Blog, Bookish Life

Terry McMillan’s Canvas


Terry McMillan’s tweets are a threadless revelation. She shares her writing process, political prowess, music loves, and that she in fact bought enough lunch and dinner to power through her editing. 

Her writing is as revelatory. Her third novel, Waiting to Exhale delved into the lives of four Black women with their trials in relationships yet triumphs in friendship. These women embodied agency, passion, and deep vulnerability. They expressed their desire for love. They reinvigorated their worth. Not that it was lost. They just had to remind themselves who the heck they were. 

In the novel’s film adaptation, one of the most important and enduring scenes in cinema is when Angela Bassett invokes the rage her character, Bernadette, fires out, quite literally. You also may never look at a red wagon the same way again. Bernadette pulling down her cheating husband’s clothes is an evergreen emotion. It is the trademarked Angry Black Woman that is rightfully fierce instead of as a perceived monster. 

Ms. Bassett also played the titular character in the film adaptation of How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Stella was an achieving stockbroker who reconnects with herself on vacation. Stella embraces a fling with a younger man. Stella’s evolution pulls her onto the dancefloor, grooving in the rhythm. She may get her pinky toe stepped on. She may also close her eyes to freedom. 

Fellow adapted films of Ms. McMillan’s novels include Disappearing Acts and A Day Late and a Dollar Short.

The common thread in McMillan’s work is that Black women are the compass of their power. The male gaze can inform their actions. It adds an element of intrigue. It also reminds them that they can put salted butter in their own grits. 

Ms. McMillan’s latest novel, It’s Not All Downhill From Here relies on discovery after loss. It carries the spirit of friendship. Loretha, the main character, heals through the most open of wounds. She is also empowered by her age, newly sixty-eight, to know that discovery is also a heartbeat. 

Black women are seen on screen through McMillan’s honest line for line storytelling. The women are seasoned with a zest for life. They knew more than they did the day before. They anticipate what they yet know. 

If you have not read her work, you will embark on a reading vigor. For those who have read her work, savor in the memory of being in between her pages. 

Ashley Paul is a hopeless wanderer, baker, runner, and photographer. She is passionate about supporting high school juniors and seniors to write compelling stories for their post-secondary careers. Her favorite genres are young adult, literary fiction, and memoir.

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