PLAY AUDIO :
Sybil Wilkes interviews author Pearl Cleage about her latest book, “Things I Should Have Told My Daughter.”
Pearl’s work occupies a unique niche in contemporary African American fiction. Her characters are as complex and multi-faceted as her readers lives and their balancing of work, love and family (not necessarily in that order!) ring true to those who eagerly await each novel. She balances issues as challenging as AIDS, domestic violence and urban blight, but the distinguishing features of her books are her optimism, her commitment to positive change and transformation, and her unwavering faith in the possibility and power of romantic love. The creation of good, believable, desirable men — as well as the women who love them! — is a hallmark of Pearl’s fiction and her readers are quick to mention their fondness for Eddie Jefferson, the dread locked hero of What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, Nate Anderson, the weight lifting high school principal in I Wish I Had a Red Dress, Burghardt Johnson, the globetrotting journalist in Babylon Sisters, or their all time favorite, the mysterious Blue Hamilton, a former R&B singer turned neighborhood godfather,who is at the center of both Baby Brother’s Blues and Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do, where his character is first introduced. This character, with his amazing blue eyes and remembrance of past lives, not only keeps the peace, but falls deeply in love and isn’t afraid to show it. His relationship with Regina Burns is at the heart of both books and has made him one of Pearl’s most popular characters.Pearl Cleage is an Atlanta based writer whose work has won commercial acceptance and critical praise in several genres. An award winning playwright whose Flyin’ Westwas the most produced new play in the country in 1994, Pearl is also a best selling author whose first novel, What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Her subsequent novels have been consistant best sellers and perennial book club favorites. I Wish I Had A Red Dress, her second novel, won multiple book club awards in 2001. Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do, was a “Good Morning America!” book club pick in 2003, and Babylon Sisters made the ESSENCE Magazine best seller list in 2005. Her most recent novel,Baby Brother’s Blues, was the first pick of the newESSENCE Book Club and an NAACP Image Award winner for fiction in 2007. In the March 2007 issue of ESSENCE, Pearl had two books on the best seller list, Baby Brother’s Blues and We Speak Your Names, a poetic celebration commissioned by Oprah Winfrey and co-authored with her husband, writer Zaron W. Burnett, Jr. The poem was also an NAACP Image Award nominee in 2007. Pearl was a popular columnist with The Atlanta Tribune for ten years and has contributed as a free lance writer to ESSENCE, Ms., Rap Pages, VIBE and Ebony. Her recent play, A Song for Coretta, played to sold out audiences during its Atlanta premiere in February of 2007 and will be produced at Atlanta’s Seven Stages Theatre in February of 2008 in preparation for a national tour.
Pearl is married to Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., with whom she frequently collaborates. She has one daughter, Deignan, and two grandchildren, Chloe and Michael.