The Sisterhood is also a teaching narrative. Each of the women in the novel represents one of nine leadership traits (discipline, self-knowledge, financial stewardship, service, sacrifice, education, vision, innovation, and entrepreneurship). In the Sisterhood, how they address challenges to their survival, illustrates what is possible with collective action and individual excellence.
The Sisterhood is a success workshop written in novel form and in a small category called applied fiction – where the writer begins with a specific curriculum, then creates a strong stand-alone narrative designed to illustrate it.
For me, The Sisterhood started on a late night drive home from a success workshop I gave during college for a group of African-American high-school girls. That night, I had the group stand in a circle and tell each other, one at a time and by name, that they were smart, beautiful, and could have anything that they wanted and worked for. It was a hard session, with most of the girls unable to accept the endorsement without tears. So many of them simply could not see it, much less believe it.
As I drove home, I thought that there had to be a way to illustrate what I was trying to teach – something more penetrating than quotes from self-help books and short workshop sessions. On that drive, I decided to write the Sisterhood. I conceived of an organization of women, who faced a series of challenges. Addressing those challenges would allow me to show versus tell how an individual can be successful. I went home and jotted the basic plot down which today is more or less the same.