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You Know Better

You Know Better

3.2 12
by Tina McElroy Ansa, Shubhani Sarkar (Designed by)

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As the tiny town of Mulberry, Georgia, celebrates its spring Peach Blossom Festival, things are far from peachy for three generations of Pines women.

Eighteen-year-old LaShawndra, 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


As the tiny town of Mulberry, Georgia, celebrates its spring Peach Blossom Festival, things are far from peachy for three generations of Pines women.

Eighteen-year-old LaShawndra, 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: Sandra is too busy working on her career and romancing a local minister to notice. It's LaShawndra’s grandmother Lily Paine Pines who is out scouring the streets at midnight looking for her granddaughter. But Lily discovers she is not alone. A ghost of a well-known Mulberry pioneer is coming out of the shadows.

Over the course of one weekend, these three disparate women, guided by the wisdom of three unexpected spirits, will learn to face the pain of their lives and discover that with reconciliation comes the healing they all desperately seek. You Know Better brilliantly portrays the fissures in modern African American family life to reveal the indestructible soul that bonds us all.

Editorial Reviews

The colorful, splashy dust jackets of Tina McElroy Ansa's novels capture perfectly the essence of her brisk, hip, wise, slyly erotic fiction. You Know Better has the quickness and flair of an African-American Sex and the City.
Publishers Weekly
African-American favorite Ansa (The Hand I Fan With) focuses in her fourth novel on three generations of troubled women in a small Georgia town, employing the Dickensian device of ghostly guides to lead them to enlightenment. The Peach Blossom Festival is upon tiny Mulberry, but the Pines women have little reason for rejoicing. LaShawndra, an 18-year-old "coochie" who engages in indiscriminate sex and whose greatest aspiration is to dance in a music video, has disappeared. Her mother, Sandra, is too busy with her real estate career, her new romance with a pastor and youth-enhancing beauty treatments to look for LaShawndra. So it falls to the girl's grandmother, Lily, a respected pillar of the community, to perform the search. The book is a first-person triptych, the three Pines women taking turns from oldest to youngest in detailing how they arrived at this latest crisis point and each has a different spirit guide to help her out. Ansa has a clear prose style, and she does a fine job of getting inside the women's heads; the chief problem is that, with the exception of Lily, her protagonists are unsympathetic. Lily herself overplays the religion card, while Sandra and LaShawndra are too selfish to rouse much sympathy. One thing they have in common: all three take the scenic route in their extended confessions, resulting in a book that is almost all past history with very little plot. Agent, Owen Laster. Harper Audio. (Apr. 2) Forecast: Ansa, a Blackboard bestselling writer with a bit of literary flair, improves on the lightweight Hand I Fan With here, but probably won't boost her readership much, though a strong marketing campaign and a 10-city author tour could help. More likely to enhance long-term sales if it is picked up by a major distributor is a forthcoming film adaptation of Ansa's award-winning first novel, Baby of the Family, featuring Alfre Woodard, Pam Grier and Vanessa Williams, among others. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A runaway teenager, an oblivious mother, and a worried grandmother take center stage in this new work from Ansa, whose Ugly Ways was the 1994 African American Blackboard Novel of the Year. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Three generations of small-town black women, aided by lovable ghosts. Lily Paine Pines drives around Mulberry, Georgia, looking for LaShawndra, her wayward granddaughter, when the wispy, wrinkled apparition of a much-loved local teacher, Miss Grace Moses, appears in the seat beside her, offering sage counsel and companionship during the long night. Miss Moses listens patiently as Lily reminisces about her own childhood and teaching career-and about her failed marriage to Charles, a compulsive gambler who doted on their only daughter, Sandra. Did he spoil her? As a teenager, Sandra got pregnant but never paid much attention to her daughter, much to Lily's dismay. Now, Sandra, who sells real estate, is involved in a romantic relationship with a preacher and is generally obsessed with respectability and material things. Luckily, she's showing houses to another wise ghost, Nurse Joanna Bloom, once a midwife at the local colored hospital. Joanna is a stalwart spirit in starched white who teaches cynical Sandra a thing or two about hope. Sandra finds out that Joanna aborted her own illegitimate baby decades ago-and made up for it by bringing generations of babies into the world. Shift to LaShawndra, a hootchie-mama of 19 who favors microskirts and tube tops. She's got a reputation as a ho (she isn't) and is always ready to hook up with any good-for-nothing who struts by; now, she's hitching to Freaknik, a wild spring-break party for black college students, when a phat phantom in a shiny black Jag pulls over. Why, it's Liza Jane, the glamorous, tough-talking former owner of a juke joint. LaShawndra can't tell if Liza Jane is real or not, but her car sure is. The two head down the road, andLaShawndra finds out that the good times can kill her if she's not careful. And so on. Can-I-get-a-witness enthusiasm can't compensate for a nearly nonexistent story. From the author of similar tales (The Hand I Fan With, 1996, etc.). Author tour

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.76(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Miss Moses?! Is that you? Good God, I thought you were dead!"

