The former Inquirer staff writer will launch her book officially on Saturday afternoon with a party open to the public, free, at Warmdaddy's on Columbus Boulevard, with WDAS-FM radio personality Patty Jackson hosting. Rodney Williams and D.L. Watson of the Ink Spots are set to perform.
Miller, 54, sticks close to the facts of her life in the book but she does change a few things. In recounting her surgery for a brain tumor in 2005, she has the fictional Karen flash back to memories of childhood and young adulthood as she hears visitors' voices while she lies in a coma.
In real life, Miller wasn't completely unconscious after the procedure, but she uses the coma in the novel as a vehicle for recounting her life. While comatose, she struggles to remember how she wound up in the hospital.
At the time of her diagnosis, with a new book deal and her daughter's upcoming graduation, Miller said during a recent interview at her house in South Philadelphia, she didn't have time to be ill - it angered her that she was. In true form of the "angry-ass black woman" she is, Miller's frustration over her condition and operation became the fuel and inspiration for her latest work.
Her illness did her one more solid, too. It gave her family a reason to coexist.
It's evident in her novel that Miller comes from an unconventional - some might say broken - family. It isn't often, Miller said, that they are all together without confrontation. After her surgery, though, the family showed unconditional support, she said.
Her family's presence and their support as she fought her winning battle against death encouraged Miller to think about life, she said, and ultimately to write this novel.
"It made me dwell on not just who we are, but who we were and how we got there in our lives," she said about revisiting memories of her family.
After her brain surgery, she realized the direction in which her book was going. An Angry-Ass Black Woman will afford readers an up-close, deep-down look into her life, no matter how painful, gruesome, or very real it was.
This intimacy serves a deeper purpose than just disclosing Miller's innermost struggles. It becomes the story of a woman who should have broken a long time ago but who managed and continues to thrive in spite of her circumstances, and who even positively affects others along the way.
Not knowing whether she would live, Miller went back to her desk after her diagnosis and wrote, "I ain't scared of death. In fact, death can kiss my black ass."
Those became the first few words of what eventually became An Angry-Ass Black Woman. And thus an unexpected journey to inner freedom began.
Don't get it twisted. Miller wears the title "angry-ass black woman" with pride, in the tradition of women who brought about change, such as Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman.
"People hear the book title and come to the wrong assumption," she said.
Anger, she said, is a good emotion. It's a healing emotion. It's what drives people who are fed up and irate to create change. Anger propels people forward, just as it propelled Tubman not only to run away from slavery, but to assist thousands of others to follow suit.
Not to be confused with bitterness, Miller said, anger is an emotion that causes progress.
Mining her own life for material was not without difficulty. There were points during the writing when Miller was forced back into her life's dark places. She almost omitted a rape scene and changed the timing of some events.
The novel, for instance, has Miller's mother die when Miller was 15. She actually died when Miller was 26. Miller said she made the change for the sake of readers. "I didn't want the reader to feel her pain as she sees what happened to her family," she explained.
Miller's previous books have had bits that alluded to events in her life. Having written this fictionalized account of her life, she said, she can stop putting pieces of her life in her work.
"No one promised me a bed of roses," Miller said of her early years in Harlem.
And she didn't let anyone stop her from growing her own.
Contact Layla Jones at LJones@philly.com.