Celebrities are writing books about their lives and people are buying. I’m certain each book is filled with its share of struggles, insights, and achievements–as you’d expect from a biography/memoir/essay collection. Here’s an overview of recent and upcoming releases from some melanated people you may happen to know:
Becoming by Michelle Obama – In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jennifer Lewis – From her more than three hundred appearances for film and television, stage and cabaret, performing comedy or drama, as an unforgettable lead or a scene stealing supporting character, Jenifer Lewis has established herself as one of the most respected, admired, talented, and versatile entertainers working today. This “Mega Diva” and costar of the hit sitcom black-ish bares her soul in this touching and poignant—and at times side-splittingly hilarious—memoir of a Midwestern girl with a dream, whose journey took her from poverty to the big screen, and along the way earned her many accolades. With candor and warmth, Jenifer Lewis reveals the heart of a woman who lives life to the fullest. This multitalented “force of nature” landed her first Broadway role within eleven days of her graduation from college and later earned the title “Reigning Queen of High-Camp Cabaret.” In the audaciously honest voice that her fans adore, Jenifer describes her transition to Hollywood, with guest roles on hits like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Friends. Her movie Jackie’s Back! became a cult favorite, and as the “Mama” to characters portrayed by Whitney Houston, Tupac Shakur, Taraji P. Henson, and many more, Jenifer cemented her status as the “Mother of Black Hollywood.” When an undiagnosed mental illness stymies Jenifer’s career, culminating in a breakdown while filming The Temptations, her quest for wholeness becomes a harrowing and inspiring tale, including revelations of bipolar disorder and sex addiction. Written with no-holds-barred honesty and illustrated with more than forty color photographs, this gripping memoir is filled with insights gained through a unique life that offers a universal message: “Love yourself so that love will not be a stranger when it comes.”
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union – In the spirit of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, and Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, a powerful collection of essays about gender, sexuality, race, beauty, Hollywood, and what it means to be a modern woman. One month before the release of the highly anticipated film The Birth of a Nation, actress Gabrielle Union shook the world with a vulnerable and impassioned editorial in which she urged our society to have compassion for victims of sexual violence. In the wake of rape allegations made against director and actor Nate Parker, Union—a forty-four-year-old actress who launched her career with roles in iconic ’90s movies—instantly became the insightful, outspoken actress that Hollywood has been desperately awaiting. With honesty and heartbreaking wisdom, she revealed her own trauma as a victim of sexual assault: “It is for you that I am speaking. This is real. We are real.” In this moving collection of thought provoking essays infused with her unique wisdom and deep humor, Union uses that same fearlessness to tell astonishingly personal and true stories about power, color, gender, feminism, and fame. Union tackles a range of experiences, including bullying, beauty standards, and competition between women in Hollywood, growing up in white California suburbia and then spending summers with her black relatives in Nebraska, coping with crushes, puberty, and the divorce of her parents. Genuine and perceptive, Union bravely lays herself bare, uncovering a complex and courageous life of self-doubt and self-discovery with incredible poise and brutal honesty. Throughout, she compels us to be ethical and empathetic, and reminds us of the importance of confidence, self-awareness, and the power of sharing truth, laughter, and support.
Close to Being the Shit by Retta – In her hilarious book of essays, Parks and Recreation star Retta shares the stories that led to her success in Hollywood. In So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know, Parks and Recreation star Retta takes us on her not-so-meteoric rise from roaches to riches (well, rich enough that she can buy $15,000 designer handbags yet scared enough to know she’s always a heartbeat away from ramen with American cheese). Throwing her hard-working Liberian parents for a loop, Retta abandons her plan to attend med school after graduating Duke University to move to Hollywood to star in her own sitcom—like her comedy heroes Lucille Ball and Roseanne. Say what? Word. Turns out Retta might actually be on to something. After winning Comedy Central’s stand-up competition, she should be ready for prime time—but a fear of success derails her biggest dream. Whether reminiscing about her days as a contract chemist at GlaxoSmithKline, telling “dirty” jokes to Mormons, feeling like the odd man out on Parks, fending off racist trolls on Twitter, flirting with Michael Fassbender, or expertly stalking the cast of “Hamilton,” Retta’s unique voice and refreshing honesty will make you laugh, cry, and laugh so hard you’ll cry. Her eponymous sitcom might not have happened yet, but by the end of So Close to Being the Sh*t, you’ll be rooting for Retta to be the next one-named wonder to take over your television. And she just might inspire you to reach for the stars, too.
