Cover Image: Listen Mama

Listen Mama

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Author M.S.P. Williams weaves an interesting story of a young man's survival despite a mother who both absent and present in his life. The audiobrook was narrated by a gentleman with a rich voice that added to the story. The story is told through a series of letters and the protagonist's devotion to his family is very honest and moving. The letters reflect his change in perspective when growing up. At times, it's a story not easy to listen to - mother's mental illness and family's poverty - but there's also an element of humor woven into it.
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Eye-opening, emotional storytelling by Williams. The voice is familiar and intimate making LISTEN MAMA a window into your own experiences. Wow.
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Children are born to bring more love into the world. 

Just as God created the universe and mankind to enjoy it with, humans have the ability to multiply as well, bringing into the world more love than would be possible to experience on one's own. The more vessels of independent spirits there are in this world, the more opportunities there are to love. 
The only problem with that is: the more vessels of independent spirits there are, the more opportunities there are to be hurt by them as well.
The author of this book, M.S.P. Williams, known to his family as Manny, wasn't born into a reality of unconditional love. Or at least that's how it seemed.
Unfortunately, his reality was quite the opposite. He was born into a world of fear and scarcity. Afraid of what mood his mother might be in at any given moment, any given day. Born into a mindset of not knowing if the satiation of his hunger today might lead to the starvation of his family tomorrow. He grew up walking on eggshells, and living in fear. 


As a series of letters Manny wrote for his mother to remember him by as a child until the age of 35, Listen Mama is a story of scarcity, fear, pain, rejection, trauma, resilience, hope, and love. The author holds no punches in the honesty and depth within his writing. From beginning to end, this is a heart-wrenching story of a boy turned man that is sure to give every reader at least something to be thankful for. Or at least that's what it did for me. 


When Manny was a young boy, he got permanent scars across his head. This caused him to be bullied at school, to which his mother remarked, 'that's what happens to people who don't stand up for themselves'. Yet throughout his life, it was his own mother that never seemed to stand up for him. 
In arguments, his mother would say that maybe things would be better had he never been born. His mother was afraid of Manny never getting married or finding a job because of his scars, yet inside he felt that her true fear was being judged by others for how she was as a parent; not how well her son's life actually turned out.


Diagnosed by different doctors as schizophrenic, bipolar, manic, etc., Manny's mother represented everything but stability and consistency in her children's lives. Manny wished she were an alcoholic instead, for at least that problem would be apparent and has a known solution. But instead, he and his siblings had to live through the mental instability of their mother, never knowing when extreme bouts of her mental illness might strike again. 
For that reason, Manny took it upon himself to write letters to his mother as a way for her to remember him by as he grew up. It seemed like everything was confused in her, 'names, dates, and most importantly, intentions'. He hoped that in times of mental clarity, his mother would be able to read these letters and realize how much her son had truly tried to care for and love her. It takes decades for him to finally receive some closure. 


Being the oldest of his siblings, Manny assumed the role of parent and provider of his household. His birth father had died and his mother wasn't fit for the job. He tried his best at school, worked endless hours, and did what he could to create the best life possible for his siblings. Even when the best he could do was just barely keep their heads above water. It seemed like everyone in his family was complacent in the downward spiraling lives they led. Everyone but him. 


Manny had hopes and dreams to make a difference in the world. To help and serve others. To be a beacon of light to those engulfed by the same bleak darkness as him. 
He tried his hand at being a teacher, working in financial services, and even being a cop. He wanted nothing more than to help people, but everything he tried led to one dead-end after another. 


Why did life have to be so hard? Why, when all he wanted to do was help, did he feel nothing but pain along the way?
Manny writes of trying to kill himself multiple times in his life. Though, in the back of his mind he knew there's no such thing as an 'attempted suicide'. If one way doesn't work, there's plenty more ways to try. But something inside him didn't provoke him to try again after each failed attempt. Something inside him didn't want to die, he just didn't know how to live with the constant pain of being alive.
By the age of 30, Manny feels that he keenly knows his worth, which wasn't even valuable enough to give away with a free coupon. He thinks to himself, 'What am I good for? What value do I have to offer anyone?'. It is around this time where he reaches rock bottom; a place he knows too well, as he has travelled up and down that canyon again and again.
From living in his car when he had no money for rent, to ~almost~ 'dining and dashing' (funny story from the book!), no matter how much he tried, all the world ever did to him was take.


