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What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Oprah's Book Club)

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Oprah's Book Club) Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Acclaimed Playwright, essayist and columnist Pearl Cleage breaks new ground in African American women's literature--with a debut novel that sings and crackles with life-affirming energy as it moves the reader to laughter and tears.

As a girl growing up in Idlewild, Michigan, Ava Johnson had always heard that, if you were young, black, and had any sense at all, Atlanta was the place to be. So as soon as she was old enough and able enough, that was where she went--parlaying her smarts and her ambition into one of the hottest hair salons in town. In no time, she was moving with the brothers and sisters who had beautiful clothes, big cars, bigger dreams, and money in the bank.

Now, after more than a decade of elegant pleasures and luxe living, Ava has come home, her fabulous career and power plans smashed to bits on one dark truth. Ava Johnson has tested positive for HIV. And she's back in little Idlewild to spend a quiet summer with her widowed sister, Joyce, before moving on to finish her life in San Francisco, the most HIV-friendly place she can imagine.

But what she thinks is the end is only the beginning because there's too much going down in her hometown for Ava to ignore. There's the Sewing Circus--sister Joyce's determined effort to educate Idlewild's young black women about sex, drugs, pregnancy, whatever. . .despite the interference of the good Reverend Anderson and his most virtuous, "Just say no" wife. Plus Joyce needs a helping hand to make a loving home for Imani, an abandoned crack baby whom she's taken into her heart.

And then there's Wild Eddie, whose legendary background in violence combined with his Eastern gentility has stirred Ava's interest. . .and something more.

In the ten-plus years since Ava left, all the problems of the big city--drugs, crime, disease have come home to roost in the sleepy North Michigan community whose ordinariness once drove her away. Now she cannot turn her back on friends and family who sorely need her in the face of impending trouble and tragedy. Things are getting very interesting in Idlewild these days. Besides which, the unthinkable thing has started happening: Ava Johnson is failing in love.

A remarkable novel sizzling with sensuality, rollicking with wild humor, and humming with gritty truth, in What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day. . .Pearl Cleage has created a world rich in character, human drama, and deep, compassionate understanding.As a girl growing up in Idlewild, Michigan, Ava Johnson had always heard that, if you were young, black, and had any sense at all, Atlanta was the place to be. So as soon as she was old enough and able enough, that was where she went--parlaying her smarts and her ambition into one of the hottest hair salons in town. In no time, she was moving with the brothers and sisters who had beautiful clothes, big cars, bigger dreams, and money in the bank.

Now, after more than a decade of elegant pleasures and luxe living, Ava has come home, her fabulous career and power plans smashed to bits on one dark truth. Ava Johnson has tested positive for HIV. And she's back in little Idlewild to spend a quiet summer with her widowed sister, Joyce, before moving on to finish her life in San Francisco, the most HIV-friendly place she can imagine.

And then there's Wild Eddie, whose legendary back ground in violence combined with his Eastern gentility has stirred Ava's interest...and something more.

In the ten-plus years since Ava left all the problems of the big city--drugs, crime, disease--have come home to roost in the sleepy North Michigan community whose ordinariness once drove her away. Now she cannot turn her back on friends and family who sorely need her in the face of impending trouble and tragedy. Things are getting very interesting in Idlewild these days. Besides which, the unthinkable thing has started happening: Ava Johnson is falling in love.

Synopsis:

Introduction

After a decade of living it up in Atlanta, getting it on with lots of men, ending up with HIV and a whopping case of remorse, Ava Johnson has decided there's at least one thing left worth doing, and doing well-telling the truth. So does Pearl Cleage in her award-winning first novel which puts a witty, wise spin on contemporary women's issues, hard choices, harder good-byes, and brave new beginnings.

Ava Johnson is returning home to Idlewild, Michigan on her way to someplace better, like San Francisco. Her overt reason for the trip is to spend some bonding time with her sister Joyce. In the bad luck department, Joyce has been given her share of no refund, no return items. But if Ava is thinking gloom and doom on her arrival, she has another think coming...when Joyce sends wild Eddie Jefferson, a handsome Rastafarian brother with a head full of beautiful dreadlocks, to pick her up at the airport. And what is waiting in Idlewild is a small town filled with big-city problems, a life-lesson in becoming a "free woman," and an unexpected miracle called love.

Discussion Questions

  1. Both Ava and Joyce are at crisis points in their lives. Compare the two women. How does each cope with her heartaches? What works...and what doesn't.

  2. Ava and Joyce aren't the only women facing tough challenges in this novel. Joyce says of the girls in the Sewing Circus, "These girls haven't got a chance. There aren't jobs and there aren't going to be any. They're stuck up here in the middle of the damn woods, watching talk shows, smoking crack, collecting welfare, and having babies. What kind of life is that?" (p. 39) Ava's answer is "City life." Do you agree that the sameproblems confront urban and rural young women? What do you think are the greatest ones? Whose responsibility is it to help young people overcome them?

  3. In the chapter called "August," Joyce makes up a list of "Ten Things Every Free Woman Should Know." First define "free woman" — then make up your own list.

  4. The church in this novel shows both its sides: the good it can do; the harm it can do. How do you feel about the church's handling of the Reverend's sexual abuse? What do you feel should be the response of a church organization-whether a black church or the Roman Catholic Church-to this problem?