A Sick Life by Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins – As the lead singer of Grammy-winning supergroup TLC, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins has seen phenomenal fame, success, and critical acclaim. But backstage, she has lived a dual life. In addition to the balancing act of juggling an all-consuming music career and her family, Tionne has struggled her whole life with sickle-cell disease—a debilitating and incurable condition that can render her unable to perform, walk, or even breathe. A Sick Life chronicles Tionne’s journey from a sickly young girl in Des Moines who was told she wouldn’t live to see 30 through her teen years in Atlanta to how she broke into the music scene and became the superstar musician and sickle-cell disease advocate she is today. Through Tionne’s tough, funny, tell-it-like-it-is voice, she shares how she found the inner strength, grit, and determination to live her dream, despite her often unpredictable and debilitating health issues. She dives deep into never-before-told TLC stories, including accounts of her friendship with Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes and her tragic death. Tionne’s unvarnished discussion of her remarkable life, disease, unending strength, and ability to power through the odds offers a story like no other.
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish – From stand-up comedian, actress, and breakout star of Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish, comes The Last Black Unicorn, a sidesplitting, hysterical, edgy, and unflinching collection of (extremely) personal essays, as fearless as the author herself. Growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles, Tiffany learned to survive by making people laugh. If she could do that, then her classmates would let her copy their homework, the other foster kids she lived with wouldn’t beat her up, and she might even get a boyfriend. Or at least she could make enough money—as the paid school mascot and in-demand Bar Mitzvah hype woman—to get her hair and nails done, so then she might get a boyfriend. None of that worked (and she’s still single), but it allowed Tiffany to imagine a place for herself where she could do something she loved for a living: comedy. Tiffany can’t avoid being funny—it’s just who she is, whether she’s plotting shocking, jaw-dropping revenge on an ex-boyfriend or learning how to handle her newfound fame despite still having a broke person’s mind-set. Finally poised to become a household name, she recounts with heart and humor how she came from nothing and nowhere to achieve her dreams by owning, sharing, and using her pain to heal others. By turns hilarious, filthy, and brutally honest, The Last Black Unicorn shows the world who Tiffany Haddish really is—humble, grateful, down-to-earth, and funny as hell. And now, she’s ready to inspire others through the power of laughter.
The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane – For the first time Gucci Mane tells his extraordinary story in his own words. It is “as wild, unpredictable, and fascinating as the man himself” (Complex). The platinum-selling recording artist began writing his remarkable autobiography in a federal maximum security prison. Released in 2016, he emerged radically transformed. He was sober, smiling, focused, and positive—a far cry from the Gucci Mane of years past. A critically acclaimed classic, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane “provides incredible insight into one of the most influential rappers of the last decade, detailing a volatile and fascinating life…By the end, every reader will have a greater understanding of Gucci Mane, the man and the musician” (Pitchfork).
The Art and Science of Respect by James Prince – For decades, serial entrepreneur James Prince presided over Rap-A-Lot Records, one of the first and most successful independent rap labels. In his memoir, he explains how he earned his reputation as one of the most respected men in Hip Hop. By staying true to his three principles of heart, loyalty, and commitment, and an unwavering faith in God, he has defeated many adversaries. Whether battling the systemic cycle of poverty, record label executives, boxing promoters, or corrupt DEA agents, Prince has always emerged victorious. Respect isn’t given, it’s earned. In recounting his compelling life story, Prince analyzes the art and science of earning respect – and giving respect – and how to apply these principles to your own life.
Which ones are you most likely to read? I think I’m curious enough to preview all of these just to see what’s going on in those first pages. Nothing like a good story from somebody you know. Might make you appreciate their star power a little more, eh?
Back to reading, y’all.