McMillan, Terry: How Stella Got Her Groove Back
(researched by Laine Welch)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
McMillan, Terry. How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Viking Penguin. New York, New York. 1996. Copyright Terry McMillan 1996 No parallel first editions.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First edition is published in hardcover.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
192 leaves [endpaper] pp. [16] [1] 2-19 [20] 21-37 [38] 39-53 [54] 55-68 [69] 70-89 [90] 91-110 [111] 112-128 [129] 130-146 [147] 148-165 [166] 167-177 [178] 179-193 [194] 195-209 [210] 211-228 [229] 230-244 [245] 246-264 [265] 266-279 [280] 281-295 [296] 297-312 [313] 314-322 [323] 324-337 [338] 339-346 [347] 348-368 [endpaper] *Chapter pages are not numbered and appear in brackets above **Page numbers appear at the top, outer corners
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition is neither edited nor introduced. However, introductory material includes: Publisherís note for other books by Terry McMillan (5th unnumbered page) Dedication page stating ìfor Jonathan P.î (9th unnumbered page) Acknowledgements page (11th unnumbered page) Authorís Note (13th unnumbered page)
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The first edition is not illustrated.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Text is easily readable, well printed, and properly sized. Pages are 230mm x 150 mm. Text margins are 25mm on all sides. Size of type is 105R. Running headlines (in sans serif handwriting font) on left pages feature the authorís name 20mm from the top edge of page. Running headlines on right pages feature Title 20mm from the top edge of the page. Page numbers appear with running headlines on the outside. According to information on the Publishing page, type is set in Stempel Garamond*. *Identifont identifies the type as New Millennium
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
Copy has sturdy, smooth (but not glossy) pages that are off-white in color. I examined a copy from a public library. The paper is in good condition, other than a select grouping of pages that show stains from a spill of some sort. Paper is well maintained, withstanding time and usage.
11 Description of binding(s)
White board covers with black cloth (calico texture grain, not embossed) binding around spine and onto the front and back covers. Authorís signature (Terry M. McMillan) appears diagonally along the bottom third of the front cover, embossed blue metallic. Back cover is blank. Spine uses the same blue metallic ink, (not embossed) features the authorís name, title in handwriting font, and publisherís name. No illustrations. Endpapers in the front and back of book are reddish orange.
12 Transcription of title page
| Terry McMillan | How Stella Got Her Groove Back | [ornament 15mm x 15mm] | Viking | Title Page spans over two pages. On the left page the authorís name appears 40mm from top, justified center. Title spans in a wave across both pages two-thirds of the way down, written in a handwriting font. Ornament and Viking are in the bottom right corner of the right page. A checkerboard pattern in white and grey fills the background of both pages.
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
No information is available as of December, 2002. Snail-mail inquiry to author via Viking Publishers was unresponsive. Also searched internet sources (via Google and Yahoo) for contact information for Terry McMillan, with no fruitful results. The author's website (www.terrymcmillan.com) is a one-page site with the words "Coming Soon."
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
"Colophone" features the insignia of Viking publishers in the lower right corner, but no other information that would normally be found on a colophone page. Dust Jacket features illustration on the front cover (see cover art image) and a portrait photograph of the author on the back. Back cover notes "By the author of Waiting to Exhale." Inside front gives a summary of the novel and a short biography of Terry McMillan. Inside back features a photograph art piece of a woman wading in blue water and notes the following dust cover information: ART DIRECTION & DESIGN BY PAUL BUCKLEY JACKET AND FLAP DESIGN BY MACDUFF EVERTON AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPH BY JONATHAN EXLEY @1996 Title lettering by Merideth Harte Stylist: Derrick Lee/Zoli Management, Inc. Model: Eliana Fischer/Act 1 Modeling Agency Makeup by Sandra Gayle Location: Jamaica Palace Hotel The copy I examined is from a Public Library and has the Library Name and Address Stamp on the Title Page.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Viking originally released one edition, however a simultaneous audio version was available to the public when the novel went on sale on April 29, 1996.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
According to Publisher's Weekly V 243 No. 10-22 1996 Mar-May: The first printing yielded 750,000 copies. By the end of the first week in May (1996) 850,000 copies were in print after three trips to the press. An extensive search did not produce additional information regarding the number of first edition printings after the original three.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Large Print Edition: Wheeler Publishers, Rockland Maryland, 1996 Mass Media Paperback Edition: Signet, New York, 1997 c1996 Movie Tie-In Edition: Signet, New York, 1998 1997
