“You can love what you see in the mirror, but you can’t self-esteem your way out of the way the world treats you.”
I’d seen Gabrielle Union in Bring It On, and I’d heard that she had a new book coming out. I knew almost nothing about her, but I’d heard she was a rape survivor and an advocate for women, which was nice to hear (the advocate-for-women part). When I saw her new book, We’re Going to Need More Wine (2017) at the library, I figured it was as good a time as any to read it.
Gabrielle Union talks about her life in an honest, open, and often funny way. She grew up in the affluent, mostly-white town of Pleasanton, near San Francisco. She was one of only a very few black kids in school, and she is pretty clear about the pressures she felt to fit in. One day, she chimed in with other mean girls about the other black girl in her class because she didn’t want to be associated with her and be “even more black.” In the summer, she would visit her grandmother in Omaha, Nebraska, in a black neighborhood that eventually was taken over by crack and gangs.
Union goes on to discuss some of her acting jobs, and the lack of hairdressers who know how to do black hair. She mentions Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles from 10 Things I Hate About You and Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On. She touches on the racial issues of natural hair versus weaves and relaxing: the pressure she feels to go natural, and the assumptions made about her if she does or does not. It seems like a no-win situation. She also talks about colorism, the straight preference for lighter skin. Union even said that she needed someone to point out to her that she always dated men with lighter skin than her before she realized she was doing it herself.
When Union was nineteen and working at Payless, an armed man came in and robbed the place, eventually raping her in the back of the store. It was horrifying and terrifying, and Union was very honest with how it affected her and how helpful the UCLA rape survivor group therapy was.
Union’s first marriage was something of a disaster, but her second marriage to basketball star Dwyane Wade seems to be going well. With that marriage comes the raising of three boys. Union talks openly and candidly how she fears they will get shot, now that they are teenagers and tall enough to be seen as dangerous by society. She’s trained them to tell police that they are Dwyane Wade’s sons because money and fame never hurts.
Even though the writing was sometimes a little awkward, I was enjoying Union’s stories and perspective. However, later in the book, I started getting a little turned off. There was a lot of name dropping and talk about how many houses she owned. I thought her point was getting a little lost, and I felt less and less in touch with her. She assumed that the reader knew a lot about her life, and I just did not. It took my quite a long time to figure out who Dwyane was and why he was famous. On the whole, I admire Union’s bravery in talking about her life and experiences so honestly, even though this was not a perfect book.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.