Get into the Groove

Although her novel is far more sarcastic, populist, and neat than Jeffery Renard Allen's gothic, dystopian, Faulknerian Rails Under My Back, McMillan is mining very similar terrain with respect to African American families—where there is love, marriage, money, and adult responsibility, there can be little space provided for emotional honesty, criticism, or vulnerability. Like Allen (and Zadie Smith), McMillan is tapping into zeitgeist territory for 21st-century Black literature, recognizing the prickly challenge of exhuming our folks' interpersonal traumas and dysfunctions and providing readers a complex, rewarding space where everybody's dirty laundry gets paraded in the street and then spanked with love.

Terry McMillan can suck on teeth like nobody's business.
photo: Stephanie Rausser
Terry McMillan can suck on teeth like nobody's business.


A Day Late and a Dollar Short
By Terry McMillan
Viking, 432 pp., $25.95
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McMillan's sugarcoated Thanksgiving Day ending is, alas, made for Hollywood, as are some of the sudden romances, lottery wins, and plot-serving pregnancies, but hey, stranger things have coincided. The multigenerational scars and contusions she unveils before arriving at that trumped-up gathering make A Day Late as unblushing a depiction of how rundown, tired, and in need of rejuvenation African American families are as you'll find this side of opening up some Baldwin.

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