They were the first words that I spoke to that dear old lady. And I did not merely speak them. I shouted them — from across the street — out the window of my automobile.

Can you believe it? That was the first thing out of my mouth: "I thought you were dead!" It was so unlike me. But then again, as my little granddaughter and her contemporaries say, "I was stressed!"

I rolled down the window and shouted it all the way across the street right out of the car. Of course, I was mortified. I was beyond mortified. I had spent my entire life conducting myself in an exemplaryfashion. Any deviation from that role disturbed me.

In my embarrassment over that coarse slip, I almost forgot for a moment that I was out after midnight on a Saturday morning scouting around the streets of Mulberry, Georgia, looking for my almost, nineteen-year-old granddaughter, LaShawndra, my only grandchild.

That was the reason I was in what used to be downtown Mulberry, outside the local nightspot called The Club, located on the corner of Broadway and Cherry Street, looking for LaShawndra even though I knew the establishment had closed at midnight, nearly an hour before. If LaShawndra had gone there, I figured I might still be able to catch her little butt hanging around outside looking for a ride.

But the only little figure I saw on the corner of Broadway and Cherry Street that dark early morning was that of old Miss Moses, Mulberry'spioneering educator. Georgia.

The clouds chose just that moment to shift in the sky, exposing a moon directly over her head that was split right down the middle, like half a pie.

Seeing that old blind lady in the middle of downtown Mulberry at almost one o'clock in the morning more than shocked me.

At first I almost thought I was having a flashback from some bad drugs I took back in the sixties.

I couldn't help myself. I was stunned to see Miss Moses standing right under one of those high-crime, high-intensity streetlamps with an umbrella hanging over her arm — proudly — as if she were fully prepared for anything. I lowered the window on the passenger's side and yelled across the seat, almost expecting her to vanish before my eyes. But I knew I was seeing the old woman's face clearly. There was no mistake about it. It was Miss Moses.

The first reason I was so surprised to see Miss Moses, even in the midst of this crisis with my granddaughter, LaShawndra — besides the fact that it was nearly one o'clock in the morning — was that Miss Moses was all by herself. And I couldn't believe that Miss Moses was the kind of elderly blind person who went off on a jaunt by herself.

I knew a blind masseur I would go to sometimes. Extraordinary man. He told me that as a teenager he regularly jumped the fence of the Mulberry School for the Blind and ventured out at night to buy beer for his dormitory cohorts at the corner 7-eleven. Imagine the nerve that took.

But I could not imagine Miss Moses jumping any fences at night to come out to The Club. My God, she had to have been ninety-five if she was a day.

Miss Moses looked like a dainty little wrinkled urban poppy growing up through a crack in the middle of all that weathered concrete. And between the bright streetlight she was standing under and my increasing farsightedness — you know I can see farther off now that I can close up — I could see her just as clear as day. She was dressed in this red and purple flowered voile dress that nearly came down to her ankles. And it had a high neck with some grayish-looking crocheted cotton lace around the collar. The sleeves of the dress were long, all the way past her wrists, but you know how you can see through voile, so I could see her little stick arms through the sleeves.

Planted on top of her head was a small, round, pink straw pillbox hat — I had not seen one of them in thirty years — with a strip of hot pink grosgrain ribbon for a band. And planted on top of the pillbox hat was a huge — I mean huge — lavender cabbage rose.

All of which made her gray nappy hair, kind of tucked in in some places and sticking up in other places, look like a tuft of dried but living grass sprouting around the pillbox.

You know she had on a sweater. In fact, she had on two sweaters. One on top of the other. But she didn't have either one of them completely on. Both sweaters were merely thrown around her shoulders. And I was worried about her standing out there on a street corner in the cool. Her little gray sweater with yellowed satin ribbon woven throughout was just wrapped around her bony shoulders, and the two top buttons were fastened to keep it on. And another buttercup yellow cotton sweater with pink and blue flowers embroidered on it was tossed on top of that first one. And its top two buttons were fastened, too.

The second reason I was surprised to see her there was I was almost sure I had seen the notice of Miss Moses's death in the Mulberry Times a few months before. I read the local newspaper cover to cover each weekday morning before I leave for work and in the afternoons on the weekend. Most mornings I'm up to hear the thump of the paper on my front porch. I could have sworn I'd seen Miss Moses's obituary! GRACE MOSES, LOCAL EDUCATION PIONEER, DEAD AT 95. Or something like that. The death notice had...

