Mama's Child is story of an idealistic young white woman who travelled to the American South as a civil rights worker, fell in love with an African American man, and started a family in San Francisco, where the more liberal city embraced them - except when it didn't. They raise a son and daughter, but the tensions surrounding them have a negative impact on their marriage, and they divorce when their children are still young.
For their biracial daughter, this split further destabilizes her already challenged sense of self – "Am I black or white?" she must ask herself, "Where do I belong?" Is she her father's daughter alone? As the years pass, the chasm between them widens, even as the mother attempts to hold on to the emotional chord that binds them. It isn't until the daughter, Ruby, herself becomes a wife and mother that she begins to develop compassion and understanding for the many ways that her own mother's love transcended race and questions of identity.