Monday, April 7, 2014

book review: Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons, and Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage

The backstory:  Longtime readers know Pearl Cleage is my absolute favorite author. See my raves about her novels: What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, I Wish I Had a Red DressSome Things I Never Thought I'd DoBabylon SistersBaby Brother's Blues, Seen It All and Done the Restand Til You Hear From Me. Any new writing from Pearl is a cause for celebration.

The basics: Things I Should Have Told My Daughter is a curated collection of diary entries from the 1970's and 1980's Cleage includes an introduction and a brief final commentary, but this memoir is essentially twenty years of diary entries.

My thoughts: It's incredibly intimate to read diary entries, particularly from someone I have admired for nearly twenty years. At times, reading these entries broke my heart. While Cleage is now incredibly successful, these entries go back before she was famous, and reading her self-doubt was haunting. I couldn't help but wonder how hindering my own moments of self-doubt are--and where will I find myself in twenty years?

One of the delight of this book was getting to know more about Pearl. One of my favorite anecdotes was her short-lived time in library school. I've long felt Pearl was a soul sister, and knowing she once thought seriously enough about being a librarian delighted me.

I think I enjoyed this book more than the average person because of my familiarity with Atlanta and its progressive activists from the last forty years. There's a special delight at hearing stories about the parents of my classmates from before we were born. Those not familiar with Atlanta power players may find themselves looking up unfamiliar names that are presented without context, but it's worth the extra time to marvel at Cleage's rich history.

Favorite passage: "I told Michael in Martinique that sometimes it doesn't matter if you're telling the same stories over and over. Most people don't have many to tell. Talking is just a way of having pleasant social intercourse with people and of establishing contact; and concern; and love."

The verdict: Things I Should Have Told My Daughter is a mesmerizing glimpse into a fascinating woman and her intriguing life. Atlantans, feminists, writers, and social activists will delight in the familiar names, locations, and emotions. I consider myself at least part of all four, and perhaps that makes me the target audience.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 320 pages
Publication date: April 8, 2014
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Things I Should Have Told My Daughter from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Pearl Cleage's website and like her on Facebook.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

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