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Terry McMillan Books In Order

Publication Order of Waiting to Exhale Books

Waiting to Exhale (1992) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Getting to Happy (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Mama (1987) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Disappearing Acts (1989) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1996) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Day Late and a Dollar Short (2000) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Interruption of Everything (2005) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Who Asked You? (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
I Almost Forgot About You (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
It's Not All Downhill from Here (2020) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Twelve Graduation Tips (2006) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Terry McMillan is an African American short fiction author and novelist who believes her work is best described as the experiences of African American men and women from the city. McMillan was born to blue-collar worker Edward Lewis McMillan in Port Huron Michigan in 1951. Her father was an alcoholic that beat up his wife regularly and this left a huge scar on the young Terry. When she was only thirteen, her parents divorced and her mother had to work several odd jobs to feed her children. At sixteen, Terry got a job at the local library stacking shelves to help her mother provide for her siblings. It was while she was working at the library that she became a voracious reader and learned about the world of imagination. She loved the works of the likes of Thomas Mann, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. But since most of the works she read were by white authors, she was surprised to find that there were also black authors such as James Baldwin and Langston Hughes that wrote good books.

Terry McMillan moved to Los Angeles, California as a seventeen-year-old when she got a job as a secretary. She also started attending Los Angeles City College, where she attended an African American literature class. It was at the class that she got introduced to writers such as Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright. The novel “The Street” with its natural and honest account of the urban life of an African American woman was a huge influence on her early writings. It was during this time that she began writing, with her first attempt a poem that she wrote after a particularly painful breakup. It was from that poem that she started writing and she kept going as she also ventured into other forms of writing such as short stories. McMillan then went to the University of California, Berkeley where she studied journalism. At the university, she attended a workshop by Ishmael Reed the renowned critic and novelist who was excited by her writing and encouraged her to continue writing. She published her first short story “The End” in 1976.

After graduating from Berkeley, Terry MacMillan moved to New York City. She was involved in several artist colonies such as the MacDowell in New Hampshire and Yaddo in upstate in New York. She was also a member of the Harlem Writers Guild in New York. It was at this time that she finished writing the manuscript for her first novel “Mama” published in 1987. Her second novel was “Disappearing Acts” that she published in 1987 charted the romance between a junior high school music teacher with aspirations of becoming a singer named Zora Banks and a high school dropout, construction worker and carpenter Franklin Swift. It is a story of their relationship told in the third person narrative voice. MacMillan upped her game in 1990 as she became the editor of an anthology titled “Breaking Ice” that was a collection of tales by African American authors. “Waiting to Exhale” her third novel was her biggest breakthrough yet as she won a huge advance of $2.6 million and sold more than our million copies of the novel. The novel spawned the “girlfriend fiction” subgenre as many authors copied the style and book clubs scrambled to read Terry’s novels.

Terry MacMillan’s first novel “Mama” is a story that is unflinchingly honest in its portrayal of the motherhood struggle. At first glance, it seems the society only expects a mother to simply do what is best for their children, which is to love and protect them. How this is done may vary and there is a question as to how far one is willing to go to protect their children. Terry McMillan answers such questions in her debut novel. The lead character Mildred Peacock Mama has three children to feed and take care of in very hard times. The story is set in Point Haven, Michigan in 1964, where the Great Migration is yet to be realized. Mildred is married to Crook but the relationship can be best be described as mostly hate with just a little love. The marriage is characterized by drug/alcohol, emotional and physical abuse. True to character, Mildred decides to end things and divorces her husband to move on with her life. She is unapologetically flawed and a fearless woman that does not retreat no matter the circumstance. When she is ready to make a life-changing move she loves again and also moves away to Los Angles to start a new life.

McMillan’s “Disappearing Acts” is a novel that tells of the struggles of a Zora an African American woman and her husband Franklin who live in New York City in the 1980s. Her husband is a handsome and tall man who is a construction worker. He is highly intelligent but that does not carry much weight when one is a high school dropout and black. It feels like no one can give him a break, not even his own mother. Zora is a music teacher that dreams of a singing career. Franklin had fallen for Zora the first time he met her though she was hesitant given that they hardly knew each other. But they soon throw caution to the wind and are in a full-blown romance. Everything starts to unravel when secrets start coming out including the fact that Franklin is separated with two children and Zora’s is an epileptic. He has yet to divorce his wife since he does not have the money. They fight but finally manage to reconcile their differences but then a blow to the face, drinking, jealousy, an abortion, and a newborn child changes everything. They soon learn that their bond may not be as strong as they believed it was. Frank might have to go back and do what he needs to do before they make things right and a break could just be the thing they need.

“Waiting to Exhale” the third novel by Terry McMillan opens to Savanna who just got a new job offer in Phoenix. She just quit her old job and is now hoping to further her career in a new town and she could not be happier since her friend Bernadine also lives in Phoenix. Her friends are also having struggles of their own as Bernadine just learned that her husband has been cheating on her with some white woman. Robin is in a mountain of debt and is in a relationship with a philandering loser. Gloria is also having issues with Tarik her teenage son. None of the four friends can find a good man as Bernadine gave her life for more than a decade to find she had lost her identity; Robin is great at picking bad men; Gloria does not have the time given that she has to raise her son and run her hair salon; while Savanna is too picky. Savannah’s move to a new town seems to coincide with better conditions for all the friends as they all realize they could do without the bad men in their lives. In everything, they all come to realize the importance of friendships, particularly among friends.

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