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Terry McMillan finds courage in making changes

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Terry McMillan appears in the East Bay to promote her new San Francisco-set novel, “I Almost Forgot About You.” (Courtesy Matthew Jordan Smith)

Best-selling author Terry McMillan explains how she has built a career on describing the first-world dilemmas of upper-middle-class African-American women.

“A lot of us are educated, and many of us are not poor. People don’t realize that just because you pay your bills doesn’t mean you don’t have problems. Having money isn’t a panacea, obviously, and Georgia proves it,” says McMillan, who’s promoting her new novel “I Almost Forgot About You” in the East Bay this week.

The book’s main character, Dr. Georgia Young, is a successful San Francisco optometrist, and a quintessential McMillan protagonist, following in the footsteps of characters such as Savannah Jackson from “Waiting to Exhale” and Stella Payne from “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”

For the novel’s exteriors, McMillan, who went to UC Berkeley and spent 25 years in the East Bay, knew that San Francisco would provide the optimal setting.

“San Francisco is particularly beautiful, and I love being able to describe it,” she says. “It’s like one postcard after another.”

But upon deeper reflection, she adds: “What I love about San Francisco is the weather, but what I don’t like about it is the weather. It’s cold and you can freeze your ass off there.”

Its duality makes it the perfect stomping ground for Georgia, who on the surface appears to have it all, but underneath is plagued by boredom and loneliness — until a devastating loss spurs her to make a change.

McMillan’s own life looked good on paper until her bitter divorce battle with her once-closeted ex Jonathan Plummer made national headlines a decade ago.

“When I realized that Jonathan was out here enjoying his new life freely and openly, and I hadn’t written a word in awhile, I stopped being angry,” she says. “See, I love writing. What I got out of writing this book was understanding the courage to do what it takes to make changes in your life. Look, life is not long, so we must do all of this stuff with as much gusto as we possibly can. I’m 64, and the party’s not over.”


IF YOU GO

Terry McMillan
Where: First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland
When: 7:30 p.m. June 23
Tickets: $12 to $15
Contact: (510) 444-8511, www.kpfa.org/event/evening-terry-mcmillan
Note: McMillan also appears at 7 p.m. June 22 at Rakestraw Books, 3 Railroad Ave., Danville.

BOOK NOTES

I Almost Forgot About You
Published by: Crown Publishing Group
Price: $27
Pages: 368

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