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Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs

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In this inspiring memoir, 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 become a successful writer.

In addition to being one of the most popular living playwrights in America, Pearl Cleage is a bestselling author with an Oprah Book Club pick and multiple awards to her credit, but there was a time when such stellar success seemed like a dream. In this revelatory and deeply personal work, Cleage takes readers back to the 1970s and ’80s, retracing her struggles to hone her craft amid personal and professional tumult.

Though born and raised in Detroit, it was in Atlanta that Cleage encountered the forces that would most shape her experience. At the time, married to Michael Lomax, now head of the United Negro College Fund, she worked with Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor. Things I Should Have Told My Daughter charts not only the political fights but also the pull she began to feel on her own passions—a pull that led her away from Lomax as she grappled with ideas of feminism and self-fulfillment. This fascinating memoir follows her journey from a columnist for a local weekly to a playwright and Hollywood scriptwriter whose circle came to include luminaries Richard Pryor, Avery Brooks, Phylicia Rashad, Shirley Franklin, and Jesse Jackson.

In the tradition of giants such as Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, and Maya Angelou, Cleage’s self-portrait raises women’s confessional writing to the level of fine literature.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published April 1, 2014

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About the author

Pearl Cleage

34 books536 followers
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 Cleage was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of Doris Cleage née Graham), a teacher, and the late civil rights activist Bishop Albert Cleage. After backlash resulting from her father's radical teachings, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Bishop Cleage became a prominent civil rights leader. Cleage first attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1966 majoring in playwriting and dramatic literature. However she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend Spelman College in 1969, where she eventually attained a bachelor's degree in drama in 1971. She then joined the Spelman faculty as a writer and playwright in residence and as a creative director. Cleage has written many novels, plays, and non-fiction works borrowing heavily from her life experiences. Many of her novels are set in neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia.

Cleage notably writes about topics at the intersection of sexism and racism, specifically on issues such as domestic violence and rape in the black community. She has been a supporter of the Obama administration. Cleage is an activist for AIDS and women's rights, experiences from which she draws from for her writings.

In 1969, Cleage married Michael Lomax, an Atlanta politician and past-president of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. They had a daughter, Deignan Njeri. The marriage ended in divorce in 1979. In 1994, Cleage married Zaron Burnett, Jr, writer and director for the Just Us Theater Company. She has four grandchildren.

Cleage is a former Cosby Endowed Chair at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She also speaks at colleges, universities, and conferences on topics including domestic violence, the citizen's role in a participatory democracy, and writing topics.

(from Wikipedia)

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5 stars
188 (28%)
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179 (26%)
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65 (9%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 123 reviews
Profile Image for Kevin.
478 reviews71 followers
August 22, 2022
Pearl Cleage rocks. I know this whole project of journal entries interspersed with personal letters and dotted with poetry was inspired by (and compiled for) her daughter, but It feels like she wrote it to remind ME that what I don’t know about the dynamics of feminism and civil rights would fill a large library.

Seriously. My lack of awareness of who’s who in black history is tantamount to illiteracy. Every time I stopped to Google one of her friends or acquaintances I was both awed and humbled. This beautiful woman was quite often in the eye of the storm. It’s sad to think that I, creeping up on my sixtieth year, could have easily passed through this world never knowing who she was or what she has accomplished or how incredibly incredible she (still) is.
Profile Image for Toni.
246 reviews40 followers
April 11, 2014
I'm so in love with this book that I want to go down the street, knock on Pearl's door with 2 mugs of tea and chat the afternoon away with her...
Profile Image for Meredith.
1,189 reviews4 followers
June 20, 2014
Picked this up because, enh, it looked interesting. The morning before it's due back at the library I thought, well, I'm obviously not going to get to this, I'll just peruse a few entries and then take it back. 50 pages later and I'm late to work* because I can't put it down.

She writes with an intimacy appropriate for a journal, but more like she's talking to a close friend than to herself. She's a young woman, then slightly older, working through all her passion and fascination with life, discovering her way. In addition to being actually, I-was-there, historical.

Politics, race, writing, love, work, family, womanhood & feminism, being a wife/a lover/a mother, being an artist. Big ideas, but then just a little mundane breakfast moment or something to put it down on earth. Fear and indignation and also amazing warmth. However strongly or sparsely these journals were edited, in this form they feel honest and make a great story.

