The Root Interview: Terry McMillan on Getting to Happy
The novelist opens up to The Root about her new novel, Michelle Obama, Twitter, getting along with her ex and why we need a national coming-out day.
TM: They aren't just infecting men; come on, they're infecting women. On some level, a lot of men on the down low try to be very, very careful so they don't get caught. I think it's become pretty boring. In this day and age, there's no reason for them to be on the down low. They should have a day, like a No Smoking Day, when everyone comes out. It takes so much energy, and you have to be a really good liar to be on the down low. Come on out and live your life. Whoever doesn't like it, it's too bad.
TR: Where were you on 9/11, and has it impacted your work?
TM: I don't think 9/11 has impacted my writing. I was in bed, and my sister called at 6:30 in the morning and told me to turn on the TV, and I turned on the TV. It was like an out-of-body experience. I was somnambulating! I felt I was sleepwalking. I can't tell you how many times I've watched it. The more I watched it the less real it seemed. You had to keep watching it. When I was a young girl during the Vietnam War, I was on my yellow school bus and looking up at the sky. I thought, "They always have a war in other countries, and I wonder why they didn't attack us." But back then I didn't know anything.
TR: What do you think of the state of black literature?
TM: It's bad, let's face it. I think there's a dearth of really good stories, and the ones who are telling good stories aren't being read. The urban-ghetto fiction writing is canceling itself out. There should be more readers of stories that are better written and better edited. On some level, some of the stories that are being told are glorifying the things we as black people fought so hard to mitigate, like violence, gratuitous sex, money, money, money.
I'm not saying write things to be didactic, but no one even acknowledges what this says about us. It's almost embarrassing and insulting that blacks are treating each other like this. And I'm sick of looking at naked women on the cover of these books! It makes me sick. And it's just us! You don't see Jewish naked women or Asian naked women on book covers. No other ethnic group does this. I love to make mention of good young writers. I try to let folks know there are other people out there writing good, quality fiction.
TR: Does Michelle Obama inspire you in any way as a writer?