Summary and book reviews of I Wish I Had A Red Dress by Pearl Cleage

I Wish I Had A Red Dress

by Pearl Cleage

I Wish I Had A Red Dress
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2001, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2002, 336 pages

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Book Summary

Cleage captures the mores, culture, and rhythm of black urban youth and the romantic tensions between mature black adults as she weaves contemporary issues into a love story.

Joyce Mitchell was widowed far too young when her beloved husband, Mitch, died in a tragic accident five years ago. Since then she's kept her hands full and her mind and heart occupied by running The Sewing Circus, an all-girl group she founded to provide badly needed services like day care and job counseling to young women, many of whom are single mothers. More important, The Circus is a place for lively, wide-ranging, heart-to-heart discussions that will help members grow into what Joyce likes to call "twenty-first-century free women."

All in all, Joyce has a full and rich life. She has her work, her family, her friends, and her town. But there are some nights when she crawls into bed alone and has to admit that something is missing. What she doesn't have is that red dress she keeps dreaming about or a social life that would accommodate it even if she braved the mall and bought one. To further complicate matters, she may not have The Sewing Circus much longer, as the state legislature has decided not to fund the group's vital but hard to define work with young women who are too often regarded as problems rather than possibilities.

Feeling defeated and pessimistic, Joyce reluctantly agrees to keep a date for dinner at the home of her best friend, Sister -- a reverend like no other-and finds not only a perfect meal but a tall, dark stranger named Nate Anderson. Nate has just joined the administration at the high school and his unexpected presence in Idlewild touches a chord in Joyce that she thought her heart had forgotten how to play. Nate feels the same immediate connection, but both have enough experience with broken hearts to take it real slow. Besides, they've got too much work to do to concentrate on falling in love....

But life moves at its own pace, and as Sister says, "if you want to make God laugh, make plans." Particularly when it comes to matters of the heart. Joyce decides the trick is to stay focused and to remember that nothing is as sexy as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, especially if you tell it while you're wearing a perfect red dress...

Chapter One
Joyce

I wish I had a red dress. I've been wearing black for so long I feel like one of those ancient women in the foreign movies who are always sitting around, fingering their rosary beads and looking resigned while the hero rides to his death on behalf of the people, or for the sake of true love, which is really six of one, half dozen of the other, when you think about it.

I never cared much about clothes. My basic requirement is comfort, which automatically cuts out high-heeled shoes, pushup bras, panty hose and strapless evening gowns, but could theoretically still leave room for a range of colors, fabrics and even a stylish little something or other for special occasions.

The convenience of all black used to appeal to me. I loved the fact that I could reach into my closet and know everything I touched was going to match everything else I touched with absolutely no effort on my part, but it can be a little depressing sometimes. Even to me.

I didn'...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

Returning to Idlewild, Michigan and some of the characters who captured readers' hearts in her bestseller, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, Pearl Cleage writes a beautifully realized work about modern times, second chances, and making a difference in other people's lives. Joyce Mitchell, widowed too young, has a full life as a social worker, one filled with purpose and good friends. But she's begun thinking about putting aside the black clothes she's found so easy to wear for so long and getting a red dress. She is also realizing that she needs something more in her life. When her best friend, Sister, fixes her up with the tallest, sexiest man she's ever met, she sees all sorts of ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

More a bully pulpit than a novel.

Booklist

Cleage captures the mores, culture, and rhythm of black urban youth and the romantic tensions between mature black adults as she weaves contemporary issues into a love story. She portrays young people often dismissed by broader society unsentimentally but respectfully, revealing the undercurrents of their strivings to find some security.

Library Journal

... three plot lines are successfully carried to a satisfying conclusion. Recommended for public libraries.

Reader Reviews

Anna

This book was my second of Ms. Cleage's books and I absolutely loved it. I am so moved by her writing. It has given me some insight into a part of society that I have never experienced, being a caucasian. A must read!

Anonymous

I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Cleage here in Atlanta and I ran out and got her book. She is phenomenal and her book is too

Sheila

This book was a wonderful drink for my soul. Ms Cleage has the inapt ability to take you on a journey where you feel the characters and begin to care about what happens to them. Her writing is rhythmic, it flows and it’s almost sensual without being ...   Read More

Mercede

I loved the first one, thats what led me to this one and i loved it also. The story deals with issuses that might be happining in some young girls life today.

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