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What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Idlewild, #1)
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What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Idlewild #1)

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  15,921 ratings  ·  532 reviews
Acclaimed Playwright, essayist and columnist Pearl Cleage breaks new ground in African American women's literature--with a debut novel that sings and crackles with life-affirming energy as it moves the reader to laughter and tears.

As a girl growing up in Idlewild, Michigan, Ava Johnson had always heard that, if you were young, black, and had any sense at all, Atlanta was t
Paperback, 244 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published 1997)
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Oprah's Book Club Picks
58th out of 76 books — 1,260 voters
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Best Black/African American Chicklit
10th out of 162 books — 227 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 17, 2015 O rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: favorites
Told in the first person, main character Ava Johnson returns to her hometown of Idlewild, Michigan. Ava up until recently lived in Atlanta, GA. However, after finding out that she is HIV positive, she ends up having to shut down her business after losing customers when her status is found out.

Ava is blunt, funny, and at times sad when she reminisces about growing up/being raised by her older sister and brother in law. Ava has plans to stay with her sister for just the summer before heading to Sa
I picked this book up at a thrift store just because I liked the title. I almost quit reading after the first two pages, but I am glad I stuck with it. The plot is flat at times and it can be raw to the point of vulgarity, but hope shines through it all. This is definitely not the sort of book I normally read, but I liked it because of that.

Quotes I enjoyed:

"Sometimes you meet yourself on the road before you have a chance to learn the appropriate greeting. Faced with your own possibilities, th
Normally I run like crazy from an 'Oprah's book club' selection - finding them self-righteous and/or overwritten. What a nice surprise to discover that this book was neither!
I found myself emotionally engaged by Ava's situation and relationships and didn't tire of the narrative at all.
I guess I've learned a little about my own particular literary prejudices by enjoying this book much more than I expected!
Caroline Alicia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day è un altro romanzo ricevuto tramite Bookmooch, su cui non avevo grandi aspettative e che non mi ha convinto completamente. Pearl Cleage affronta delle tematiche molto importanti con questo romanzo (l'HIV, la disoccupazione, la criminalità, le droghe, il sesso non protetto e le gravidanze indesiderate nella comunità afroamericana) e lo fa concentrandosi sul piccolo: le vicende della protagonista Ava, una parrucchiera di colore che torna al paese natale Idl ...more
Leah Hess
Ava Johnson is almost the exact opposite of me. Seriously, we have nothing in common--but I was drawn to her character in just the first page of the novel, when she discloses her big secret. It's also nothing I can relate to, but intriguing nonetheless. She has undergone change since escaping the tiny Idlewild community, but comes back to discover that maybe change isn't always good. Her growth and progress through the novel were captivating, and Cleage really sucks you in to feeling as though ...more
Marilyn Maya
What looks like beautiful is an ordinary novel,

I was excited when I started reading this book. The author has a good voice, a beautiful voice, an honest voice. But that is all it is. The main character is well defined, strong and believable. The beginning is exciting and new. But then the plot. oh, the plot. so thin, so predictable, so boring. I knew from the first clue how the book would end. The other characters are one dimensional, either all good or all bad and did I say the plot was thin. o
An African American woman from a small town, living in a big city discovers something that changes her life and the way she views it forever…she was told she is HIV positive. Ava is a successful business woman, running her own salon in Atlanta. Her life may have been a bit full of sex partners, but she is a good woman and a hardworking woman. She feels, when told she is HIV positive, that the men she has had sex with deserve to know. So she sends out letters telling them all and telling them tha ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I had no idea what I was getting into from the description of the book. Really, the book is about two sisters, black women, who live in Idlewild, MI. The book focuses a lot on their personal journeys and one of the main themes is healthy sexuality, and teaching girls about how to find themselves - I loved it!
"Because what looks like crazy on an ordinary day can look like love howling if you see it in the moonlight"....this is the first cleage piece i read and it was already looking to collect all her work this was dope
Not sure about this one. Started off boring enough to make me fall sleep. I knew it being an Oprah book I wouldn't be all about it. The story clunked along with not much to go on. It was very predictable, even in a world I'm not part of. I knew on every turn what was going to happen. Then the end happened....what the hell kind of ending was that? I felt like it just stopped.
I don't like when the epilogues explain quickly what should have been explained in more chapters. That bugged me. All of t
I thought this was going to be a predictable piece of chick lit about a woman who returns to her hometown and falls in love, but it's so much more than that. The writing was honest and compelling and the characters were unique and interesting. It was cheesy at times, but that's part of what made it so enjoyable. Trigger warnings for this book: sexual assault, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, violence.
This review is several months overdue, but here are a few thoughts.

This was a quick and interesting read, but I'm not sure that it deserves the acclaim that many readers have offered. The story is filled with lots of unrealistic drama that takes away from the very real and human story at its core. Ada's struggle as a woman recently diagnosed with HIV becomes essentially buried as a love interest, an abandoned child, delinquent teenagers, lies within the church, crack addiction, and custody issue
Erica Johnson
Absolutely loved rading this book! The author writes very, very well and this story was so relatable for me. I look forward to reading more of her books.
This was a re-read for me, and I still really enjoy this book. Granted, the first time that picked it up it was for a college course about AIDS in film and literature, so I think I was probably a little more engaged in it than the average person. But now, more than five years down the line, I picked it up as a pleasure read and I still think it's a fantastic book.