6 Last date in print?
Still in print as of October, 2002.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
According to Bowkers Annual (1997) 42nd edition: How Stella Got Her Groove Back ranked twelve among Publishers Weekly's Best Sellers of 1996 with a total sales figure of 782,699 for 1996. According to Bowkers Annual (1998) 43rd edition: Signet's Mass Media paperback edition sold 1,404,732 in 1997.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Please refer to the information above for total sales for 1996 and 1997. Additional information is unavailable.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The February 19, 1996 issue of Publishers Weekly featured an article about How Stella Got Her Groove Back. |Waiting to Publish| |Viking gears up to 'crash produce' Terry McMillan's newest novel| |BY MAUREEN O'BRIEN| Excerpted statements from this article: "Press time has been reserved for the one million-copy first printing and the book jacket is already in production. Meanwhile, as PW went to press, Viking was still waiting for its blockbuster author Terry McMillan to deliver the final draft of her fourth novel, which is set to hit bookstores this May. Not that anyone at Viking is the least bit worried. McMillan's track record for delivering the goods speaks for itself. The record breaking success of her last commercial effort Waiting to Exhale sold more than 650,000 copies in hardcover for Viking and more than 1.75 million for Pocket as a mass market tie-in to the hit movie she also scripted. McMillan's new novel, which tells the intricately woven story of a 42-year-old career woman who throws convention to the wind and falls in love with a 20-year-old umemployed resort worker while vacationing in Jamaica, came to the author 'like a bolt out of the blue' said DeSanti [editorial director at Viking's sister-division Dutton]. The story sprang forth first as a poem, then evolved from a short story into a novella. '[McMillan is] a world class writer with an amazing talent.'"
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A210191021015132154.jpg
11 Other promotion
Upon the launch of Stella, McMillan visited fans on a 10-city promotional tour. The novel was designated as a Book of the Month Club main selection. The official website for the Movie version of How Stella Got Her Groove Back featured an essay contest promoting the movie, and movie tie-in edition of the book. The following description of this contest comes from the site URL [http://www.howstella.com/contest/contest.html] "Congratulations! Our panelists - leading lady Angela Bassett, author Terry McMillan, producer Deborah Schindler and director Kevin Rodney Sullivan - have selected the top ten winners of the HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK essay contest. Click on the winners' names below to read "how they lost their grooves and got them back." These compelling real life stories are heart-warming, gut-wrenching, uplifting, and most of all, demonstrate an indomitable spirit. Sheila Stuart of Minnesota is the Grand Prize Winner of the trip to Jamaica for two courtesy of Air Jamaica and Sandals, out of more than 700 entries. The nine runner-up winners have won the HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK movie prize pack, including a women's cropped t-shirt, a neoprene water bottle holder, the movie soundtrack CD, and the novel by Terry McMillan. As a bonus prize, all ten winners will receive sunwear from Calvin Klein Collection eyewear as worn by Angela Bassett in the film."
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Movie: How Stella Got Her Groove Back [videorecording] / directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan. Beverly Hills, CA: 20th Century Fox, [1998] Movie Soundtrack: How Stella Got Her Groove Back [music from the motion picture] Los Angeles, CA: Flyte Tyme Records, Distributed by Universal Music and Video Distribution, 1998. Compact Disc and Cassette versions. Musical Notation of Movie Soundtrack: Music from How Stella Got Her Groove Back: [piano/vocal/chords]. Miami, FL: Warner Bros. Publications, c1998. Three Audiorecordings: How Stella Got Her Groove Back: Penguin Audiobooks: New York, NY 1996. Narration by McMillan, Terry. How Stella Got Her Groove Back: Recorded Books, Inc.: Prince Frederick, MD 1996. Narration by Thigpen, Lynne. How Stella Got Her Groove Back: Books on Tape, Inc.: Newport Beack, CA 1996. Narration by Jordan, Tonya.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
German Translation: Manner sind die halbe Miete; Roman / McMillan, Terry ; aus dem Americaknischcen von Angela Scumitz. Munchen: Goldmann, 1998. Korean Translation: Arumdaun namja. McMillan, Terry. Soul-si: Miraesa, 1997. Spanish Translation: Benvenuta in Paradiso: romanzo/ di Terry McMillan; traduzione di Massimo Benedetti. Milano: Longanesi, 1997. French Translation: Stella / Terry McMillan; trad. de l'anglais, Etats-Unis, par Annick Le Goyat. Paris: Flammarion, 1999. 27-Mesnil-sur-l'Estree: Impr. Firmin-Didot. Hebrew Translation: Ekh hazar le-Stelah ha-gruv shelah/ McMillan, Terry; Shenfeld, Ya'el. Or'am: Tel-Aviv. 1997.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
