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Mama Ruby
New York : Kensington Books, [2011]
Physical Description:
406 pages ; 24 cm
Number in series:
After Othella--the daughter of the town tramp in Shreveport, Louisiana--convinces her to give her baby away, 15-year-old Ruby Jean Upshaw runs away to New Orleans where nothing can erase the memories of the child she lost or quell her simmering rage at Othella for persuading her to let her baby go.


Call Number
Monroe, M.

On Order



Growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, Ruby Jean Upshaw is the kind of girl who knows what she wants and knows how to get it and only Othella Mae Cartier, daughter of the town tramp, understands what makes Ruby tick. When Ruby discovers she's pregnant, she's scared for the first time in her life. After hiding her growing belly with baggy dresses, Ruby secretly gives birth to a baby girl at Othella's house. With few choices, Othella talks Ruby into giving the child away - and running off with her to New Orleans. But Ruby soon realises her mistake...

Author Notes

Mary Monroe is the third child of Alabama sharecroppers, and the first and only member of her family to finish high school. Mary never attended college or any writing classes.

Her first novel, The Upper Room, was published in 1985 and was widely reviewed throughout the U.S. and in Great Britain. She is a recipient of the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award for her novel God Don't Like Ugly. She has just finished the fourth book in this series, God Ain't through Yet. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Mary Monroe's prequel to The Upper Room reintroduces readers to Mama Ruby, a fierce and indomitable woman. This time Monroe focuses on Ruby's early adolescence as the youngest daughter of a preacher in 1930s Louisiana. While her parents shelter her from the harsh world, Ruby is eager for adult sensations, especially sex, and embraces her desire when she meets the promiscuous Othella and her brother, Ike. Ruby and Othella experiment with neighborhood boys and Ruby soon gets pregnant. Othella and her mother persuade her to give the baby up at birth, and doing so haunts Ruby forever. Ruby and Othella then flee smalltown life only to become prostitutes in New Orleans and take part in a killing. Though readers new to the series will have to accept the dialect, ever-present threat of violence, and explicit sex scenes, they'll appreciate the compelling period and the unapologetic characters. Familiarity with The Upper Room smooths the way. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

At 15, big, plain Ruby Jean Upshaw, the daughter of a Louisiana preacher, doesn't know who the father of her baby is. Her best friend Othella's mother, Simone, a popular prostitute, brings the newborn baby girl to an asylum run by nuns, figuring it's for the best, because being black and poor in the post-WWI South are more than enough for a teen to handle. When Othella leaves home, Ruby, still longing to know where Simone has spirited her beautiful little girl, goes with her but soon discovers exactly how brutal and cruel the outside world can be. Monroe's style, like her characters, is no-holds-barred earthy as her gritty descriptions conjure a sordid world of whorehouses and seedy dives. Monroe's characters deal with their situations with a weary worldliness and fatalism that reveal their vulnerability as well as their flaws. Although this works as a stand-alone title, fans of Monroe's The Upper Room (2001) will be thrilled to see this prequel, which explains what made Mama Ruby the one-of-a-kind woman she is.--Mosley, Shelle. Copyright 2010 Booklist