December Book Review: JENIFER LEWIS THE MOTHER OF BLACK HOLLYWOOD

I adore Jenifer Lewis. I had to review this book before the end of the year. The Audible version was a treat (10 hours!), so consider this review a Christmas present. Merry Christmas!

I must admit. When I began this book, I wasn’t prepared for the honesty Jenifer (with one ‘N’!) Jeanette Lewis was serving. I have loved Jenifer Lewis since I was in middle school. She reminded me so much (I mean SO MUCH) of my Aunt Linda. The boldness. Her being loud (smile), and being just a forceful effing presence in my life. My father and my Aunt Linda were at odds for my entire childhood, and he always thought she was ‘too’ loud. But the thing is–Jenifer Lewis made it okay to be loud. And I loved her for that!

I  chose to purchase the Audible version of this book (which I recommend highly), and her voice was medication to my inner St. Louis girl. She always has. There is a presence to Jenifer Lewis that I could never quite place. Maybe because she was the only other Black girl I knew with a ‘white girl’ name.

There is a genuineness to her that I have admired. In her book, listening to her, I thought about how much we don’t know about the women we admire–or believe that we know! There are MANY a Black girl that I know whom call Jenifer a ‘play aunt’ or a ‘play mom’ or ‘big sister’.  What this book showed me is that there is so much depth to her—which I couldn’t imagine.

We  know the Jenifer Lewis as the outspoken activist, and mental health advocate. We don’t know the struggle with childhood trauma, sex addiction, sexual assault and the thing that kept her going—the dream of being a star. The ambition she gives, the dedication to that ambition, is awe-inspiring! She is every inch the diva. Every. Effin. Inch.

In saying that I recommend this book is an understatement. As a writer, I recommend the book because as a Black woman our stories need to be told. As a Black woman, her story was an affirmation to not be okay, and make strides to become okay. Let me say it again:

As a Black woman, it is okay to not be okay!

As I call her on social media, Muva Lewis, is a gem. I love her because she was willing to be honest. To ‘go there’. To be fragile. To be honest. To be herself. And in the words of Muva Lewis, ‘not give a f-ck.’ Her dramatic reading of her own work only added to the power of her written work. And to be frank? If we are allowed to be for real:

Who ELSE could read a book by Jenifer Lewis, EXCEPT Jenifer Lewis?!

The book, this book is a staple in my library now. Not just because she’s witty, and quick. It is a staple because the book is a testimony. The book is evidence that the background we come from is not where we stay; the sustaining power of ambition and drive; how the talent doesn’t always make everything okay or make the pain go away.

Get the book.

Read it.

Listen to the book on Audible.

Jenifer Lewis is indeed a rare bird. And I love her that much more for it.

From one Jenifer (this one ‘N’) to another (with two ‘N’s), it’s another step towards freedom in this life. And as Muva Lewis said in an interview on The Breakfast Club this summer with a metaphor about summers:

‘I was once the sun, and now I am the sun! I’m 61. I got about 20 summers left! You think you get one?!’

Exactly.

If there is nothing else to be said, no more recommendations, it would be this. Don’t waste any more time. Don’t allow the past to ensnare you and rob you of any more joy or promise. Don’t allow the present to be sabotaged by the past. Therapy is not for ‘white people’. You have to charge of your life…and there is nothing wrong with being bold about what you want! And sometimes, those gifts divinely given, provide an anchor and compass. Sometimes you need a guiding light…and that’s someone willing to be the sun.

[image from Amazon]

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