First of all, this book verified for me the importance of reading diverse literature. It's not something that I often deliberately se
DJ Geribo
I really liked this book and actually give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. I was pretty sure this would be a good read since it was an Oprah Book Club selection. And I enjoyed it from page one. The main character, Ava Johnson, was sarcastic enough to get my attention.

Returning to your roots usually involves a life-changing journey with many lessons learned along the way. Not only did Ava's experiences change her but some of the characters she met along the way gave her an inner strength she didn't know
Title: What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day
Author: Pearl Cleage
Series: Idlewild #2
Genre: Contemporary novel
Setting: The small town of Idlewild, with big-city problems, in the eighties or nineties.
Reason for Reading: I really enjoyed I Wish I Had a Red Dress, which I didn't initially realize was a sequel.
Relevance to the Project: This was book #37 which I honestly read just because I really liked the other one, I Wish I Had a Red Dress. I was really impressed with the matter-of-fact way the
Blow Pop
Content warnings: Paedophilia, stigmatization of STIs, misinformation about STIs, religion based fear mongering, religious ideologies, drug use, alcohol use, child abuse/neglect

This was a good book. I really enjoyed it. Well mostly enjoyed it. I have a particular hatred of people who hide behind their religion and act as holy warriors for it. And people who preach abstinence only education including misinformation about transmission of STIs and what they are.

It was nice to have this book focus o
There are a lot of reasons to like this book -- it's well written, has great style, interesting characters, and a hopeful message. But the reason I love it and reread it regularly is because it's about hair -- women's hair and what it means and the relationship women have with the people who touch their hair. And there's other stuff too -- you know, a plot and action and drama and romance. But the parts that always move me or make me think are the parts about hair.
Julia Grundling
i didn't expect too much of this book, as i haven't heard anything about it before. i found it on, to which i subscribe.

and oh my - did i enjoy it - what a lovely story. i definitely want to read the second one too. the writing style is easy to read and i can totally hear and see the characters.
Absolutely loved this book! Great message without being preachy. Look forward to reading her other books!
This book was so sad on so many levels and there is so much of it that I will never understand. At first I thought "o no I certainly cannot handle some the more terrible characters,", but the main characters more than make up for it. The two sisters are just these wonderful women that you wish you could be friends with. I was really afraid that the main character was going to so reserved and angsty because she was coping with the HIV positive diagnosis. I was so glad the author decided not to go ...more
Eva Leger
Jul 20, 2008 Eva Leger rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: true crime fans
Recommended to Eva by: drugstore find
Shelves: b-fiction
I really liked this book. I bought it not knowing she came recommended from Oprah (I usually like Oprah's picks a lot) and just ended up loving it. Not a slow read by any means and I liked that it kept going without getting me bored at all.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alyce E
So, I'm currently on the Megabus. As I'm starting this post, we are stopped in Milwaukee. Earlier during this bus ride, I read the entirety What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (also PAUSE we just left Milwaukee and I have my own two seats, YESSSS).

This was one of the books at our house that I'd picked up for a bit of a lighter read (I'm still reading [or not reading, as the case may be] that other urban planning book). SADLY, books with covers like this one (see below), ones that feature wo
Keisha Green
Very good read. It had all that I was looking for; humor, suspense, love, and class. I would definitely recommend this one.
Christine Fay
This is a selection from Oprah’s Book Club. I was a bit reluctant, but did end up enjoying this book immensely. It is narrated from the point of view of a young black woman who happens to be HIV positive. I must admit, that I began to get a bit depressed at the way her life was going. However, Ava Johnson decides to go back to her hometown of Idlewild (great name) to visit her sister. Her sister is a very compassionate woman who leads a very fulfilling life, helping others who are less fortunate ...more
Cherie Pearson
I loved this book and everything Pearl Cleage write
Katie Davis
*Read for book club

This is the first book that we picked from Oprah's Book Club list for our group. We wanted to read a book by a female author with a story on a personal level, and this was perfect. Although seemingly a sad topic, it was wrapped in ever present realness, charm, and compassion. It touched upon so many relevant real life topics way beyond being an HIV story. The story unfolded into something not us nor the characters would have ever guessed. We all fell in love with it, and truly
I picked this up at the library last week. I have to admit, I've always been intrigued by the title. A book should have a catchy title like this. Not only is the title an attention getter, the first page is a grabber. Looks like it'll be a great book.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through this book and it's very enjoyable despite the fact that Ava has the best of luck and the worst of luck. Her luck runs so far each way, so as to make it almost seem unbelievable but I know these things happen to peopl
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Pearl Cleage (born December 7, 1948) is an African-American author whose work, both fiction and non-fiction, has been widely recognized. Her novel What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day was a 1998 Oprah Book Club selection. Cleage is known for her feminist views, particularly regarding her identity as an African-American woman. Cleage teaches drama at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Pearl Cl
More about Pearl Cleage...

Other Books in the Series

Idlewild (2 books)
  • I Wish I Had a Red Dress (Idlewild #2)
I Wish I Had a Red Dress (Idlewild #2) Babylon Sisters Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do Baby Brother's Blues Seen It All and Done the Rest

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“If you don't annoy your big sister for no good reason from time to time, she thinks you don't love her anymore.” 78 likes
“Sometimes you meet yourself on the road before you have a chance to learn the appropriate greeting. Faced with your own possibilities, the hard part is knowing a speech is not required. All you have to say is yes.” 29 likes
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