. I didn’t see myself or anyone resembling me, my sister, or my mom — women of color — on the cover of any books when I was young. I remember reading about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. That represented most of my knowledge of Black women in literature.

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As I got older, my awareness changed. Although our family saw more Black families on TV, I still didn’t see or read books by Black authors. Certainly not mixed-race authors. It was not that these authors and books did not exist. I just hadn’t found them yet. In my late teens, I discovered Maya Angelou’s poetry by her. I was a young adult when my mom brought a book home from Jamaica entitled Aunty Roachy Seh by Louise Bennett. It opened my eyes to a whole different style of writing and culture that was part of me. I tied it up.

When I was 22, during a creative-writing class for my education degree, I wrote an early version of my book about my mother, Miss G. I did not share this with my mom until I surprised her with it for Mother’s Day. I didn’t know her that well then. Mom is not big on surprises. After I gave it to her, the book was forgotten. The questions I had, including the mysteries still surrounding my mom’s pet name, Miss G, slipped into the back of my mind.

Twenty years later, while watching season seven of “Call the Midwife,” I saw a nurse recruit coming to England from Jamaica. There on the screen, I saw my own mother. It was like I was seeing her for the first time. I decided to go back to write the memoir about my mom. To do her story justice, I knew I needed her participation in her, so I asked her more about her life and work in her going from Jamaica to England to rural Saskatchewan.

Jennifer S. Wallace wrote the memoir, Miss G. and Me, for the little girl she used to be, who didn't see herself in literature.
Jennifer S. Wallace wrote the memoir, Miss G. and Me, for the little girl she used to be, who didn’t see herself in literature. Supplied photo

My purpose for writing this memoir had changed. I was now writing for a much wider audience: women of colour, women who are mixed-race, mothers and daughters who need to see themselves in literature, immigrants, newcomers, and all those who want to know more about their mothers. I listened to the late Toni Morrison, a powerful Black woman author who said, “If there is a book that you want you to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” Finally, I was writing for the little girl I used to be, who wanted to see herself in books; I had to write myself in.

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Now daughters are buying the book for their moms. Mothers who bought the book for themselves are buying a second copy for their daughters so they can read it simultaneously. Readers are telling me that Miss G and Me reminds them of their own mothers’ experiences and how we can learn from our family histories. We have a rich history of stories in our country, some that are only now being told. I am proud that Miss G and Me is now part of the literary landscape in Saskatchewan and in Canada.

Miss G and Me is available from driverworks.ca, McNally Robinson Booksellers, Chapters, Indigo, Coles, Handmade Saskatchewan gift shops, SaskBooks, Amazon, and other select stores.

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