I will recommend this to young women of any race interested in any of the above, especially feminism or activism or a creative life. I will recommend to anyone interested in writing their lives, publicly or privately, even if they just start with the introduction and the epilogue.


Summing up the eighties: "White girls are not the only ones living interesting lives. These pages are my proof."

And, ha!:
"The real problem is that I don't really want to be a librarian. I love books. I love reading and this program is a multi-year fellowship that will allow me to quit my other job and have more writing time, but can I survive a whole class on the Dewey Decimal System??"

* Addendum because my boss Keno is also on goodreads: "late to work" is merely a figure of speech, for effect. I was totally on time. Ev'ry day.
Profile Image for Read In Colour.
284 reviews443 followers
February 8, 2014
I can only hope there's a follow up to this. The book covers the author's life in the 70s & 80s. I'm dying to know what was going down in the 90s and 00s! Simply amazing life this woman has lived.
Profile Image for Britt.
111 reviews55 followers
January 6, 2015
I really enjoyed this book. I don't know what say there are so many passages that made me feel like my future self from another time was speaking to me. These entries are about being a woman who is free... a woman like me.
Profile Image for Maggi.
291 reviews8 followers
November 13, 2016
If Pearl Cleague wanted her daughter to know her better, this book needs her as a current day narrator here and there to explain things. Her marriage seems to be going along fine and suddenly she is divorcing. No explanation. I question why she wanted her daughter to know how she spent a lot of time on three main activities: getting high, (her daughter seemingly a beloved afterthought) obsessing about her unnamed "lovers," and worrying about her career. I have nothing against her writing about these in her journal, but it doesn't make a good read. The only thing I found very compelling was the 70's-80's zeitgeist. The letters from her mother are touching and beautiful. I wish I had read her journal instead!
Profile Image for Aleatha Terrell.
28 reviews43 followers
June 28, 2018
I laughed outloud and cried while reading this book. Clage's journal entries made me feel less alone and less crazy...or they made me feel crazy but hopeful that I can be productive in spite of said crazy.
Profile Image for Queen.
239 reviews43 followers
May 1, 2022
Filled with aot of things I wished my mother told me!
Profile Image for Christina.
308 reviews8 followers
January 18, 2022
So I am just infatuated with Pearl Cleage, and always have been ever since I read her novels. I love her writing style and the way her books engage with the reader, and her writing is just impeccable!

I had been “reading” this book for a few years quite honestly because I didn’t want to finish it. The way she speaks to you in her writing is just so refreshing that I wanted her book to last forever, so I shelved it to come back to at a later date, but then life happened and I am just now getting back around to reading this book.

This book is interesting in that she is sharing select journal entries from 2 decades and sharing them with us and her daughter about how she learned about herself and how she made it through some tough times in her life. She is intent on gifting these journals to her granddaughter, to show her how she went on a soul-searching, merciless, self-observation and rigorous self-analysis that allowed her to survive her early womanhood and emerge with her health and sanity still relatively intact. She states: “Looking back, I wonder if its possible that the things I didn’t tell her are as necessary as the things I did.” Her daughter thinks she should burn her journals because no one needs to know all her business, but Pearl is emphatic that we do need to know. For one, no one teaches us how to be a Black woman in this world, and Pearl Cleage is doing so in this book, one journal entry at a time.

Her journals are a testament of how to survive being a Black woman because we aren’t taught how to be a Black woman in this world. It is assumed that we will adapt and overcome, but it’s much more nuanced than that. Black women are still the most disrespected beings on earth to this day, and Pearl wants to educate her descendants and us on how it was for her in order to survive, come into her own, and make a life that she’s happy to live, without feeling like she was compromising herself out of the picture.

Reading this book clearly inspired me to journal, and I’m glad that I’ve been journaling over the years, but I am now going to make it a point to journal more consistently. She also warns people though, that journaling is a great thing to do, but to keep a watch so that you aren’t becoming an observer of your life, that you aren’t just doing things to record them, but actually living life. I think I’m going to start journaling on a more consistent basis, but to a point where I am intentional about what I am writing, and not just a brain dump.

