TERRY McMILLAN by Diane Patrick


The Unauthorized Biography
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A flimsy biography of the phenomenonally successful black author. The questions that come to mind after reading Patrick’s book have more to do with the nature of biography than with the nature of Terry McMillan. Is biography simply well-put-together research? If that’s the case, then Patrick’s work fits the bill, since there are facts to be picked up herein, such as where McMillan grew up and went to school, how many brothers and sisters she has, what she did for a day job while writing at night, and various other mechanics of how she came to be the first black woman author to have both a bestselling book and a box office hit with Waiting to Exhale. However, if the genre requires insight or a convincing argument that the life of its subject is relevant to readers, then this unauthorized biography falls short in any number of ways. Patrick gets off to a bumpy start with a defensive and occasionally whiny introduction that explains why the biography is unauthorized, which contains the usual reasons of the subject not wanting her biography written just yet and thus not participating in its creation. As the book continues, McMillan’s objections seem well justified, for not only is there little to be found here that could not be gleaned by reading her novels and a few interviews with her, but also what is here is written in a format that seems more suited to the adolescent reader than to the adults who are its probable consumers. Sentences describing McMillan’s ambition (“Maybe she could only afford water, but that didn’t stop her from looking at the soda bottles and visualizing!”) make it hard to think of this successful author as anything close to a real person. Curiosity about Terry McMillan would be better satisfied by reading her books. (8 pages b&w photos, unseen).

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20032-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999