grown folks’ novels


I liked Disappearing Acts. Mapping the course for black chick lit, like Janine Morris’s Diva Diaries and Connie Briscoe’s Sisters and Lovers, Terri McMillan wrote a “girlfriend” story that black women could discuss in beauty shops, at the water cooler, and in university hallways.

The girlfriend novels of Terri McMillan are not the stuff we use to teach close-reading in our lit classrooms, but they are a valuable cultural study. The recent national media attention to the love lives (or love lack) of black women presents an interesting opportunity to think about black women’s popular writing and reading communities. Before Living Single and Sex and the City, McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale told a story of black female friendship and love relationships. The writing wasn’t perfect and the characters did not necessarily evolve, but it kept pages turning. Forrest Whitaker’s film adaptation of the novel was a box office success, which makes me wonder why there was no “domino effect,” like the trend of “hood” films that followed Singleton’s Boyz.

Getting to Happy is McMillan’s sequel to Waiting. Click here for a review of the novel in WaPo. Perhaps McMillan’s novel and the recent release of Helena Andrews’s memoir Bitch is the New Black (which has been optioned for film) will energize conversations by black women and about black women’s lives that don’t center on the triple S syndrome (Successful, Single, and Sad).

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About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at Ms.blog, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

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