In May of 1996, People magazine featured an exerpt from How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
No Sequels or Prequels
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
McMillan released the novel "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" on April 29, 1996. "Stella" was McMillan's fourth novel in a line of other works including "Mama" (1987) "Disappearing Acts" (1989) and "Waiting to Exhale" (1992). With the exception of her first book "Mama," Viking, New York, NY has published all previous and subsequent works in McMillan's career. The four-year time lapse in between the publications of "Waiting to Exhale" in 1992 and "Stella" in 1996 stemmed from emotional difficulties that McMillan faced in the wake of two deaths. In September of 1993 McMillan's mother Madeline Tillman, died during an asthma attack. McMillan's mother and father divorced in 1964, a consequence of his alcoholism and abusive episodes. As a single mother, Tillman raised Terry and four other siblings from the time that Terry was thirteen (People Weekly, 1996). Due to these circumstances, McMillan was extremely close with her mother, and the loss was very hard for her. At the time of Tillman's death, McMillan was traveling in Rome to promote Waiting to Exhale. One year later, in September of 1994, McMillan's close friend and fellow writer DorisJean Austin died of liver cancer. Though a new novel entitled "A Day Late and a Dollar Short" was in the works, McMillan discontinued progress on the book. McMillan's writer's block continued until the summer of 1995 when she went on vacation to Negril, Jamaica. Her experience during this time was her main inspiration for writing "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." The novel is highly autobiographical. Not only does the novel's romance take place in Jamaica, it centers on a relationship similar to that in McMillan's own life. The novel's main character Stella is a 40-something working mom who falls in love with Winston Shakespeare, a 20-year-old Jamaican student. In reality, McMillan met 20-year old Jonathan Plummer at a resort in Jamaica. Plummer moved to California four months later to live with McMillan and her 12-year-old son Soloman. Consequently, Stella's son Quincy is also 12 and both McMillan and Stella have female siblings that play major roles in their lives. "What I write is a reflection on my own evolution," McMillan says. "And so when I'm 82, hopefully I'll be able to look back and see where I was and where I've been. You know, what I cared about. What disturbed me. That's what I want my work to do for me years from now (Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, 1996)." McMillan says that the novel started as a poem expressing her love for Jonathan. Poetry evolved into a short story and subsequently into a 450-page draft in October of 1995 (Publisher's Weekly, 1996). She wrote the novel in about a month. The autobiographical nature of novel was well received by fans and family alike, although prior experience with including true-to-life material in a previous novel posed problems for McMillan. Following the publication of "Disappearing Acts," ex-lover Leonard Welch filed a 4.75 million dollar lawsuit against McMillan. Welch claimed that McMillan defamed him by basing the main character on his personality. He was unsuccessful, and courts ruled in favor of McMillan. No such legal events were associated with "Stella." Following the completion of "Stella" McMillan co-wrote the screenplay for the novel's movie version. The 20th Century Fox Film starring Angela Bassett, Whoopi Goldberg and Taye Diggs (as Winston) was released January 5, 1999. She published her most recent novel "A Day Late and A Dollar Short" in 2001.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
On average, McMillan's third novel, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" did not have a favorable reception. Reviewers criticized McMillan, judging everything from a blunt writing style, to a lack of imagination, to a weak, unrealistic storyline. Many critics point out that "Stella" has no literary merit. Comparisons between "Stella" and McMillan's previous novel "Waiting to Exhale" weighed in favor of the latter novel. One reason for this is that "Waiting to Exhale" describes the lives of four central characters, while "Stella" focuses narrowly on the rants of one character. By and large, critics seemed to disapprove of McMillan's conversational writing style, lack of literary merit and extensive use of profanity. Kirkus Reviews commented on March 15, 1996 "Long, run-on, train-of-consciousness sentences give the impression less of the characters' mental states than of a hastily written novel. One hopes McMillan will follow her heroine's example and slow down a little on her next