After pages and pages of hopeless letters to his mom, Manny's life finally shows a glimmer of light. He meets a kind, smart woman who doesn't falter at the way he looks, but loves him for the way he is. She loves him for his past and present, scars and all.
Throughout Manny's youth, he had glimpses of the love he was born to give, however short-lived they were. It wasn't until he began the journey of learning to love himself through the eyes of another, forgiveness, and progress towards creating a better future that he learns to accept himself for the kind, resilient, compassionate man he truly is. 


The book ends with the last letter Manny writes to his mom. He explains how much of a burden it's been to be the protector and provider for the family, how much of a strain it's been on his mental and physical health. From this last letter of his at 35 years old, he gets the first reply back from his mother.
She states that it was her fault for the situation she put Manny in, and it wasn't on purpose. She doesn't blame him for moving away and leaving the family, she is actually surprised he didn't do it sooner and is thankful for all the time and support he gave her and the family. This letter seems to have closed the loop of shame, and at times contempt, that he felt towards himself, his siblings, and his mother; allowing him to finally be free of the shackles of not being enough and start living life on his own terms. 


This book was not an easy one to listen to, no matter how smooth and soulful the voice of JD Jackson as narrator is. It is a powerful and moving real-life story of hope and resilience in the face of immense pain and suffering. Manny's story is one that will stay with you long after you finish reading it, as it has proved to do so for me.
Listen Mama is a powerful reminder that no matter how difficult life may be, there is always hope for a better tomorrow.
Hope for closure.
Hope for love. 
Hope that the past and present don't have to dictate the present of the future. 
The present is a gift. A gift of life that has the opportunity to spread hope and love unto the lives of others. 
For the more we spread love, the more we will discover that the love we give unto others is the same love that we can find within.
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This was a really accessible audio book for me - as someone who finds it difficult to focus on listening to a book, this totally worked for me as it is the author's memoir told over a series of letters written to his mother.

What unfolds is Manny's story from the teenage years in the early 90's to his final letter as an adult - as his life straddles heartbreak, emotion, humour and coming of age all set alongside his unstable and at times uncertain home life. Manny's mother has been struggling with her mental health, and Manny talks openly about the impact this has had on the children and his family, as well as his attempts as the oldest child to shoulder some of the burden he feels and be a protector for the younger family members. At times this is thankless, and Manny himself is clearly trying to process his own mental health challenges as a result.

What a stunning and honest depiction of a difficult life lived whilst hopefully searching to feel the love he yearns for from his mother. I loved the music references throughout, and I loved the hope that Manny exuded in so many of his letters.
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Book was ok. I was hoping to be more engaged. But I couldn’t get into after the second 1/2. Narrated was fine
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Thank you to NetGalley and Souls Take Flight for a review copy of this audiobook. 

It was narrated by JD Jackson and this fit well with the format of this memoir, that is via letters from Manny to his mum from childhood to early thirties. Being read out added a level of attachment to the ‘characters’ (real life people) and I did enjoy this so would totally recommend the audiobook version. 

It’s hard to review a memoir as you’re basically judging someone’s life so Yhh but the ‘plot’ centres on his mum’s struggles with mental illness (Schizophrenia, bpd, bi-polar disorder, depression) and parenting his four siblings. Manny so desperately wants his mother’s love and does so much for her and his whole family, often jeopardising his own happiness, but to little avail. It’s heartbreaking at points with the whole collection touching on each and every emotion possible. He dealt with many hardships from childhood, born into poverty in Houston, disfigured from a few months old leading to bullying, caring for his family and this continues throughout. What makes it more crushing is how Manny is so smart and determined and you really wish things to work out at every point but something gives and it’s a vicious cycle. He later experiences his own mental health issues and I feel a lot of the comments he made were rather insightful and extremely personal. I got the sense that in the beginning he had a mentality of ‘there’s a difference between staying because you have to and staying because you want to’ where he does all he can via the latter and it shifts around the 30% mark to the former, here he starts to refer to his mum by her first name Soleita highlighting the weakening of their bond. Manny contained to do all he can but it does come across that there are things he wishes he could be doing instead and the sacrifices made. 

