What does James compare his mother's singing to?
In Chapter Six, James relates how his mother loved singing in church. He remembers her love for God and for the hymns that she butchered, asserting that her singing voice sounded like a cross between a cold engine trying to start itself on a chilly October morning and a 'whining Maytag washer.'
James remembers that he and his siblings would try to muffle their laughter while she sang. Somehow, the shrill soprano notes would remind them of Curly in The Three Stooges. However, James notes that the minister, Reverend Owens, never seemed to mind listening to his mother's unusual singing. The preacher usually sat in a trance until he was awakened by one of Sister Jordan's (James' mother) 'clunker notes.' Then, he would rouse himself to look around the congregation for the source of the strange sounds that accosted his ears. Once satisfied that the sounds came from James' mother, the preacher would nod in satisfaction and revert to his usual trance-like state.