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In this inspiring memoir—that Jane Fonda raves “will make you braver…want to live your life better and make a difference”—the award-winning playwright and bestselling author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day reminisces on the art of juggling marriage, motherhood, and politics while working to hone her craft as a writer.
Before she become one of America’s most popular playwrights and a bestselling author with a novel endorsed by Oprah’s Book Club, Pearl Cleage was a struggling writer going through personal and professional turmoil.
In Things I Should Have Told My Daughter, Cleage takes us back to the 1970s and 80s, when she was a young wife and mother trying to find her voice as a writer. Living in Atlanta, she worked alongside Maynard Jackson, the city’s first black mayor and it was here among fraught politics that she began to feel the pull of her own dreams—a pull that led her away from her husband as she grappled with ideas of feminism and self-fulfillment.
In the tradition of literary giants such as Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, and Maya Angelou, Cleage crafts an illuminating and moving self-portrait in which her “extraordinary experiences, deep social concerns, passionate self-analysis, and personal and artistic liberation, all so openly confided, make for a highly charged, redefining read” (Booklist).
A sampling of playwright and novelist Cleage's (What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day) journal entries over 20 years, from 1970 to 1990, as a young journalist, feminist, Civil Rights activist, wife, and mother delineates a long, difficult journey toward self-realization. A student at Spellman College in Atlanta, involved in SNCC meetings and civil rights organizations with her politician husband-to-be. Michael Lomax, Cleage embarked on her journal as race relations were splitting apart the country. Yearning to be a writer, chafing at the constraints of having to ply her way as a journalist, and resentful of the chauvinistic attitudes of men (reading The Feminist Mystique she recognized that, in terms of hiding real issues, "Men have done almost as good a job as white folks"), Cleage tried overall to be true to the ideals she envisioned for herself in her youth. She worked for the election of Maynard Jackson, the first African-American mayor of Atlanta; then got pregnant by the beginning of 1974, prompting many months of fretting about motherhood. Between Maynard's and her husband's campaigns, Cleage began to write in earnest in the late 1970s, often working as an itinerant screenwriter, recording her literary findings, and grappling constantly with how to be a sexual being in a committed relationship thorny questions that led her to leave her marriage and embark on a series of affairs with married men in the 1980s. By turns frank, and wide-eyed, Cleage's entries reflect a fulsome, tender spirit, hungry for authentic experience, eager for love.