I would say it did start to drag a bit and many of the events in the letters were repetitions of those in earlier ones. It also gets a bit frustrating at points such as him quitting jobs just at the start after so much work being put in and other opportunities he missed - it’s a memoir and his real life so I can’t really be like ‘I wish he did this’ but still it made me want to get inside the pages and shake Manny at times.
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I always found it hard to review or rate a persons memoir. This was full of so much emotions. Written as forms of letters to the author’s mentally ill mother desperately needing her love. I found the audiobook beautiful yet heartbreakingly emotional to listen to. 
Manny taking care of his mama and his siblings. Battling with his own mental health issues in his teen years, depression and suicide attempts but finally gathering the strength he had to withstand everything trying to figure out life. This was definitely a very powerful book with a lot of raw emotions and more often really hard to handle for the reader.
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Manny’s story is absolutely devastating & inspiring. He has sacrificed so much time of his life to help his family - his mom, grandmother & siblings. In Manny’s memoir, a series of letters written to his mother, starting in his childhood from the 1990s until his 35th birthday, he takes us on his journey of the ups & downs of his life. 

Manny has put his family first countless times, which meant sacrificing his schooling, his career, and more. He was handed many series of unfortunate events throughout his life, including an accident from when he was just a baby. With lots of love & loss in his journey, MSP Williams has quite the story to tell.

Thank you NetGalley for the audiobook of Listen Mama.
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I absolutely love this more. It guided you into different situations the good, the bad, and the ugly. The situations that arose in his life he took on full force and made the best of what he could.
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*received for free from netgalley for honest review* Heartbreaking letters was not an overstatement! wow what a great but emotion packed read.
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I really enjoyed listening to this book, the narrator was a good choice. I imagine there were some difficult times during the telling/writing of this book. However, the author did a good job of giving us these raw emotions in a digestible way. This really was one of those ‘hilariously funny memoirs’ to me. I died when he thought telling a girl “her bug eyes reminded him of Kermit the Frog” was a compliment. On a serious note, I did appreciate hearing how a child growing up with a parent battling mental illness is affected.
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❤ I first was attracted to the #Artistry then I saw is was narrated by my favorite #MaleVoiceArtist and #BookBoo #JDJACKSON #JakobiDiem. I snatched it up right away, I will listen to him read a menu. I don't think I would have snatched it up had I read the synopsis though--Audiobooking this was like reading my yet to be written Memoir. From dropping out of college #TWICE before finishing on the 3rd attempt, to the parent pleasing that sucked up time and energy and witnessing some epic made for CableTv #MentalBreakdowns the ongoing weeping sessions and the normalcy of violent verbal abuse in my upbringing.... It was all to familiar. I had to lay low before leaving a review because I was triggered AF from the TOO many similarities. I will say this, some of the sarcasm and subtle humour had me LMAO! Some real LOL until I had to catch my breath scenes. It's the kind of humor needed to get through such an upbringing I think.

There are not enough stories NOR conversations from BLACK folks about #SevereMentalIllness #GenerationalTrauma #ComplexPTSD #Treatment #Therapy Depression #ADHD and the disparities in mental health care in Communities of Color and how that shit just fans out when its not addressed-- leaving a legacy spanning decades. Like the author, I had to walk away to maintain my sanity--- something that took way too long. I'm in my 50s a decade older than this author and I am still in therapy and dealing with some unhealthy behavior (from a distance). Yall know I can be long winded AF when a book sucks me in. This is a #Mustread and I think it's the perfect book/kindle that will leave you inspired. Let #Amazon do the work! And spread the word. I am so waiting for a screen adaption and a Spotify Song List of all the musicians, music and songs referenced in this book. Shoutout to #NetGallery for granting my request. It took me a minute to get to it but I #audiobooked it at the perfect time. ~NAMINYCAmbassador

#ListenMama #NetGalley #TexAS #cOLORISM #ReligiousHypocracy #MentalHealth #PTSD #MEMOIR #SoulsTakeFlight #MUSTREAD #GoodReads #ARC #FIONA #TUPAC #BIGGIE #NAS #DAVECHAPELLE
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'Listen Mama' tells the tale of the mixed-race son of a woman who has a mental illness. Through a series of letters to her - and shared by him - we learn details of his chaotic life over more than a decade.. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but the writing itself is somewhat chaotic. For the first three chapters I wasn't sure what I was listening to, or what I should be listening for. 

