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Before I begin the book review, I would like to say a couple of things:
- I listened to the audiobook on Audible narrated by Gabrielle Union.
- I still plan on buying the hard cover copy.
- I hope more than anything, I properly write this review giving it all the justice and glory it deserves.
So let's begin!
I have always loved Gabrielle Union since first seeing her in Bring It On; she was so fierce, strong, and beautiful I just wanted to be her. My cousin and I would fight over who gets to role play as her character when we decided our purpose, in our nine year old lives, was to be professional cheerleaders. In 2016 (now 21 years old) I discovered Being Mary Jane on Netflix, and my love for her only grew. I am one of those people who likes a celebrity and watches their interviews, and I've always kept up with her as much as I could, but I never watched BET and hadn't been watching much live TV so I was SUPER late to the Being Mary Jane game. As any millennial, commercials just aren't our thing. So when I saw interviews about her new book I knew I had to read it. It has been about a year and a two weeks since it original release date but after listening to this beautiful book, I realized for me it was actually perfect timing for me.
As I've never written a book review I am unsure if I am supposed to break down each chapter, but if so this is not what I will do. Instead I will explain to you why this book should be read, especially but not exclusively by ALL WOMEN. Gabrielle Union's voice even in her acting is so so peculiar and specific, it draws you in. To hear this voice reading her own words, for me made it all the more powerful. As I listened to this book, I was overjoyed at how relatable it was. But not just relatable specifically from her to I; relatable to her and my mother, or my aunts. As they are around the same age and I have a family that is open about their own personal life experiences I felt as though I got to understand them even better as well as myself. The book begins with her childhood, which in no way was similar to mine as I grew up in New York City she in North Omaha, then California. Yet as I was reading her tell tales of things she did as a child it reminded me so much of my mother and aunts in the boldness. There is a running joke in my family that me and my cousins didn't even get in trouble for things that were actually daring, unlike our mothers who were sneaking out and sneaking cigarettes. Something in Union's writing felt so nostalgic that I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. I knew that as this book went on I would only be more enthralled, and as I finished it less than an hour ago I am almost beating myself up for listening to it so fast (Again, I am waiting for my hard copy so I will relive its glory).
Gabrielle brings the heavy, hard, funny and true issues of her life into each essay as they pertain to 2018. In Chapter 8, she discusses a range of issues with colorism within the black community, and I have to admit as a light skin woman I always felt I couldn't express that I felt colorism. I never looked at my skin and thought I hate it, and I never looked at my beautiful chocolate friends and thought I was better because of their skin color compared to mine. However, I know what they went through for being darker in melanin, and I felt as though my complaints were trivial. I won't give away the whole chapter but I will say amongst other political issues discussed in the book this one was refreshing to hear because she writes from both sides of the spectrum. Being dark skinned, and being light skinned. My own personal complaints have always been guys telling me: "You're light skin you're definitely crazy!" "You're definitely going to cheat on me!" "You're probably going to break my heart because light skinned girls are all evil!" Now again, I have dark skinned friends, and I know that there is way worse to hear. But this book made me feel like, Fuck that! The same feelings they had felt going through their own trauma affected me too. It completely affected my relationships prior to the one I am in now because they took those words to heart, and I did every and anything I could to prove them wrong. Until I woke up and realized it wasn't me it was them. This chapter really lifted a weight off my shoulders because it felt like I finally was hearing, " It's okay to feel wronged, you were wronged, and it wasn't what you deserved."
Overall this book speaks to every single part of a woman, but especially women of color. Every chapter is another story that you can vividly picture in your mind and almost feel nostalgic as if you were standing next to Nicky Union (please forgive is this isn't the proper spelling of her nickname), and you are reading her transition into Gabrielle Union. As someone who endured so much from childhood into adult life, I think the importance of telling her story was almost inevitable. At least for me after listening, now I'm just like, "Hey girl whens the podcast dropping?" I want to hear more, I want to learn more and I also just want to give her a hug. I probably could do a way better job at reviewing this book, and maybe because I finished it just hours before writing this I am just overwhelmed but I can't describe it anymore than just saying it's beautiful. Which feels to weak of a description, but I promise you if you can read my measly 4 paragraphs, you're going to love me after reading this book. I tried to drink a glass of wine last night while listening to this book but I ended up drinking about half a bottle, laughing to myself, shouting: "WHAT?!" "OH MY GAWD!" "NOOOO!" out loud as the chapters went on because it moves you in a way that you start as a stranger, and end as a sister to Ms. Union. I write all this to really say, read this god damn book, and give it to your sister, mother, aunt, friend, cousin, and neighbor, and keep passing it on. Now to end this piece I will leave you with a quote from Mrs. Gabrielle Monique Union-Wade:
"We are our stories, some shared and some lived alone."