Wednesday, April 9, 2014

#BookReview: Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage

It has occurred to me that I have no close woman friends with whom to share confidences, fears, lusts, dreams. I am keeping an entire area of woman thoughts tucked away with no outlet or possibility of exchange! - Pearl Cleage

When I initially started the latest from the fabulous Pearl Cleage, I think I expected it to be a letter to her daughter or some kind of "do this, don't do that" list.  Instead, I got so much more.  My acquaintance and fascination with Cleage and her work started back in the 90s.  I guess I never really gave any thought to how she, or any other author, arrived at the point in their lives where they had enough experiences to write about anything.  But Mother Pearl has lived!

Pulling bits and pieces from her personal journals, Things I Should Have Told My Daughter, feels like a mother introducing her real self to her daughter.  I think as daughters, we sometimes forget that our mothers existed in the world before us and lived lives that we can't imagine.  We realize they're human, but forget that they're not just mothers.  It's wonderful to watch Cleage go back through her journals and expose herself as a woman, sister, daughter and lover.

She's an unashamed feminist.
“If women said they were sorry only when we really meant it, most of our conversations would be cut in half.”

She's an fierce womanist.
“Note on Ms.: It has some fairly decent articles, but they are all/all/all, down to the last woman, middle class and overwhelmingly white…The women working on the magazine all try to identify with non-white women and say that among women “there are no barriers,” but the only black woman in the whole issue is a black welfare mother who is in the fucking back of the magazine. She is obviously being used as a token.”

Her thoughts on love:
"I don't think you can love a man and be free.  There is too much bullshit."
“Whew. This must be Joe Louis love. If you not careful, it will knock you out."

And sexuality:
"Some people like to do sit ups in the morning. I like to have orgasms."

You shouldn't just buy this book because of all of the quotable quotes (I haven't even included a fourth of what I highlighted as I read it).  You should buy it because as you watch Cleage go from a young twentysomething recruiting black grad students to teach at southern black colleges to a speechwriter for Maynard Jackson, when you see her hanging with her friend Shirley and realize that it's the same Shirley Jackson that goes on to become the mayor of Atlanta, you're witnessing history unfold before your eyes.  Cleage is witty and wise from start to finish, writing and sharing her thoughts unabashedly; what an absolute treasure for anyone lucky enough to stumble upon her words.

“This morning, we saw a big roach in the kitchen. “Kill it,” I say, “I don’t kill roaches,” he says, “they have powerful karma.” “Roaches,” I answer, swatting at it with my house shoe, “are the only creatures on earth who have no karma whatsoever. Who ever heard of roach karma? In fact,” I continued, “God doesn’t even admit to creating roaches. He looked up at the nasty little things one day and said, who created this motherfucka?”

Published: April 2014
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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