You Know Better. Copyright © by Tina Ansa. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet 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 Jonee' 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, Jonee' 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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You Know Better 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Now everyone is reading this in 2012
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. The author did a fantastic job in keeping the reader engaged. An enjoyable story with twists and turns. Good Reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw the book on the shelf but though it might be more enjoyable on tape. I was so wrong! This book was slow, wordy and full of stuff that could have been left out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book tremedously. I couldn't wait to find out what happened. I defintely recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I shows triumph of a split family. I love the way Tina McElroy Ansa has the different ghost (who all were known by the grandmother) show the family that what is happening in their life is for a reason, and it can always change if they want it to. It truly is an outstanding book. I got it for my birthday this year in July and I have read it 10 times already. Once you start there is no stopping until you are through!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely too wordy, but I intend to give Ms Ansa a second chance. The reviews are better on her other two books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was ok. the last section(Lashawndra's story)was the best and most exciting
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is thought provoking. It reminds us to listen to our elders for wisdom, and that in spite of our differences, we can still love one another.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You Know Better tells the story of three-generation women of the Pine Family and how three women of their past touch lives. Their encounters with Miss Moses, Nurse Bloom and Eliza Jane reveals to them the error of their ways and puts back together their fragile relationships. Lily, the family matriarch well known and respected pillar of the community, struggles with a whole host of things: preserving the precious image of her family, the failure of her first marriage for the second time and keeping her wayward granddaughter out of harm¿s way among them. Ms. Moses teaches Lily that what¿s important is not what people think or say about you. Sandra, Lily¿s daughter has reached a comfortable level of success as one of the leading real estate agents in town. Sandra herself struggles rejection after her boyfriend skips out when she get pregnant and her inability to truly love and connect with her daughter. Sandra derives what little happiness she has from the material things she has managed to attain. Her surface disdain and disconnection from her daughter has left their relationship in tatters. What Sandra doesn¿t realize is that the behavior her daughter displays is a result of her constant negative judgment and criticism. LaShawndra, Sandra¿s daughter has made up in her mind that if her mother Sandra thinks she is a nobody going nowhere, then that¿s what she is going to be. LaShawndra¿s only solace seems to come from her Grandmother Lily. As the story unfolds each of these women sees how much they are really alike. Overall our group rated this book three stars. To our group the book was a hard read and we felt the ending could have been tied together a little better. Not once was it mention in the book that the encounters were with ghosts and we feel this warranted some conversation between Lily, Sandra, and LaShawndra at the end of the book to tie what they learned about themselves and each other together.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unlike Baby of the Family and The Hand I Fan With, this 'ghost' story is told with too much rambling and repetitive descriptions re each persons life. It was almost as if the writer had a set quota on how many pages this book had to be rather than whether this story could have been told in half the amount of space.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While reading this book, I couldn't help but think of my grandmother, mother, and myself. We each had different views of my life while I was growing up, yet as I reached adulthood, I realized we're so much a like. I like to thank Mrs. Ansa for each one of her novels (I've read them all). Keep on writing, and I'll keep on reading.
coraltheo More than 1 year ago
I remember an I Love Lucy episode where Lucy is excited because the book she's writing is going to be published, only to find later that it's to be included in a book showing what 'not' to do. I think this book must have been featured in that same book. I used to love Ms. Ansa's previous books. I gobbled up her books, "Baby in the Family," and "The Hand I Fan With." [WARNING, I'm doing this on purpose] I used to have a fan, so I never needed my hand to do it with, but I remember my Gradmother always using hers, and her husband, my third grandfather, used to go get one of the fans they used to give out during Sunday meetings. I love the Lord, but church lasted so long, I got up to go to church only to come home and have to go right to bed. But my husband loved it, even though he would go dancing the night before, but never seemed to mind the three hours of sleep. I watched a doctor on Oprah once say you need at least 8 hours of sleep. Kids need 10 hours, or so I heard on Supernanny. Ms. Moss down on 30th street isn't an expert but she weighs 300 lbs... And, so it goes with the pacing of this story; what I wrote above is exactly what I went through reading the first 60 pages of the book. Lillie Pines is awakened by a spirit from beyond, sensing something was very wrong with her granddaughter, LaShawndra. To be fair, the first few pages she's driving and spots a neighbor she believed was dead, but the flashback took the bulk of the first 30 pages just for Ms. Pines to get in the blippin' car to start looking for her granddaughter. By page 60, the only place she's covered is some river where she interuppts some kids 'playing Twister' in the back seat of a car (which took all of one page). When she got back in the car to reminisce some more, I'd had enough and archived the thing. As far as plot, I don't know enough of it to comment. What I know of the plot was said on the story synposis on the back. I love the cover art (always have for her books). I enjoy a descriptive read, but when it interferes with the pace of the story, it's not for me. If I could get my money back, I'd definitely ask for it.