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While there's no question that Toswiah/Evie and Cameron/Anna have a hard time adjusting to their new lives, their parents seem to have an even tougher time, perhaps because they are both deeply committed to their careers, which are suddenly ripped away from them. Anna and Evie, after all, at least have the consistency of school to get them through the day, while Mama and Daddy are stuck in the apartment.
Before the shooting, Mama is confident and loving. She adores her two daughters and her husband, and her role in the family is a huge part of her life. She doesn't just keep the love flowing for her relatives, though, and instead extends it to everyone around her. Toswiah/Evie explains:
Look for the beauty, my mama says. Always look for the beauty. It's in every single body you meet. (11.12)
As she's introducing her mother, Toswiah/Evie focuses on how safe Mama makes people feel.
She smiles. She has a pretty smile. Her face opens up around it and her dark eyes dance. She is a teacher and her students do all they can to make her smile because it warms them, makes them feel safe even if they're doing division, which many of them haven't yet and may never master. (P.3)
Mama takes seriously the responsibility of making all those entrusted to her care feel safe and loved, which makes it even harder on her daughters when she withdraws from them.
Mama's loving nature remains consistent throughout the book, but her confidence takes a huge hit. To fill the emptiness left by the loss of her old life, Mama turns to religion, becoming a devout Jehovah's Witness. Check it out:
But you don't have a religious bone in your body, my sister said to her.
What do I have? Mama asked. Then she shook her head, brushed the hair back from Cameron's forehead and tried to smile. You know I don't mean that. But she packed the literature into her bag. (2.2-3)
When her old life is taken away, Mama redirects the enthusiasm she once held for teaching, for her friends, and for Denver into practicing religion.
While Mama seems to disappear into her newfound religion for a while, the girls know that teaching is really what matters to her, and indeed, when she gets her new teaching job, she seems to really turn a corner. Cameron/Anna says:
"Mama's a teacher first, Evie. Even with all the Joho stuff. She wants something better for us than this crap. She hates how we're living. Hates it. You know that and I know that. College? Even as she's trying to argue with me about it, I know she'll be thinking Yes, this one's getting away!" (21.80)
Mama's character is wrapped up in her identity as a teacher and her love for her family, two things that don't change even as she becomes committed to her new religion. Just like Toswiah/Evie, things around her may change, but ultimately her roots stay firm—she just has to figure out how to reconnect with them.