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Mama Phife Represents
A Memoir

Mama Phife Represents is an arresting document of the body’s lowest depth of hurt, from a poet and mother who suddenly loses her son to Type 1 diabetes at the height of his musical career. It is a love letter from a grieving mother to her child.

  • “I am eternally hopeful that more people in the world come to terms with understanding that for anyone to share an experience of grief is a true generosity. With Mama Phife Represents, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor allows a reader to bask in the generosity. The sharing of loss and grief is the building of a bridge that others who have experienced that specific loss can cross. This is a book about losing a child, yes. But beyond that, it is a book of tactile emotions, and a singularly musical writing, which Boyce-Taylor has always done so well. Above all, Mama Phife Represents shows anyone who has lost someone how to make the most of memory, and the most of their own survival.”

    —Hanif Abdurraqib, author of Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest


    “‘All around are unhinged bones / wailing at the lip of sea.’ And: ‘I’ve stitched your breath / to my throat.’ Such lines carry the loss of the writer's beautiful son out of which emerges this book of love, of joy, of grief, but also of plenty. Through poems, letters, photographs, and other communications, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor has gathered an exquisite record of this Great love between mother and son, artist and artist. Quietly I say to you here: It is like nothing else I have quite read. An elegy, an epic, a duet. A motherhand gathering the lastings. We are so utterly fortunate to witness this immense devotion, and in that witnessing be changed by yet another glimpse of deepest love and what it makes possible.”

    —Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria


    Mama Phife Represents is an intimate and heartbreaking tribute to Boyce-Taylor’s son, Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor. Not only does Boyce-Taylor deftly humanize the hip-hop superhero, but she also logs every fragile emotion in both eulogy and celebration: so much so that ‘she will travel to Anguilla/ beg Yemaya to bring him back.’ The light that the poet finds on this journey is nearly unfathomable, but always redemptive. This collection is a monument, and I am grateful for it.”

    —Michael Cirelli, CEO of Urban Word National Youth Poet Laureate Program


    Mama Phife Represents is at once a memoir and a living archive of one man's extraordinary life and his mother's love and pain in the face of his loss. At a time in the United States when so many black mothers are losing their black children — through illness and violence — this book stands as a testament to the deep, ground-shifting impact of that loss across generations. Honest, Healing, Timely.”

    —Dr. Ana-Maurine Lara, poet, novelist, and scholar

Other books by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor