Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Like many novels by African American women aimed at a mass market, The Interruption of Everything has received little attention from academic critics. On the other hand, reviewers from the mass media have generally praised the novel’s consistency with McMillan’s oeuvre, the earlier works of which were instrumental in pioneering the genre known as “chick lit.” The popular success of McMillan’s fiction, though, has been both a boon and burden. While her work has sold well and her success has, possibly, made publication easier for other women, especially African Americans, her work has not been taken very seriously among critics of African American literature. This is in part because her novels relegate to the background those racial issues traditionally seen as proper to African American literature. Recent criticism, however, has begun to acknowledge the extent to which the central themes of community and the social roles of women link McMillan’s fiction to the work of those African American women writers who are perceived as more serious or literary. The questions raised in The Interruption of Everything regarding the extent to which a mother should sacrifice herself, and particularly her possibilities for creative expression, are consistent with the work of such African American women writers as Dorothy West (The Living Is Easy), Alice Walker (Meridian), and Tina Ansa (Ugly Ways).