Terry McMillan - Taking Risks to Find Fulfillment in "I Almost Forgot About You"

July 6, 2016 - Terry McMillan 07/06/2016 Views: 36,698

Terry McMillan talks about looking back at past relationships in her novel "I Almost Forgot About You" and weighs in on embracing people of color in the literary world. (6:08)

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My guest tonight isa best-selling author

whose latest novel is called I Almost Forgot About You.

Please welcome Terry McMillan.

(applause and cheering)

Welcome to the show.

Thank you very much.

It's, uh... so...

It's almost surreal to meetsomeone who, in a strange way,

influenced your lifeat a very young age.

I mean, I was watchingthose movies with my mom.

I was watching Waiting to Exhale.

-I was watching...-(laughter)

-I did. I grew upwith a single... -Why?

Because I have a...I have a single black mother

who I was at home with,and I was watching the movies

based on these stories,on these books that you wrote.

Uh, I meanyou wrote these stories in 1992.

You know, powerful storiesabout black women in America

who had resolve,who had determination.

Yeah, I know. You really needed

-to be concerned about thatat your age. -(laughter)

Now that sexismand racism no longer exist,

-is it tough for you...?-(laughter)

-...is it tough forto you write a book? -(applause)


with that in mind, no.

Very... it's easy.

-It seems like it came acrossas a... -No. Um...

No. I-I'm a good liar.


Uh, let's-let's-let's talkabout the book.

-Okay.-In your novel...

it's a really interesting story.

A woman who really haseverything going for her--

she's an optometrist,she's been to college,

she's making good money--and then all of sudden realizes

she's not happy.

She sets out to findall the men from her past,

all her previous loves.

Why do you think it wasimportant for her as a character

to go backand complete this journey?

Um, because it is a journey.

I think that, um...

I don't... I don't think she'sunhappy, I think she's bored.

-I think there's a difference.-Yes.


she basically wants to...reinvent herself

to make her lifea little bit more interesting.

And I thinkin the process of doing that,

she decides when she findshow something tragic

has happened to an ex...guy that she used to love, um--

and he never knew it--

that she decidesthat it might be worth it

to go backand hunt these other ones down

and let them know the impactthat they had on her life...

even if she loved them

or if she ultimatelywould like to have killed them.

-(laughter) -I love that.That is the balance, isn't it?

In life. In life.

Loved themor wanted to have killed them.

It's-it's an interesting story.

I often have the discussionwith my friends, I go, you know:

Do you think in lifewe sometimes focus

on professional successand not spend enough time

looking at emotional,uh, success, you know?

Somebody... as you say, she wasbored, she was not fulfilled,

-Mm-hmm. -and yet she hadeverything going for her.

Is this book sort of commentingon that idea?

Well, I think sometimeswe do what looks good on paper,

and in real life, some ofthat stuff is not as fulfilling

-as we thoughtit was going to be. -Mm-hmm.

And some of us are afraidto make changes.

So... I-I...

in this case, my character is...

she's trying very hardto be honest with herself.

And when you reacha certain age, um...

a real certain age...

-(laughter)-um, you decide that...

well, some people--my character decides

that it's worth taking a risk,it's worth changing lanes,

because... you'vealready been in this lane,

-Yeah.-so why not...

you know, put your blinker onand go over,

and step on the acceleratora little bit, too.

You have always beena trailblazer.

I mean,people have compared you--

not in your work,not in your body of work,

but in terms of inspirationto Shonda Rhimes,

in terms of being a voicethat is out there

that really blazes the trailfor other women of color

to go out and write books.

I mean, the literary worldis a world that is dominated

by a certain color,a certain, uh...

you know,a certain gender as well.

Do you thinkthat more can be done

to get black women into theseroles of telling the story,

stories that often becomeHollywood stories, for instance?

It's almost, like,the root of the problem.

Do you think more can be done?

And what could be donein these situations?

Well, I think that...

I mean, a good storyis a good story,

and in our case, we happento be African Americans,

or, in some cases, Africans.


I just think that most of us...

I'll put it this way,when I go into a bookstore,

I don't go in and say, "Gee,I'm looking for a book by...

"I'm looking for a bookby a white writer today.

Um, I wonder which oneI should choose."

And I think that if more peopleembrace the fact that America

is comprised of every ethnicityyou can think of,

and, um... if we'd read...

each other's works

without taking raceinto account all the time...

uh, because we aretechnically all Americans.

And when we go to the movies,

you know, um...

I don't... I don't...I don't... I just get...

-I'm tired of it.-Yeah.

I believe in diversity--

believe me--

but, you know, nowit just seems like everything

is either black or white,and there are a whole lot

-of ethnic groups inthis country besides... -Yeah.

-black people and white people.-Uh-huh.

But more than anything,

I think we just needto be able to tell the truth,

and do it with humor...

um, and with gusto.


and I try to do what I can,

but there area lot of us out here

that peoplejust don't know about.

I think it's, uh, good to haveyou leading the pack, then.

-Well, I wouldn't say-So thank you very much.

-I'm leading the pack.-I think you are.

-I'm old. I'm old. But I'm...-I think you are.

-(laughs) -Thank you so muchfor being here.

-Thank you...-Beautiful story.

-(cheering, applause)-Beautiful writing.

I Almost Forgot About You is available now.

Terry McMillan, everybody.

-♪ -(cheering)

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