book." The Associated Press remarked, "This story is not so new and while McMillan has the opportunity to explore the different aspects of Stella, she fails to do so." Most praise for "Stella," comes in addition to unfavorable criticism. One example comes from the New York Times Book Desk, in a review by Richard Bernstein on May 15, 1996. "Stella is far too self-absorbed to be entirely admirable, but she is sassy and bright and her spasms of surliness stem from the vulnerability she tries hard to hide rather than any streak of real meanness." Later Bernstein comments, "Nobody in this book is much interested in anything except sex, love and new acquisitions. It's the American dream realized, Ms. McMillan demonstrating that the black realization of it can be just as slick and anemic as the white." One interesting review from the Boston Globe noted a passage from How Stella Got Her Groove Back in which McMillan criticizes herself. The review gives a sample passage from the novel and comments favorably on McMillan's ability to criticize her self. "Stella pondering beach reading material while on vacation in Jamaica, picks up a copy of McMillan's "Waiting to Exhale," a book that she's been meaning to read for a couple of years now an after reading like the first fifty or sixty pages I don't know what all the hoopla is about and why everybody thinks she's such a hot writer because her shit is kind of weak when you get right down to it and this book here has absolutely no literary merit whatsoever at least none that I can see and she uses entirely too much profanity. Hell, I could write the same stuff she writes cause she doesn't exactly have what you'd call a style?and I[?m not in the mood to read about a bunch of woe-is-me black women." I laughed out loud as I romped through this passage, marveling at McMillan's willingness to poke fun at herself by rounding up what oh-so-many of us have been saying and throwing it back in our smug little faces."
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
On average, McMillan's third novel, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" did not have a favorable reception. Reviewers criticized McMillan, judging everything from a blunt writing style, to a lack of imagination, to a weak, unrealistic storyline. Many critics point out that "Stella" has no literary merit. Comparisons between "Stella" and McMillan's previous novel "Waiting to Exhale" weighed in favor of the latter novel. One reason for this is that "Waiting to Exhale" describes the lives of four central characters, while "Stella" focuses narrowly on the rants of one character. By and large, critics seemed to disapprove of McMillan's conversational writing style, lack of literary merit and extensive use of profanity. Kirkus Reviews commented on March 15, 1996 "Long, run-on, train-of-consciousness sentences give the impression less of the characters' mental states than of a hastily written novel. One hopes McMillan will follow her heroine's example and slow down a little on her next book." The Associated Press remarked, "This story is not so new and while McMillan has the opportunity to explore the different aspects of Stella, she fails to do so." Most praise for "Stella," comes in addition to unfavorable criticism. One example comes from the New York Times Book Desk, in a review by Richard Bernstein on May 15, 1996. "Stella is far too self-absorbed to be entirely admirable, but she is sassy and bright and her spasms of surliness stem from the vulnerability she tries hard to hide rather than any streak of real meanness." Later Bernstein comments, "Nobody in this book is much interested in anything except sex, love and new acquisitions. It's the American dream realized, Ms. McMillan demonstrating that the black realization of it can be just as slick and anemic as the white." One interesting review from the Boston Globe noted a passage from How Stella Got Her Groove Back in which McMillan criticizes herself. The review gives a sample passage from the novel and comments favorably on McMillan's ability to criticize her self. "Stella pondering beach reading material while on vacation in Jamaica, picks up a copy of McMillan's "Waiting to Exhale," a book that she's been meaning to read for a couple of years now an after reading like the first fifty or sixty pages I don't know what all the hoopla is about and why everybody thinks she's such a hot writer because her shit is kind of weak when you get right down to it and this book here has absolutely no literary merit whatsoever at least none that I can see and she uses entirely too much profanity. Hell, I could write the same stuff she writes cause she doesn't exactly have what you'd call a style?and I[?m not in the mood to read about a bunch of woe-is-me black women." I laughed out loud as I romped through this passage, marveling at McMillan's willingness to poke fun at herself by rounding up what oh-so-many of us have been saying and throwing it back in our smug little faces."