  5. At the center of this novel, however, is the tragedy of HIV. Discuss the community's reaction to Ava. Then discuss her own response to a new relationship. How would you interpret her dream in Chapter 18...and the very last line of the book? About the Author: "The purpose of my writing, often, is to express the point where racism and sexism meet." An accomplished playwright, journalist, poet, and novelist, Pearl Cleage probes issues of race, sex, and love in a growing body of literary work while she reveals poignant truths about brave black women.

    Born on December 7, 1948 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Pearl Michelle Cleage grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Her father was a prominent minister who ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 on the Freedom Ticket; her mother was an elementary school teacher.

    Since the early 1980s, Cleage has drawn national attention with her dramatic works, which include Flyin' West, an extraordinary play about pioneer black women at the turn of the century, and Blues for an Alabama Sky. Her first novel "What Looks Like Crazy on an OrdinaryDay, was an Oprah's Book Club selection, a New York Times bestseller, and a BCALA Literary Award winner. She is also the author of "I Wish I Had a Red Dress, "Mad at Miles, and "Deals with the Devil. A contributing editor to Essence magazine, Pearl Cleage frequently performs her work on college campuses. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Zaron W. Burnett, Jr.

About the Author

Pearl Cleage is the author of Mad at Miles: A Black Woman's Guide to Truth and Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot. An accomplished Playwright, she teaches playwriting at Spelman College, is a cofounder of the literary magazine Catalyst and writes a column for the Atlanta Tribune. Ms. Cleage lives in Atlanta with her husband. What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day...is her first novel.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780380975846
Author:
Cleage, Pearl
Publisher:
William Morrow
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
City and town life
Subject:
Humorous
Subject:
AIDS (Disease)
Subject:
Michigan
Subject:
Love stories
Subject:
Aids
Subject:
Michigan Fiction.
Subject:
City and town life -- Michigan -- Fiction.
Subject:
African-American women
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Series:
Oprah's Book Club (Hardcover)
Series Volume:
52
Publication Date:
19971201
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
244
Dimensions:
8.68x5.84x.88 in. .92 lbs.

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Oprah's Book Club)
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Product details 244 pages William Morrow & Company - English 9780380975846 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Introduction

After a decade of living it up in Atlanta, getting it on with lots of men, ending up with HIV and a whopping case of remorse, Ava Johnson has decided there's at least one thing left worth doing, and doing well-telling the truth. So does Pearl Cleage in her award-winning first novel which puts a witty, wise spin on contemporary women's issues, hard choices, harder good-byes, and brave new beginnings.

Ava Johnson is returning home to Idlewild, Michigan on her way to someplace better, like San Francisco. Her overt reason for the trip is to spend some bonding time with her sister Joyce. In the bad luck department, Joyce has been given her share of no refund, no return items. But if Ava is thinking gloom and doom on her arrival, she has another think coming...when Joyce sends wild Eddie Jefferson, a handsome Rastafarian brother with a head full of beautiful dreadlocks, to pick her up at the airport. And what is waiting in Idlewild is a small town filled with big-city problems, a life-lesson in becoming a "free woman," and an unexpected miracle called love.

Discussion Questions

  1. Both Ava and Joyce are at crisis points in their lives. Compare the two women. How does each cope with her heartaches? What works...and what doesn't.

  2. Ava and Joyce aren't the only women facing tough challenges in this novel. Joyce says of the girls in the Sewing Circus, "These girls haven't got a chance. There aren't jobs and there aren't going to be any. They're stuck up here in the middle of the damn woods, watching talk shows, smoking crack, collecting welfare, and having babies. What kind of life is that?" (p. 39) Ava's answer is "City life." Do you agree that the sameproblems confront urban and rural young women? What do you think are the greatest ones? Whose responsibility is it to help young people overcome them?

  3. In the chapter called "August," Joyce makes up a list of "Ten Things Every Free Woman Should Know." First define "free woman" — then make up your own list.

  4. The church in this novel shows both its sides: the good it can do; the harm it can do. How do you feel about the church's handling of the Reverend's sexual abuse? What do you feel should be the response of a church organization-whether a black church or the Roman Catholic Church-to this problem?

  5. At the center of this novel, however, is the tragedy of HIV. Discuss the community's reaction to Ava. Then discuss her own response to a new relationship. How would you interpret her dream in Chapter 18...and the very last line of the book? About the Author: "The purpose of my writing, often, is to express the point where racism and sexism meet." An accomplished playwright, journalist, poet, and novelist, Pearl Cleage probes issues of race, sex, and love in a growing body of literary work while she reveals poignant truths about brave black women.

    Born on December 7, 1948 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Pearl Michelle Cleage grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Her father was a prominent minister who ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 on the Freedom Ticket; her mother was an elementary school teacher.

    Since the early 1980s, Cleage has drawn national attention with her dramatic works, which include Flyin' West, an extraordinary play about pioneer black women at the turn of the century, and Blues for an Alabama Sky. Her first novel "What Looks Like Crazy on an OrdinaryDay, was an Oprah's Book Club selection, a New York Times bestseller, and a BCALA Literary Award winner. She is also the author of "I Wish I Had a Red Dress, "Mad at Miles, and "Deals with the Devil. A contributing editor to Essence magazine, Pearl Cleage frequently performs her work on college campuses. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Zaron W. Burnett, Jr.

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