(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Like most of Terry McMillan’s novels, The Interruption of Everything is focused on a woman’s attempt to manage successfully her domestic and romantic relationships. Narrated from a first-person point of view, the novel is written in a conversational tone that invites readers to enter into the private world of a middle-class African American woman in the twenty-first century. The novel’s central tension arises from Marilyn’s realization that, in focusing so closely on the care and nurturing of her family, she has neglected to give herself the same quality of attention.

When The Interruption of Everything opens, Marilyn is hiding in a bathroom stall at work, taking stock of her life, and trying to prepare for the reality of menopause. While she is hiding, she inadvertently overhears one of her coworkers discussing with another the infidelity of the worker’s husband. Readers are thus plunged from the outset into the social reality of many middle-aged women. Unbeknown to Marilyn, she, too, is about to become familiar with this particular social experience, as she will shortly discover that her husband, Leon, has also had an extramarital affair. In addition, Marilyn soon discovers that she is not only menopausal but also pregnant.

In the midst of the upheaval caused by this discovery, one of Marilyn’s sons comes home from college to visit, her adult daughter announces her own pregnancy and imminent move to London, and...

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(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Campbell, Bebe Moore. “Black Books Are Good for Business.” In Defining Ourselves: Black Writers in the ’90’s, edited by Elizabeth Nunez and Brenda M. Greene. New York: Peter Lang, 1999. Campbell’s essay, like the others collected in this book, was originally presented at the Fourth Annual National Black Writers Conference. In it, she discusses the important role of black women writers in dispelling the myth that black people don’t read or buy books. She also describes the multiple ways in which race can operate in black fiction.

Ellerby, Janet. “Deposing the Man of the House: Terry McMillan Rewrites the Family.” MELUS 22, no. 2 (Summer, 1997): 105-117. Argues that McMillan’s representations of family disrupt a patriarchal discourse of family values and expose the figure of the black matriarch as myth.

Guerrero, Lisa. “’Sistah’s Are Doin’ It for Themselves’: Chick Lit in Black and White.” In Chick Lit: The New Woman’s Fiction, edited by Suzanne Ferris and Mallory Young. New York: Routledge, 2006. Identifies crucial differences in the chick lit genre as practiced by black women and white women by comparing McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale (1992) with Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996).

Richards, Paulette. Terry McMillan: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Situates McMillan’s work in the larger African American tradition and offers formal and thematic analyses of the author’s first four novels.

Walker, Alice. “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.” In In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. Outlines the difficulties black women artists often face and acknowledges the courage women show in nurturing their artistry.