April 25, 2009

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage

BOOK #: 31
CHALLENGES: 21 Cultures, New Authors
RATING: 4.5 Stars

Ava Johnson had everything going for her in Atlanta including a fabulous career and luxe living. Then her power plans come to a screeching halt when she tests positive for HIV. She decides to move to San Francisco, a more HIV-accommodating city in her mind, but before she goes she decides to spend a quiet summer in her hometown of Idlewild, Michigan with her widowed older sister, Joyce.

But what she thinks will be a quiet and uneventful summer turns out to be anything but. There is the Sewing Circus- her sister's determined effort to educate Idlewild's young black women about sex, drugs, and responsibility- that the Reverend Anderson and his wife try to stamp out because it does not align with "Christ-centered values." Plus, Joyce has brought home a new baby, which she named Imani, whose crack-addicted mother fled after her birth. And if that's not enough, she is falling in love.

This novel is a thoughtful and inspiring look at the black community, at poverty and drugs, and at AIDS. I like that Ava is turning her life around in Idlewild and that she takes responsibility for getting HIV (even though she does not know who infected her) and she is taking care of herself better.

I also like that this story involves three African-Americans who, despite living in a town riddled with drugs, crime, and bored citizens, are making real efforts to make their community better and educate people about safe sex and more. The three- Ava, Joyce, and the neighbor and old friend, Eddie- are a close-knit group and show intelligence and wit and love and responsibility in the black community. Too many books and movies and television shows highlight blacks in gangs, doing drugs, getting pregnant, and going to prison. This story shows that even though they have made mistakes in their past they have owned up to them and are capable of change, and not only that, they are changing and helping others in the process.

It really is a beautiful story and I was engrossed in it from the beginning. Cleage made all of the characters, especially Ava, so real and human and multi-layered. You could empathize with her and you could laugh with her and you could be frightened along with her.

I really recommend reading this book if you have not yet. It is a rich story that you won't soon forget.

*Note: This book does contain some explicit language.


  1. The book sounds great and I love the title too!

  2. I really enjoyed this when I read it a couple of years ago.

  3. I've heard a lot about this book over the years. I've never been all that interested in reading it, but I thought the title was great! Glad you liked it! =)

  4. I read this book a few years ago, and I thought it was pretty good. And I love the title, which was the reason why I decided to read the book in the first place (I'm shallow that way).


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