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Terry McMillan's 1996 book, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" is a versatile novel, touching on qualities from many different best-seller genres. Though art critics seemed dismayed with McMillan's third story, sales figures for both the novel and the movie indicate that audiences seemed to enjoy "Stella." In 368 pages, McMillan manages to mesh the typical vacation and romance novels with a work of fiction by an African American female, all while riding on the coattails of her previous best-seller "Waiting to Exhale." She intertwines fact and fantasy, detailing a love affair that is almost entirely autobiographical. Furthermore, for those who have no interest in reading, the movie version of "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" was sure to please anyone who missed the book. The resulting mixed genre is a best-selling mass-market success, with qualities that entertain some readers and displease others. Genre One: "Follow-Up Best-Seller" One possible genre for "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" can be described as the "Follow-Up Best Seller." Though "Stella" followed four years after the publication of "Waiting to Exhale" the success of McMillan's second novel was fresh in the minds of McMillan readers. According to a UVA Best-Sellers Database entry by Preethy George, Bowker's Annual revealed that 663,333 copies sold of the hardback first edition before May 1992. The Pocket Book Paperback of "Waiting to Exhale" sold around 2.5 million copies. After 38 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list Waiting to Exhale was clearly a success. (7) Sales figures for "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" reflect similar success although the critics seemed to appreciate McMillan's 1996 novel less than her 1992 book. Deirdre Donahue for USA Today remarked, "The problem with the book is that there is simply too much Stella, too few other voices and too little plot other than Stella's Jamaican holiday. What made "Waiting to Exhale" such a tour de force was McMillan's ability to conjure up the lives and experiences of four very different women (5)." Kim Campbell for the Christian Scientist Monitor had similar sentiments. "People who enjoyed McMillan's 1992 bestseller "Waiting to Exhale" may want to skip this surprisingly uneven follow-up. Gone are the well-drawn characters and storylines from the previous book, the author's third. Instead, readers get a tensionless tale about a black divorcee in her 40s and her relationship with a Jamaican man half her age. Besides its weak plot (based on events in the author's life), the novel features one-dimensional characters and often wince-worthy dialogue (11)." Genre Two: "Novel with a Successful Movie Version" McMillan co-wrote the screenplay for How Stella Got Her Groove Back with script-writer Ron Bass whose other works include "Rain Man," "Dangerous Minds" and "When a Man Loves a Woman (12)." This is the second collaborative effort between McMillan and Bass who also teamed up to write the screenplay for "Waiting to Exhale." The 1998 movie production of "Stella" featured actress Angela Bassett, who, consequently, also performed the leading role in the movie version of "Waiting to Exhale." Supporting actor Taye Diggs played Stella's young lover Winston Shakespeare. Whoopi Goldberg's role is a feature created solely for the film adaptation of the novel. Her character, Delilah, is Stella's best friend and travel companion. This is an interesting divergence from the novel, in which Stella travels to Jamaica alone. In the movie, Delilah is a voice of reason, who dies at the end of the film. Delilah's roots, however, spring from McMillan's close friend DorisJean Austin who died of liver cancer two years prior to the publishing of "How Stella Got Her Groove back." This is evidence of the autobiographical thread that runs throughout the novel and continues even further into the movie. On the whole, the movie seems to be a successful example of an African-American film since its lead character is a self-supporting prosperous Black female. Jay Carr for the Boston Globe remarked, "Glossy romantic fantasy doesn't get any glossier than How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Like her first novel-to-film, this one is dedicated to the proposition that upmarket black visibility has been ridiculously lacking in films from the Hollywood assembly line (3)." With a cast of African-American actors, and a successful R&B soundtrack, "Stella" attempts, at least in part, to reclaim cinema for Black artists. The musical score for "Stella" included singles by African-American performers such as Stevie Wonder, Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige and K-Ci & JoJo. The soundtrack also led to the success of its first single, "Luv Me, Luv Me" by artists Janet Jackson and Shaggy (9). Duane Byrge for the BPI Entertainment News Wire commented on the target audience for the film, remarking, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back surely has its niche among mature black females, but the spicy, touching romantic comedy about a 40-year-old black woman's midlife rut should win wider appeal among intelligent moviegoers burned out by car crashes, explosions and comets. Adapted from Terry McMillan's ribald, heartfelt novel and starring Angela Bassett in the title role, "Stella's" got plenty