Pearl is dropping gems of life and success here! Her topics range in a wide variety, but her point is, live life on your own terms! Also, “Praise yourself as much as you fuss at yourself.”

Topics covered:
- Feminism
- Black womanhood
- Black pride/love/respect
- Gender roles
- Sexism
- Racism
- Politics
- Motherhood
- Men/patriarchy
- Everyday Black life
- Marriage/Relationships
- Love
- Self-care/reflection
- Sex

I love how so unapologetic Pearl is and becomes through her early womanhood. She is wild, she is free, she is living! Her main concern throughout her early womanhood was becoming free. Free to live, free to write, free to love, free to mother, free to be a woman, free to be Black and alive. She gives encouragement, warnings, admonishments, advice, and concern for herself, which in turn is something she is giving to her daughter and granddaughter. Live your life, but be careful, there are dangers out there! She shares with us all about how it was for her to make a name for herself. How important it was for her to be independent. How she wanted to be able to write and be in control of her content. How to navigate white spaces when it comes to your art and how you do not have to compromise with those who do not understand the uncensored Black. How important it is to throw off the censors that plague us all as creatives, and how you need to be free to create. She also shared insecurities, rejections and how she got fired numerous times, but that those closed doors did not stop her from pursuing her writing.

“…if you are good enough and true enough to your real self, to your real voice, and talk to the people who are as familiar with that real voice as they are with their own, then it transcends what we have been told are our limitations and reveals not only our specific humanity, but our general connection to the company of other human beings.”

Pearl wants us all to live a life uncompromised. You cannot accomplish anything in this life if you are worried about what other people think about you or what you are doing. You have to be authentic and live a life regardless of the praise or admonishments you get. “I would have never have accomplished what I did if I’d live the life others thought I should live. You have to be authentic about who you are.”

You have to tell the truth to yourself. Period.

“The truth--that's the whole thing; that's what life is. I've learned to tell the truth, most of all to myself. The exciting thing about life is that you learn more as you go along. But it also gets less complicated as you get older. You no longer need to decide whether to tell the truth. You just peel back the layers. You have to figure out who you are. It robs your life of so much richness not to claim it all. I think I'm engaged in living a really interesting life now. I remember as an 11-year-old kid wanting an interesting life, and living this way, with truth, is how I've been able to have it. --“ Pearl Cleage https://tatteredcover.shelf-awareness...
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,167 reviews123 followers
November 16, 2018
I don't know how I heard about this book, and I can only assume I put it on my to-read list because it came out during my "year of reading diversely." It is not a memoir in the traditional sense; it is, quite literally, Cleage's personal journal entries from 1970 to 1988. I haven't read any of her other work — I had to look her up to figure out how she was famous enough that someone would be willing to publish her personal journals, since they're not anything spectacular in and of themselves — but I can certainly tell that she is a good writer. Some entries consist only of a clever thought or turn of phrase. She shares a lot of thoughts about womanhood and race and work and being an artist. On the other hand, she also spends a lot of time talking about getting high and pining over the married men she's sleeping with, so that got a bit old.

The biggest downside to publishing this as written, with minimal commentary, is that there are a lot of details missing, things that Cleage wouldn't have necessarily found important to explain to herself in her journal as they were happening. There's very little build-up to her divorce, just a line or two hinting at unnamed problems and then the inclusion of the legal document dissolving their marriage. After dwelling a lot on her daughter after her birth, we go long stretches without hearing anything about her, while Cleage is getting stoned and going to parties and traveling, and it's not clear if Deignan's with her father most of the time or what. We also hear about Cleage quitting her job so she can focus on writing, but then she references having a job, and then quits that and references having a different job, and it was basically very difficult to keep track of the contours of her weekly schedule to have context for all of the things she was talking about.