The book is populated by a fascinating (and large) cast of characters, and it took some hard listening to get all their names, and their connections to the author straight in my head.. At some points in the book, the narrative was so extraordinary that I had to remind myself I was listening to a memoir - and not a novel. I was impressed by Williams's commitment to the truth, even when it didn't exactly flatter him.. I got fully invested in this book and the author's journey. By turns, I  found myself wanting to give the younger Mani advice, a scolding, a hug, and a sympathetic ear. He really did not have an easy life - and hearing it warts and all, but without self-pity, or excuses - really emphasized the true grit of the author's character. 

As I experienced 'Listen Mama' on Net Galley's audiobook app, the performer's voice was really important. Thankfully, JD Jackson does a fine job of narrating this book. His voice is beautifully gravelly, while he conveys emotions in a more understated, than overly-dramatic, way - thus emphasizing the depth of feeling. . 

'Listen Mama' is a solid four stars.
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The memoir in this book is told through the young man's letters to his mentally ill mother from his adolescence through adulthood. We learn about the author's life as he grows up and tries to make sense of what life has given him through these letters.

If you are looking for a story that has elements such as faith, love, redemption, heartache, and happiness, then you should read this book. There are a few spots throughout the book that really light a fire in your soul. My only criticism is that it was not nearly as good as it could have been. There was a huge amount of potential work to be done. For instance, with the exception of the final two chapters, I never had an emotional connection to Manny's story, despite my admiration for his perseverance and ambition.

The novel doesn't offer readers enough time to get to know different individuals because the chapters are written in the form of letters. Additionally, we don't learn much about his interactions with his mother when he was an adolescent because the letters appear to begin after she had been admitted to a mental health facility. I think I would have felt a stronger sense of connection if I had known more about his early years.

The narration of the audiobook was excellent.
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Short but intense.
A brave story of a man’s journey for love, acceptance and survival.
I really enjoyed listening to this and felt such strong emotions at a life affected by mental illness and the waves that flow to alter his future.
Honest, heartbreaking, enlightening and emotional.
Powerful stuff.
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Listen Mama by M.S.P. Williams REVIEW

This tragic but beautiful memoir tells the story of Manny who is trying to navigate life while caring for his mother, who has a mental illness and his younger siblings.  Listen Mama is a series of letters that Manny writes to his mother over the course of twenty years.  The emotions are real and raw as Manny learns about love, loss and deals with his own mental struggles while growing up in poverty and trying to find his place in this world.

The audio performance by JD Jackson was excellent.

While I do not give star reviews for memoirs I enjoyed listening to this book and rooting for Manny to thrive in life.  Thank you Manny for sharing part of your story.

Thank you, @NetGalley for providing me with this audiobook in return for my honest review.
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I really enjoyed listening to this book while cooking and cleaning at work. It was nice to hear a pov on living with a mother with mental illness. Seeing as I have been through a similar situation with her and siblings of my own. While this book had so much tragedy in it, the author adds humor in parts that really did make me smile. Plus, I always love a book in letter form.
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This book was very impactful, a detailed account of life that explores the narrator's flaws and limits in the face of doing the right thing. 


