Terry McMillan: A Critical Companion

By Paulette Richards | Go to book overview

5
Waiting to Exhale
(1992)

The unprecedented commercial success of Waiting to Exhale awakened the publishing and film industries to the lucrative market for stories that reflect the lifestyles and concerns of middle-class African American women. From the beginning of her career, McMillan had cultivated an intimate relationship with this audience of her upwardly mobile sisters. In Waiting to Exhale, McMillan cemented her bond with this core audience of African American women and successfully attracted a crossover audience. The key to her wide-ranging appeal is her skill in adapting the conventional forms and themes of mainstream popular women's fiction to reflect an African American worldview. McMillan structured Waiting to Exhale in the classic four-woman form pioneered by Louisa May Alcott in Little Women. Waiting to Exhale's familiar four-woman structure and its focus on themes of particular concern to women (most notably, the shortage of marriageable men) touched a broad spectrum of readers across race, class, and culture.


PLOT DEVELOPMENT

Like all of McMillan novels, Waiting to Exhale does not exhibit a traditional plot structured around a central conflict between a single protagonist and the people or forces that oppose his or her goals. While

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Terry McMillan: A Critical Companion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Advisory Board vi
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - The Life of Terry Mcmillan 1
  • 2 - Literary Contexts 21
  • 3 - Mama (1987) 53
  • 5 - Waiting to Exhale (1992) 101
  • 6 - How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1996) 129
  • Index 163
  • About the Author *
  • Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers *
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