Her awesome storytelling illustrates the realistic language of her characters and the truth of the topics she addresses.
In contemporary Black fiction, McMillan has accomplished an impressive feat, making intimacy between Black men and women complex, honest and realistic for a multi-ethnic audience.
Also, she has singled them out as an immediate priority in the emotional health of Black community by shining a spotlight on relationships that were previously underrepresented.
McMillan was born northeast of Detroit in Port Huron, Michigan. She grew up in a working-class family and she received her bachelor's degree in journalism during 1978 from the University of California at Berkeley.
McMillan also attended the program in film at Columbia University where she earned her master's degree.
Later, she taught at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and the University of Arizona at Tucson.
General emphasis on reading was absent from the young McMillan's working-class home, but particularly on black literature.
Her ignorance of black literature as a adolescent caused her to reject the significance of other writers such as James Baldwin.
I remember feeling embarrassed and did not read his book because I was too afraid. I couldn't imagine that he'd have anything better or different to say than Thomas Mann, Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson... . Needless to say, I was not just naive, but had not yet acquired an ounce of black pride.
McMillan published her first story in 1976 after attending the Harlem Writer's Guild, her two stays at the MacDonell Artist Colony and Yaddo Artist Retreat allowed her to complete her first novel, Mama, which grew out of one of her short works of fiction.
Taking the initiative to promote the novel independently, McMillan sent over 3000 letters to bookstores, academic institutions, and other booksellers.
Her effort was rewarded by good critical reviews, more than 30 public meetings, and, after only six weeks of publication, a third printing of Mama.
Waiting to exhale is considered a milestone in terms of popularity; both for the writer and for contemporary black literature. Entering marketing doors that had already been opened by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Gloria Naylor, the novel made McMillan and media star in a publicity campaign marked by book tours and appearances on major television programs.
In addition to fiction writing, McMillan has edited Breaking Ice: An Anthology of African-American fiction; it is her response to the salient omission of black fiction from most previous literature anthology.
"Zora" is the opening passage of Disappearing Acts. In this excerpt, the black woman narrator ponders her needs in life, practically as a relate to men.