This was interesting more as a historical document than as an exemplar of writing. I didn't necessarily care about Cleage's life specifically (not knowing anything about her) nor did I find the book itself a compelling or particularly beautiful read. However, I did find it interesting to get a glimpse into what an individual woman was thinking as she navigated life, love, motherhood, and career throughout the '70s and '80s. I found ways in which things were different than today, and ways in which they were the same. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book — there are many more books that are more worth your reading time — but I don't regret having read it.
Profile Image for Woman_gotta_have_it.
31 reviews6 followers
April 21, 2017
Favorite line "people do sit-ups in the morning, I want orgasms" 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾. This book basically is saying nothing is new is under the sun.I appreciate her honesty. This is actually book I would be interested in buying
Profile Image for nomadreader (Carrie D-L).
404 reviews68 followers
April 7, 2014
(originally published at http://nomadreader.blogspot.com)

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
Profile Image for Bakari.
Author 2 books40 followers
May 25, 2015
Cleage's journal/memoir is a nothing less than a delicious treat to read. Like other honest and engaging published journals, this one inspires me to write more in my own journal. And though I'm not a woman, I can relate so much to her struggles as a writer, activist, parent, and spouse. I'm nearly finished with the book, and I think the journal entires she shares after divorcing her husband, Micheal Lomax, are more engaging. However, though I realize this book is a memoir, some parts of the book seem undeveloped. And I think should could have been a little more reflective in her entries, or at least added some reflection before or after some journal entries. Nevertheless, it's just awesome to read a journal by a Black writer. Her book makes me look foreword more to publication of Alice Walker's journals.

Finished Cleage’s book. I’m not disappointed with the book, but I do think there are several gaps in the narrative that should’ve been filled. I hope she publishes more collections from her journals, but if she has the time and the strength to do so, I think it might be better if she were to write a more reflective memoir, that includes her views about extramarital affairs, the complex relationship between men and women, and more about her relationship with her daughter. Cleage is a talented writer, but are narratives often don’t seem to go deep enough — admittedly I’ve only read two of her books including this one. Despite my criticisms, I found her journals and joy to read, and I appreciate her sharing them with us.
Profile Image for O Truth.
6 reviews4 followers
June 16, 2015
I would have gone for a 3.5. I've admired Pearl Cleage's writing for a while and looked forward to this read. This read left me a bit disappointed. The journals felt like they had been written to be read and to shock a bit but the real hard background scenes in her life were left out. For example, she takes us to a marriage and divorce but none of what happened in between. She lets us know that she got fired, but not what led up to it. I kept wondering why she felt the need to share this with her daughter. Seemed very self-centered. I liked the walk thru Atlanta. As my college town, her descriptions seemed very familiar. I loved the letters from her mother. As much as I tried not to be judgmental, I would have admired her a lot more without all of the drug use and affairs. I know why her daughter didn't want to read it.
Profile Image for Charlene.
14 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2014
Not your typical book. Just as the title implies, it's diary entries spanning a couple decades. I enjoyed the randomness of it, the passion, the guilt and sadness, the confusion, the constant search for a sense of freedom...the emotions experienced by all of us living this life. I'm definitely inspired to be more consistent in my journaling as I found it to be quite an intimate gift and unique treasure to possibly share my life experiences with my own daughter one day.
Profile Image for A. Jones.
901 reviews
January 24, 2015
Definitely things in there a mother should share with her daughter, but not sure it needed to be shared with the rest of the world. If you're a BIG Pearl Cleage fan, you'll probably enjoy it, but as a casual fan, I always find her writing unfulfilling. As soon as she says something I find poignant or intriguing, she moves on to the next subject or stops talking. It gets frustrating.
Profile Image for Victoria Law.
Author 10 books258 followers
February 11, 2018
I can't quite remember why I picked this up. I loved What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, so that was part of it. I may have thought it was a memoir rather than an unannotated collection of journal entries. I would have gotten more out of these short insights into her life in the 70s & 80s had these been annotated, like Ida B Wells' Memphis diaries. Our, at the very least, if there had been a glossary of characters and events so that the neophyte reader knows that Julian = Julian Bond and knows what she's referring to when she writes about struggles with her writing.

Overall, I appreciated this. For me, it's 's not a book to read all at once; I read it in bursts and starts over the course of a week, sometimes as a break from my own writing or to revive my flagging energy as the daylight grew dim.

