What better way to ring in the new year than with a “Yes.”
My adopted brother calls me Shonda Rhimes.
If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I am a fan of Shonda Lynn Rhimes. You know that I quote her, I study her and she is the type of Titan than I desire to be and become.
She, like me, is an F.O.D.
First. Only. Different (Read the book to figure out how dope this is).
The reviews for this book have been mixed, and to be honest–I was hesitant for this read. Which I sat with. There were women–driven women (like me!) who didn’t care for the book. Which, AGAIN, made me think, “What is wrong with this book?”
But, in this space, I decide to radically support Black women–especially Black women writers. So, I decided to take a chance on Shonda. And I–as a driven Black woman, as mother and writer–loved this book. There is an honesty to this book that you can only grasp if you have fought to regain any portion of yourself.
I have admired the drive Shonda Rhimes has. This tenacity, this drive and this unquestioning knowledge of self. I always thought she was always like that. That she had this air of “this is exactly what it is, and fuck anything else”. I had this idea that she was invulnerable, immune to the regular doubts and bullshit that comes with writing and building.
This book was an honest look at who she was, and how she became this Shonda Rhimes that all other driven Black girls want to be. This book, with its premise, is more earnest than I expected. From the conversation in a kitchen with her oldest sister, began a transformation.
And this transformation was of self, and it was magnificent for her to walk us–she calls us the ‘dear reader’–into these intimate places of woman, mogul and mother. To see that this woman struggled–and I mean struggled!–with shyness, belief in self, weight gain and loss, toxic people and even decided she didn’t want to get married.
A Black woman, with children, successful in her own right–whom decided not to get married.
The thing is this–as a writer, I get it. I completely understand! I get it why she didn’t want a husband. Writing–the worlds we create–the stuff that we do, either requires someone who can deal with that or someone that will let us do us without apology.
The coolest thing–the most accurate thing!—was the process she mentioned: the 5-mile sprint. The things you have to go through, thoughts to get through, and distractions to ignore so you can write. So, you can create. That sweet spot all writers know, and chase, and try to get to quicker, faster and easier. At this part? I all but cried.
I get it, Shonda. Oh Lord, how I understand!
From decisions from her health, the working mother-child balance, and realizing who could and couldn’t go with her–I understand. I understood. I have been there. From being an awkward, nerdy Black girl–to a Titan who has a net worth of $100+ million dollars, a laundry list of accolades and awards–it was amazing to see her as vulnerable. It was assuring to know that she said “No” like armor. I felt that I found a kindred spirit. I exhaled knowing she had the same balancing concerns that I do concerning budding moguldom and motherhood. She gets it–by God, she gets it!
The woman I admire, that I have repeatedly called a shero, has kryptonite–several types of it. And listening to her describe it, reliving it? I felt a little more okay with my own humanity. My own need to write. And my own processing towards total acceptance of self. I remembered to find–and fight for if need be–my own ‘yes’.
This book reminded me to be gentle with my own healing, my own progress, and becoming the woman that same little, odd girl that loved colors and books. The book, like Issa Rae’s, is chicken soup for the awkward Black Girl.
After reading it, I almost cried. I loved her anew. Respected her more. Realized how hard she worked and is working. After reading, I felt stronger. A little more graceful. A little more like me. A writer associate, Ashley Yates, says it this way:
Black women take care of Black women.
With Shonda being an FOD, she had to leave us a trail. Even if it had to be blazed by ambitious fire, made smooth by her tears and cut by patience and time.
No, this book isn’t for everyone. I’ll give you that. But for those of us that seek to cut paths in a world that either wants to devour or discard us, we are happy for the help and a map.