“Even though the book has heartbreak, it has happiness and humor. YA readers will love this moving memoir . . . The themes of separation, poverty, loneliness, and broken families make this a timely and timeless story.” —ReaderViews

“ . . . Warmly likable man doing his utmost to struggle through more tragedy and bad luck than any human being should be handed . . . but always doing so with courage, humor and gallantry.” —BookLife Reviews

“A devastating coming-of-age memoir about the impact of a mother’s mental illness on her son.” —Clarion Foreword Reviews

“As dramatic as it is heartbreaking.” —Kirkus Reviews

Through a series of letters at times heart-breaking, poetic, and unexpectedly humorous, come explore this true teen and young adult journey of a lost soul searching for the love of his mentally ill mother. While facing seemingly insurmountable odds, Manny ultimately becomes her caretaker and guardian while also parenting his four younger siblings in 1990’s Houston, Texas.

Witness his transformation in this coming-of-age story of a forgotten and disfigured black child, born into spirit-crushing poverty, and thrust into adult life all too soon. Manny’s teen years are spent battling the silent and treacherous enemy of mental illness in his mother's erratic and terrifying behavior. Years of bullying and abuse finally take their toll, and Manny soon finds himself at war with his own demons of depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts as he struggles to find his place in the world, and the true meaning of unconditional love.

Experience this inspirational story of loss, faith, love, and redemption that is guaranteed to bring forth both tears and laughter, heartache and happiness, as it captures your imagination, ignites your soul, and soon has you racing from page to page, breathlessly waiting to discover what happens next…


The story was a great exploration of the evolution of characters through time, highlighting the changes in their beliefs and habits, prompting them to change. The pace is nice and this novel is composed with an epistolary style, so it might not be for someone looking for an adventure, however I really loved it. I liked the exploration of human connection with the mother, that prompted the main character to act in ways that were not positive for his own mental health, in the name of the family. 

This showed one of his own limitsç how he wanted to see someone in her mother that didn't exist, someone that wanted to change and improve although that was never what she desired. It was heartbreaking to read about the efforts he put into improving the life of his siblings, which ultimately failed as he had to step out of the negativity he was surrounded by. The fact that his mother is able to live without him just shows how much people are able to make through life despite their circumstances, indicating that change is not always possible or necessary, and that we don't always have to be the ones taking charge of the world, especially if the help is not welcome.


The writer and main character: he is frustrating at times because he is unable to let his mother and his siblòings go, always coming back to situations where he is forced to give without ever getting anything in return (gratitude or love). But he is relatable as the person he is trying to help is his mother, whom he is trying to save from herself, and has to accept the fact that she doesn't want to change, or see the necessity for change. 

Overall I liked his redemption arc and how the change in his thoughts and behaviors is portrayed throughout the novel. 

The mother (Solita): It is clear that the mother is ill for most of the novel, and even when she is not forced into a mental facility she is not well. However, her illness does not justify her behaviors at all times and the lack of care she displays for her children. I didn't like her at all

The grandmother: she is clearly trying to help the situation, looking after the children and asking the writer to come home and help. However, if he changes and accepts the fact that he can't truly help without sacrificing his own happiness, she keeps remaining close to Solita. I understood her and found in her the love of a mother towards her daughter, that the protagonist despèerately wanted for himself but couldnàt have.

Similar reads you might enjoy: I am glad my mum died by Janette Mc Curdy

Overall I really loved the book and would highly recommend it.
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#ListenMama #MSPWilliams #SoulsTakeFlight #NetGalley

This is the story of Manny, told through a series of letters addressed to his mother who suffers from mental illness. We journey with him as he grows up, trying to make sense of what life has handed to him. Through it all, through the poverty, the suffering, the shame and the blame, the love that he has for his mother shines through as he tells her that he never stopped loving her and will always be there for her.

It is a story of faith, hope and forgiveness.

JD Jackson narrates with real emotion. Listening to this ALC gives us a glimpse into the trials and tribulations of many families who suffer from the devastation of mental illness and poverty.
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While I received a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my review, all opinions remain my own. 

TW Child and spousal abuse, drugs, jail, discrimination, mentions of suicide attempts, mental hospitalization

This book tells the story of a young black man through letters to his mother who has schizophrenic disorder. It is heartbreaking and relatable. While I cannot relate to the problems of a young black man, I can relate to his struggles with both his own mental health and his mother's issues. 

Worth the read just to gain some insight to the struggles that others face. I love the letter format. Sprinkled with some current events give it a real historical standpoint.
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