of style and brains. It's a sexier, sassier version of Hollywood's old-time romances (2)." His praiseful review is rare among critics who often express both positive and negative opinions of the film, however Byrge's statement reflects the general appeal of "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" amongst a varied audience of moviegoers. Production of the film led to the release of a movie-tie in edition by Signet Paperback, although sales figures for this specific edition are unavailable. Genre Three: "Vacation/Travel Fiction" McMillan's relaxed writing style, simple plot and exotic setting make "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" a mindless read, appropriate for audiences who read for pleasure and entertainment. The Jamaican landscape that McMillan describes is a perfect fit for a genre that can be described as "Vacation or Travel Fiction." Stephen Holden for the New York Times touches upon the exotic eroticism that pervades throughout this vacation fantasy noting that the novel portrays "a tropical paradise as a sexual Mecca beckoning tired American businesswomen to shed their clothes and inhibitions and roll around with the local talent (8)." The setting may be an asset to the book, as it allows readers to escape into a different time and place. Colorful descriptions of the scene paint the beach, the ocean, and a plush hotel room with a view and a balcony. "It all looks different. Everything is green and lush, with giant banana trees lining the asphalt path like a jungle and flowers I've never seen or smelled before. Those fuchsia-colored ones?what are they called??oh yeah, hibiscus, and I think people eat those don't they and then clumps of yellow and orange and white and I'm thinking my landscaper could learn something (McMillan, 44)." Genre Four: "Romance" The story for "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" involves the budding romance between Stella and Winston, a young student from Negril, Jamaica. Stella's relaxing vacation turns into a seemingly impossible courtship that forces Stella to choose between her head and her heart. The story has all the classic components of the "typical Romance novel." Some reviewers such as Colin Covert even refer to "Stella" as a "Harlequin romance (4)." It throws an older female heroine into the hands of a handsome and enticing male suitor. The hero is youthful and intelligent. The love affair begins on the sun-bathed banks of an exotic locale. The lustful aura of the older woman-younger man fantasy, coupled with numerous scenes of physical interaction between Stella and Winston make "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" steamy and successful. The hurdle in the story (since there always has to be an obstacle) centers on the lovers' differences in age and location. Stella is old enough to be Winston's mother. She lives in California, while he resides in Jamaica. However, a carelessly happy ending is pleasing for the romance-reader. The relationship resolves itself easily with few complications as Winston decides to move to the states to be with Stella. Some seem to think that this resolution is too simple. Covert compared the story of "Stella" to a contemporary movie called "White Palace" that featured Susan Sarandon and James Spader. The story dealt with the similar theme of love in face of age difference, "with the added twist that he was snobby upper-crust and she was scrappy working-class." In his review for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis Minnesota, Covert noted "Complications such as that would make "Stella" a lot more entertaining. So would characters you could believe in. The lovers are so idealized that they're scarcely human. Couldn't Stella have been just a little embittered? Couldn't Winston have laid some uncomfortable demands on her? Wouldn't a little conflict have jolted the story to life?" (4) On the other hand, praise for "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" is usually connected to the freedom with which Stella approaches life. Stella's choice to pursue love and happiness regardless of the constraints of modern society is an admirable example to many readers. Steve Jones for USA Today lists three overriding themes in Stella's story that McMillan's audience admires: transgenerational love, cultural cross-pollination, spiritual liberation (9). Stella loves a younger man. Winston is Jamaican. Stella abandons her normal routine, becoming vulnerable to love. Genre Five: "Autobiography" Another genre touched upon by "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" is the genre of autobiography. Background information about the author reveals remarkable parallelism between McMillan and her main character. Both are African-American females who support themselves with a high-paying job. Both are single mothers. Both find romance during a Jamaican vacation, and evolve into a relationship with a twenty-year-old lover. The real life counterpart to Winston Shakespeare is 20-year-old Jonathan Plumber, who moved from the Caribbean to California to live with Terry McMillan after the pair met in Jamaica. Some reviewers seem to criticize this aspect, while others point out that the novel's autobiographical nature helped to offset its weak and unimaginative story. Patricia Smith, reviewer for the Boston Globe remarked, "Reading "Groove" without this [autobiographical] knowledge is like skipping through a field