Edited to add: I don't think that the book explains that Pearl Cleage is the daughter of Detroit organizer and religious leader Albert Cleage. (I learned this when I saw his name and history in A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History and then looked up whether the two were related. So when Cleage talks about being in the movement, she's talking about growing up in a movement family (her uncle ran for prosecutor after the Wayne County prosecutor declined to press charges against police for shooting Cynthia Scott, a young Black woman and sex worker, in the back after she told them that they didn't have grounds to arrest her and walked away). Her father, Albert Cleage, invited Malcolm X to speak at his Grassroots Leadership Conference.
Profile Image for Les.
358 reviews32 followers
May 21, 2022
We diverge on some things - mostly bothering to deal with married men, a lack close of black women friends (wouldn't survive without them/us), and Cleage's opinion of Toni Morrison's writing and its appeal, but man, she got the heart of of the heart "it" on soooo many other issues, not to mention her noting so many purely historical moments that she lived through. This era we are in feels so worn because the shit is maaaaaaad recycled. It was depressing and affirming to see her musings and analysis conclude this. Sometimes you need to read just how much and in how many ways living at your particular intersection of identities has been done before.
Profile Image for LiteraryMarie.
562 reviews51 followers
May 22, 2014
Some books are meant to be devoured like a soul food meal; other books are best enjoyed in small sips like a fine glass of wine. Things I Should Have Told My Daughter is obvi the latter. I read this memoir very slowly. It is a personal view into an amazing storyteller's life in the 1970s and 1980s. Told in journal format, it is confessional writing at its finest!

Literary Marie of Precision Reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer Kabay.
Author 1 book50 followers
April 5, 2021
“Things I Should Have Told My Daughter” made the Zora Canon, THE list of 100 great works by black American women. It includes novels, plays, poetry, and this, the journals of Pearl Cleage, an intellectual feminist playwright who explores love, race, politics, sex, motherhood, and the maddening reality of being a writer in this revealing work that spans decades.

Woman me appreciated her astute observance of a woman's place in this world. White me appreciated her perspective on systemic racism. Writer me appreciated her candor about the pain of trying to make people give a crap about your art:

September 18, 1979
Terror. I feel terrified. I am reading through my old journals from two years ago and I am saying the same thing now. Worrying about time to write. Worrying about losing myself. Two years and more of this! I feel like I am not writing. I feel like I am not doing much except marking time. The questions are still these: 1. What do you want? 2. How badly do you want it? 3. How bold will you be to get it? Until you answer these, it is all bullshit.

I got feels after reading this, man. Feels.
Profile Image for Willi Quinn.
3 reviews1 follower
August 8, 2020
Just when you think you know everything about your mother, Pearl Cleage comes through with joint lighting, power to the people wisdom that makes you want to confront your own mom, —as if you’re the parent. Because you absorb the conversations and get the feeling that you can hear a piece of your mother speaking. Things I Should Have Told My Daughter is meeting your mother before she was yours. It is sometimes an eavesdrop; listening to mother in another time, a time when she was once you. It is the thought of your mother making your biggest mistake in life and being to embarrassed to hear about it. However, in the back of your mind, knowing it’s the thoughts and confessions that made her the woman you know now.
Pearl Cleage most importantly reminds me, that our mothers, as perfect and unwavering as we expected them to be, —were once young and a person, too.
Profile Image for Vrinda Quintero.
11 reviews1 follower
April 15, 2017
This was a very interesting book. Reading how she changes through time but race and gender define her life and her struggles was very interesting. As a journal it's a very real recount of a woman's life in the seventies and eighties.
Profile Image for Vi Louise.
369 reviews3 followers
September 8, 2017
No one but Pearl Cleage could have read her memoir as well as she does. I have always loved Ms. Cleage's works (better in audio). I learned so much about her here. I didn't realize she was a feminist and an activist back in the day. The black power movement history provided was amazing also. I love her even more after learning of her "humaness" especially with the smoking LOL.
Profile Image for Stephanie Waterhouse.
249 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2014
This is a collection of journal entries for twenty years, from the 70's through the 90's. I wanted to read this book after seeing the writer months ago on a news show segment promoting the book.

Pearl Cleage is about seven years older than I so I could relate to the events she spoke of in this book. I even lived in Atlanta from 1977-1998. She put her journal entries into book form after her daughter said no to giving her journal to the granddaughter. As one who keeps journals as well, it was different reading someone else's intimate thoughts. [Maybe I should try going back to read what I've written through the years. Could I even make it through one set of journal entries before getting bored, or will I see growth? Who knows? Do I care and why do I write?]

