You Know Better: A Novel

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9780060197797: You Know Better: A Novel

It is the spring weekend of the Peach Blossom Festival in the tiny middle Georgia town of Mulberry, but things are far from sweet for the Pines women. LaShawndra, an eighteen-year-old hoochie-mama who wants nothing more out of life than to dance in a music video, has messed up...again. But this time she isn't sticking around to hear about it.

Not that her mother seems to care; after all, Sandra is busy working on her real estate career and on the local minister. It's LaShawndra's grandmother, Lily, a former schoolteacher, principal, school board administrator, and highly respected cornerstone of the Mulberry community, who is scouring the streets at midnight looking for her granddaughter.

Over the course of one weekend these three disparate women, guided by a trio of unexpected spirits, will learn to face the pain in their lives and discover that with reconciliation comes the healing they all desperately seek. In this magical, deeply resonant novel, Tina McElroy Ansa goes straight to the heart of women's relationships to reveal the soul that bonds us all.

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Review:

The pleasures of Tina McElroy Ansa's sharp-witted fourth novel, You Know Better, are obvious from the first pages, in which we are introduced to the author's lovable, imperfect characters, her gift for capturing the rhythms of speech, and her dead-on observations of African American family life at the turn of the 21st century. In her hands, what could've read like Touched by an Angel instead is a tender and rueful study of the forces that shape three generations of women. Lily, a successful former school teacher and administrator, is out at midnight, combing the streets of her small Georgia town for her teenage granddaughter, LaShawndra, who's in trouble again. Lily's daughter, Sandra, is too busy making money and trying to attract the new pastor to pay attention to the chaos of LaShawndra's life, let alone to take responsibility for the girl's misbehavior or her low self-esteem. But before the next day is over, each of the women will be visited by a guiding spirit and forced to face what they have been running from. A spiritual novel free of sentimentality or preaching, You Know Better suggests that most people already know what's wrong with their lives, but it may take divine intervention to motivate them to fix their problems. --Regina Marler

About the Author:

Novelist Tina McElroy Ansa calls herself "part of a writing tradition, one of those little Southern girls who always knew she wanted to be a writer." She grew up in Middle Georgia in the 1950s hearing her grandfather's stories on the porch of her family home and strangers' stories downtown in her father's juke joint, which have inspired Mulberry, Georgia, the mythical world of her four novels.

Tina McElroy Ansa was born in Macon, GA, the youngest of five children. In 1971, she graduated from Spelman College, the historically black women's college which is part of the Atlanta University Center in Atlanta, GA. Her first job after college was on the copy desk of The Atlanta Constitution, where she was the first black woman to work on the morning newspaper. During her eight years at The Atlanta Constitution, she worked as copy editor, makeup editor, layout editor, entertainment writer, features editor, and news reporter. She also worked as editor and copy editor for The Charlotte (NC) Observer. Since 1982, she has been a freelance journalist, newspaper columnist and writing workshop instructor at Brunswick College, Emory University and Spelman College.

Tina McElroy Ansa's fourth novel, You Know Better, will be published in Spring 2002 by William Morrow Publishers. The novel addresses the contemporary issues of children today, the tenuous ties we are building with them, and how we can reclaim them.

Ms. Ansa's first novel, Baby of the Family, was published in 1989 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times. Baby of the Family was also on the African-American Bestseller List for Paperback Fiction. In October 2001, Baby of the Family was chosen by the Georgia Center for the Book as one of the Top 25 Books Every Georgian Should Read. The book also won both the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults in 1990 Award, and won the 1989 Georgia Authors Series Award. She and her husband, AFI (American Film Institute) Fellow filmmaker Joneé Ansa, are currently adapting Baby of the Family for the screen as a feature film starring Alfre Woodard, Ruby Dee, Loretta Devine, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Cylk Cozart, Vanessa Williams, Todd Bridges, Pam Grier, and Tonea Stewart. The author is collaborating with her husband on the screenplay for Baby of the Family, which he will direct and shoot in summer 2002 in Macon, GA. Ms. Ansa is executive producer. Patrice Rushen is the film's composer.

Harcourt Brace published Ms. Ansa’s second novel, Ugly Ways, in July 1993. The African-American Blackboard List named the novel Best Fiction in 1994. Ms. Ansa was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 1994 for Ugly Ways and the novel was on the African-American Best-sellers/Blackboard List for more than two years. Award-winning actress Alfre Woodard has entered into a partnership with Ms. Ansa to bring Ugly Ways to the screen.

The Hand I Fan With, her third novel, was published in October of 1996 by Doubleday. This is the beautifully erotic love story of Lena McPherson and the 100-year old ghost -- Herman -- she calls up to love and cherish her. The novel was awarded the Georgia Authors Series Award for 1996. Ms. Ansa also won this same award for her debut novel, Baby in the Family, and is the only two-time winner of the honor.

Tina McElroy Ansa is a regular contributor to the award-winning television series CBS Sunday Morning with her essays, "Postcards from Georgia." She also writes magazine and newspaper articles, Op-Ed pieces and book reviews for the Los Angeles Times, (New York) Newsday, The Atlanta Constitution, and the Florida Times-Union. Her non-fiction work has appeared in Essence Magazine, The Crisis Magazine, MS. Magazine, America Magazine, and Atlanta Magazine.

Tina McElroy Ansa was a Writer-in-Residence at her alma mater Spelman College in Atlanta, GA in the Fall of 1990 where she also taught creative writing. In addition to touring for her books and giving lectures, she has presented her work at the Smithsonian's African-American Center's Author's Series; the Richard Wright/Zora Neale Hurston Foundation; the PEN/Faulkner Reading Series and fundraisers at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Schomburg Center and the PEN American Center. She is on the Advisory Council for the Georgia Center for the Book and on the host committee for the Flannery O'Connor Awards.

Reflecting her concern with the issue of homelessness in this country, she has participated in fund-raising events including readings at the SOS-sponsored Writers Harvest at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA and at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. She has also volunteered for fundraisers and house-buildings for Habitat for Humanity and has read at Atlanta-based fundraisers for Aid to Children of Imprisoned Mothers.

She and her husband, Joneé Ansa, have lived on St. Simons Island, GA since 1984. Together they produced and directed the 1989 Georgia Sea Island Festival, a 20-year old grassroots festival that seeks to preserve crafts, music, slave chants, games, food and the spirit of the African-American people who lived and worked as slaves on the rice and cotton plantations along the Georgia coast. Ms. Ansa is an avid birder, amateur naturalist, and gardener. She always has collard greens growing in her garden among the black-eyed Susans and moonflowers.

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