Maame Book Club Questions and Discussion Guide

Maddie/Maame– under that caretaking, people-pleasing, virginial exterior, you’ve got some feist in you!

Maame was chosen by Jenna’s book club and it’s consistent with many of their other popular picks for featuring female protagonists, female authors and/or diverse voices. Maame follows Londoner Maddie as she struggles to disentangle herself from overwhelming family responsibilities and begins to make a fresh start at adulting. This book will give your book club a lot of fodder, covering themes like: finding one’s voice, the challenges of being a second gen immigrant, the subtleties of casual racism and the burden of responsibilities. Use these Maame book club questions to get your conversation kicked off right.

This Maame discussion guide will support your group with a synopsis, 10 Maame book club questions, selected reviews (hint: not everyone loved the book), and some ideas for related reads.

Maame Book Club Questions, with book cover

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Maame Synopsis

(We always chose to provide the publisher synopsis because we feel that it’s worthwhile to discuss whether the official book description actually squared with your experience of the book.)

Maame, Jessica George

Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman.

It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.

When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts”: She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But it’s not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils—and rewards—of putting her heart on the line.

Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Jessica George’s Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.

Maame Book Club Questions

These questions have been tailored to this book’s specific reading experience, but if you want more ideas, we also have an article with 101 generic book club questions.

  1. In Twi, “Maame” has many meanings, but Maddie defines it for herself as “woman”…as in being viewed as grown-up, even as a girl, which caused her to feel too much pressure. She says later in the book that she feels that her family used the nickname as an excuse to opt out of responsibility. But also that she also helped her dad feel safe when he was ill.

    Consider how nicknames such as these can define a person. And how the nicknames can come to mean different things over time.
  2. Maddie had a lot of family responsibility, partly raising herself during her mother’s absences and caring for her ill dad. This requires a great deal of maturity. But in other respects, Maddie lacked maturity, was completely unschooled in sex and relationships, and struggled to stand up for herself.

    Discuss these contradictory elements of Maddie’s personality.
  3. Maddie does a lot of Googling. In fact, she Googles some things that many of us would have learned through in-person social interactions. Have you ever done this– Google something that you know you should know but are too embarrassed to ask a friend about?
  4. “I was raised to keep family matters private. So if my dad has his own bedroom or my mum goes abroad for inexplicable lengths of time, it’s common knowledge within our household that we keep that business, and all matters like it, to ourselves. “They just won’t understand, you know? We’re Ghanaian, so we do things differently.””

    How did these unspoken aspects of Maddie’s family affect their relationships with one another? Do you have some unspoken rules in your own family?
  5. Maddie’s mom whiplashes between long absences and lack of contribution to her husband’s care, to nosy intrusions into Maddie’s personal and religious life.

    As an exercise, pick one of those character elements and defend or discuss it: nosy Nellie vs absentee landlord.
  6. Maddie’s therapist tells her that “A person’s troubles are not measured by the size of those troubles, but by how much they weigh on the individual carrying them.”

    Discuss what you would consider to be some of Maddie’s smaller troubles and why you think they weighed so heavily upon her.
  7. Maddie’s mom tells her that “You are burdened with guilt, but if your father understood what was happening around him, he would beg you to go, to live your life. He and I came to this country so our children would advance; we did not come to hold you back.”

    There were quite a few things holding Maddie back. What did you think was her highest hurdle?
  8. Right after her father’s death, Maddie’s resentment towards her mother and brother bubbles over, affecting how she views herself and her relationship with her family. She says about her mom that “…pastor tells her to stay strong because her children need her. When has that ever meant anything to mum?”

    Ouch. Up to this moment, what were your feelings regarding James and Maddie’s mom?
  9. That Ben guy! Does the fact that he invests more into his white girlfriend mean that he is racist? And if so, is he even aware of it? Do you think that you’ve ever unconsciously made these sorts of value judgements?
  10. If you were Maddie’s friend during this time, what one piece of advice would you give her?

Selected Reviews for Maame

“Both inter and intra-role conflict are excellently depicted in Maddie’s story. The author gives us a picture of how culture influences roles and expectations within families and relationships. In Maddie, struggling to find a balance between the Ghanaian family values instilled in her since childhood and her life and aspirations as a Londoner, we find an endearing protagonist who is sweet, smart and lovable and is doing her level best to find her way in the world. Her struggles are real and relatable and her pain and grief are palpable.”

“I don’t really know how she got this far is life but then we find out when in doubt ask google, such questions as should I have sex on a third date, (yes, she finally snags a boyfriend). The questions to google are not only stupid but also annoying. I realize this woman was a neophyte in the world but honestly had she never watched TV, gone to a movie, overheard people talk, or even attended a biology class?”

“There’s an element of quirkiness in Maddie as this begins that was a tiny bit reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant, to me. Maddie’s someone who doesn’t seem to quite fit in anywhere, at first, but seems to find confidence as she navigates her new world, the one outside of her family, and sees that she is not the only one who is happy to be different, to be herself, and embrace that.”

“A highly anticipated read that had so much going for it, but struggled along due to structural issues and a meandering main character which all just didn’t work for me….Maddie often times feel juvenile in her mannerisms and thought processes for a woman who went to uni and has had many friends. Her reactions and google searches don’t feel realistic to her age even with what we know about her supposed “lack of exposure”.”


Use our guide to find dozens of book ideas for your group.

3 Books Like Maame

If you’re keen on more characters with mommy issues try the following guides: The House of Eve discussion guide, Our Missing Hearts discussion guide.

Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo

If you want more London women of color with a lot of mother/daughter dynamics, this book (which won the 2019 Booker prize) is a great comp.

Girl, Woman, Other weaves together the stories of a large cast of British women of color, including mother, daughters and lovers. The book lays bare complicated feminist themes as well as issues of multiculturalism, gender roles, gender fluidity, Lesbian life and painful multi-gen family dynamics.

If you choose it for book club, be sure to use our Girl, Woman, Other book club guide.

Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid

This Reese’s book club choice is a good follow-up if you’d like to explore more of that whole “racist white people who think they’re allies” thing.

This book kicks off with African-American au pair Emira being confronted and accused of kidnapping in a high end grocery store. Emira is aimless and broke and is doing the babysitting because she doesn’t have any better ideas (recognize Maame here?). Her boss Alix, vows to make it right, but she’s really more concerned about the public image for her high-confidence Goop-like brand. And Emira’s white boyfriend thinks he’s her ally, but he has a thing or two to learn about how racism works.

Read it for book club and use our Such a Fun Age discussion guide.

Anything by Sally Rooney

Rooney (who we also feature on our list of Irish books) is tapped into the zeitgeist of 20-somethings who do a lot of angsty talking, fumbling around with sex, making mistakes and trying to figure out who they really are.

Her books include Beautiful World Where are You, Conversations with Friends and Normal People (use our Normal People discussion guide).

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Maame discussion guide, book cover, Jessica George

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