Appreciate the journal entries and getting a glimpse of the writer and how she related to the same historical events as I. Would I want my children, family or strangers reading my intimate thoughts? This is what the author seemed not to mind. Was this therapeutic for her? Inquiring minds want to know. At first, for at least an hour, I listened to this book. When I realized it was moving slowly, I turned off the audio and read for myself. With this, the book moved faster and became more interesting to me. After reading for three hours, I put the book down for another day. I picked up a mystery novel to change my focus for a while.

I was able to complete the readings and I came to appreciate all that the author accomplished, what she went through and lessons she may have learned. Interesting.

I don't get into the reality shows (other than dance) or into gossip so I am not really interested in reading too many books like this...guess I don't really care. Recommended to those who don't mind reading people intimate thoughts and those interested in getting to know someone behind closed doors.
Profile Image for Caitlin Cramer.
46 reviews
July 15, 2019
In the introduction for this memoir, Pearl Cleage talks about discussing the idea of using all of her journal entries and wants to give it to her daughter so she can better understand her mother and possibly herself. Her daughter rejects this idea, believing that the things she writes about - sex, love, pregnancy, child birth, abortion, divorce, drug use, the death of a parent, etc - are private.

I would kill to have a journal like this from my mother.

Cleage’s journal entries over the span of several decades begin with her days as an energetic young college activist and artist and gradually morph into her tenure and subsequent exhaustion and disillusionment with her career as a political speechwriter/spokeswoman. When she becomes pregnant with her daughter, readers listen to her insist on the kind of cool, professional working mother she wants to be until the reality of her situation crushes that illusion. We watch her marriage erode and her valiantly and uncompromisingly shift her career to the writing and art she was born to do and away with the supporting roles she spend years settling for. I’ve known few women successfully make this transition so Cleage’s account of this time in her life is a valuable treasure. Her explorations of post-divorce free love replete with both pleasure and soul crushing neuroses are vague, but interesting.

If nothing else, this book has inspired me to collect and hold onto personal writings. Maybe I’ll never have children or maybe my kids won’t want them, but I’d love to be able to look back on the evolution of who I was and who I became.
Profile Image for Christine.
208 reviews9 followers
October 4, 2014
"What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day" is one of my favorite books. It builds a narrative that is feminist without being too heavy. Somehow, I failed to recognize Cleage as a feminist, so reading these excerpts from her diary was a pleasurable eye-opener.

The history Cleage chose to share is one of growth, strength and vulnerability. Her openness about unfulfilled desires in her career and in love is refreshing and encouraging. It reminds me that our heroes are real people, just like us. It reminds to keep looking for the bravery in my every day friends and family.

As the title addresses the book to her daughter, this is a good read for a young woman, but it would be equally well received by someone older who wants not only encouragement, but a reminder in history.
Profile Image for Ag_esq.
18 reviews12 followers
January 10, 2015
Upon reading this book it definitely wasn't what I expected. It's literally all her journal entries up until the 90s. After getting over the shock I was able to identify with her journey as a woman trying to juggle and balance motherhood, her career and a relationship. A couple of things I learned- chase your dream or passion, be honest with yourself about everything, chase and find your happiness, maintain your individuality after motherhood, and if you have time write it all down. | This book is for an advanced reader, sometimes I identified with the journal entries, sometimes I didn't. It was unique and personal. | fav quote: "If women said they were sorry only when we really meant it, most of our conversations would be cut in half"
Author 1 book
June 28, 2014
The journals of poet (and playwright, and screen writer, and journalist, and speech writer, etc) Pearl Cleage were a really good read. I enjoyed every aspect of the her exploration of the big issues: how to write, how to live, men, race, rape, feminism and black feminism. Solitude. In the tradition of Nin, Sarton, LeMarque, Kahlo, Lorde, the woman's essential mind rattling its cage, even if it is sometimes an open cage. I will read this book again.
Profile Image for Andrea Ward.
34 reviews4 followers
May 28, 2014
I was not prepared to read a journal formatted bk. the title did not fit my expectation of the contents. I had to read the bk aloud 2 myself in order for the bk to make sense to me. I did not get it! Half of my bookclub liked the bk the other half did not. This bk was too out of the ordinary for me.
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