Pearls of Wisdom

In many of her works Cleage takes a woman that is “in a bad way” and takes a journey with her into a better place in life. The following are examples of this journey. Late Bus to Mecca displays Ava making her way down to Atlanta to get away from her bad place and make a new life. In What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day she takes a different Ava from Atlanta where she was recently diagnosed with AIDS to her hometown in Idlewild to find a better home for herself. Additionally, in I Wish I had a Red Dress she journies with Joyce as she learns how to love again after losing what she thought was her one and only.

What I find the most interesting is in both books is that Cleage bullets a list that specifically gives advice to women about how to live.We have Ava’s list in Late Bus that unravels throughout the piece as she speaks with ABW.

“The Lessons

1. Take care of your sisters

2. Be resourceful

3. Make a plan

4. Make a move

5. Don’t do animals”-Pearl Cleage

Then, in What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day and I Wish I had a Red Dress, Joyce (the same character is in both books) has created a social group for young women in Idlewild (just outside of Detroit). The group, called The Circus, consists of young women in need of a little (or in most cases-a lot of) motherly guidance. Joyce is attempting to teach them how to be “free women” and be able to live on their own. Most of the young women in town are unwed mothers (or are on the path to being) and don’t see much of a future for themselves other than staying with their abusive, drug addict boyfriends. The Circus is a source of guidence, hope and refuge for these young women. And just as in Late Bus to Mecca Cleage again provides a list a guidelines:

Ten Things Every Free Woman Should Know

1. How to grow food and flowers

2. How to prepare food nutritiously

3. Self defense

4. Basic first aid/sex education and midwifery

5. Child care (prenatal/early childhood development)

6. Basic literacy/basic math/basic computer skills

7. Defensive driving/map reading/basic auto and home repairs

8. House hold budget/money management

9. Spiritual practice

10. Physical fitness/health/hygiene”-Pearl Cleage

Each list seems so simple…but in and out of the context of the stories seem to me insightful.


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