of wildflowers and broken glass - it's fun, but you've just got to scream "ouch" once in awhile (10)." Genre Six: "African-American/Feminist Perspective" Richard Bernstein for the New York Times remarked on McMillan, summarizing her strengths as an African-American Writer. Noting her abilities as both a novelist and script-writer, Bernstein's comparison between McMillan movies and other Black films reminds us of the media's tendency to concentrate on racial stereotypes. "Ms. McMillan's previous book, the wildly successful "Waiting to Exhale," made into a movie, was warmly welcomed as an expression of middle-class black female identity. The 'hood?the world depicted by "Clockers," "Menace 2 Society" or Tupac Shakur?was only part of the larger black pageant, Ms. McMillan was reminding us. The larger picture also included middle-class black women with educations, careers and sensibilities who wage a special kind of struggle over the missing ingredients of the affluent life (1)." While media tends to concentrate its focus on poverty and violence within the African-American culture, McMillan's stories attempt to debase this pigeonholing. The fact that McMillan is an African-American female writer lends itself to the ways in which she creates her characters. Stella is an assertive, responsible career-minded woman, capable of providing for herself and her family while juggling her roles as employee, mother, and lover. McMillan makes this point very clear in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" through the inclusion of Stella's sister Angela?her domestic and vulnerable antithesis. Angela's nagging and criticism throughout the book spring from the differences between the two characters. Angela is reasonable, conservative and married. Stella drops everything to pursue love with a man half her age. It is much more common to find the reverse occurring. In our society, it is the men who usually seek younger mates. Most readers find McMillan's disregard for preconceived notions refreshing in a world where stereotypes are all too prevalent. Sarah Ferguson for the New York Times sums up this idea, "Terry McMillan's first novel since her 1992 best seller, "Waiting to Exhale," is a guilty-pleasure sex-and-shopping fantasy of the first order, sprinkled with asides on rap music and feminine hygiene and featuring a message as uncomplicated as a glass of fresh-squeezed papaya juice: If aging men can rev their engines with pretty young trophy wives, why can't middle-aged women treat themselves to dreamy, dishy boy toys (6)?" The eclectic nature of McMillan's 1996 novel tells us a number of things about best-selling fiction. Though "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" may be lacking in literary merit or stylistic richness, the reader will undoubtedly identify with the story in some way. The novel appeals to the romantic, the traveler, the female, and the moviegoer alike. Readers who share a similar socio-economic standing are likely to identify with the conflict between making money and pursuing happiness. Single mothers will identify with the conflict between work and family. Those who do not find common ground with Stella the character, can escape into her world as they read. If nothing else, one may at least appreciate the fact that the story is light-hearted and entertaining. Since most consumers buy books for enjoyment purposes, it is likely that this is the quality most responsible for the success of "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." (1) Bernstein, Richard "Black, Affluent and Looking for More" The New York Times, May 15, 1996, Wednesday, Late Edition - Final Correction Appended, Section C; Page 17; Column 1; Cultural Desk, 978 words. (2) Byrge, Duance "MOVIE REVIEW; 'Stella Got Her Groove'" BPI Entertainment News Wire, August 10, 1998, Monday, 711 words. (3) Carr, Jay "'Stella' moves to an easy groove" The Boston Globe, August 14, 1998, Friday, City Edition Correction Appended, ARTS & FILM; Pg. C1, 758 words. (4) Covert, Colin Star "What planet is 'Stella' grooving on, anyway?" Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), August 14, 1998, Metro Edition, Pg. 1E, 750 words. (5) Donahue, Deirdre "McMillan slips into a vivid, one-note 'Groove'" USA TODAY, April 29, 1996, Monday, FINAL EDITION, LIFE; Pg. 1D, 364 words. (6) Ferguson, Sarah "Books in Brief: FICTION" The New York Times, June 2, 1996, Sunday, Late Edition - Final, Section 7; Page 21; Column 1; Book Review Desk, 278 words. (7) George, Preethy "Waiting to Exhale" UVA Best Sellers Database (8) Holden, Stephen "He Likes Video Games? Nobody's Perfect" The New York Times, August 14, 1998, Friday, Late Edition - Final, Section E; Part 1; Page 9; Column 1; Movies, Performing Arts/Weekend Desk, 732 words,. (9) Jones, Steve "Themes of love, liberation keep soundtrack in the 'Groove'" USA TODAY, August 20, 1998, Thursday, FINAL EDITION, LIFE; Pg. 1D, 216 words. (10) Smith, Patricia "McMillan's Jamaican confection" The Boston Globe, April 28, 1996, Sunday, City Edition, BOOKS; Pg. 67, 1183 words. (11) The Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 1996, Thursday, FEATURES; BOOKS; BESTSELLING FICTION; Pg. 18, 1649 words. (12) Wilner, Norman "Love story is all looks, no substance" The Toronto Star, September 11, 1998, Friday, FINAL EDITION, ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. C5, 614 words.
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