Black Women's Improvement Project (BWIP)

What’s Wrong with Mainstream ‘Black Fiction?’

To piggy-back on the whole, “Who-would-you-pick-for-a -IRR-blockbuster?” post, I wanted to touch quickly on what the heck is wrong with books like Terry McMillan’s Getting to Happy.

Since BlogHer likes their members to review books, and I like to read books, and really, usually, LOVE them when they’re free, I wrote a review of her latest work, and you can read three-fourths of it here. For the rest, BlogHer wants your eyeballs, and I’ll gladly oblige them.

Let’s do a “Where’s Waldo” for black people. Look for every single cliché about “the struggle” and meet me in the comment room.

Getting to Happy Made Me Melancholy


I was excited to read this sequel to the smash hit Waiting to Exhale. The best-selling book and block-buster movie was about ‘the sisterhood’ and supporting and uplifting your girls when they’re down. It felt good. You close the book or leave the theatre feeling hopeful for the character’s futures.

But “the struggle” gets a bit tedious as Terry McMillancontinues through the lives of Savannah, Bernadine, Gloria and Robin inGetting to Happy. The hopeful ending from the first book and movie are dashed, as Savannah faces a divorce, Bernadine marries and then hastily has it annulled, Gloria loses someone precious to her, and Robin still searches for a man.

This book is filled with just about every cliché about black women and the black community — two people sell drugs and then go to jail, another person is killed accidentally in a drive-by shooting, most of the women are more educationally and financially successful than their black male counterparts — but if you into that kind of stuff, well…

The issue I find most disturbing is how McMillan handles the issue of mental illness, anxiety and depression. Depression is trivialized in the book, and this part mirrors the general attitudes of most black folks who say “Depression is for white people. Go pray or something. You need Jesus.” Bernadine struggles with what she and her friends perceive as an addiction to Xanax, Zoloft, and Ambien, when in real life, here doses are not abnormal or out of control. How do I know for sure? I have general anxiety disorder. I myself take these medications, because NOT taking them could cost me my physical health in the long run. In real life, black women are estimated to have a high incidence of undiagnosed depression and anxiety, because those afflictions are perceived as being “weak of mind.”

But it’s perfectly acceptable to eat the pain away like Savannah and Gloria do. Then, like the characters, are more than willing to take the medication to treat diabetes and high blood pressure when we choose food as a drug and think it’s superior to taking Zoloft.

For the conclusion, read here.

–And THEN! if you read the book, Robin toys with getting with a Chinese man. But guess who she ends up with? #justsaying.

Follow Christelyn on Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. And if you want to be a little more about this online dating thing, InterracialDatingCentral is the official dating site for this blog.