celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Book Review: You Should Sit Down For This by Tamera Mowry-Housley

Tamera Mowry-Housley is best known as half of the identical twin duo that starred in “Sister, Sister” and as one of the talk show hosts on “The Real”. Because everyone gets to write a memoir these days, Mowry-Housley has written one at age 44. The book title says it’s about life, wine and cookies which I assume is supposed to be about her personal life, her career and I guess life advice as she sprinkles across the book, something she calls “Tamera-isms”.

I won’t mince any words and just flat out say that I thought this was a terrible book. In fact, it was an insult to the word memoir. I picked up this book because Mowry-Housley has the reputation of being the “boring” twin and is often misunderstood, I figured I’d pick this one up to hear from her point of view and see if I could gain a different perspective of her and unfortunately, this did not help her case at all. It was awful.

As always for a celebrity memoir, I did this on audio and I wanted to end my suffering as soon as I started. I am not sure who signed off on this because the tempo was not it at all. It was almost like she was putting on a forced positivity and the cheeriness came off as fake. It was just over the top. But it was just 5 hours long so I figured I could bear it. The book had soooo many metaphors and euphemisms that were over the top and was distracting from whatever surface story she was telling us.

When you read a memoir, you should feel like you learned things about them that you didn’t know before reading and this was not the case here. In fact, you would know more about Tamera looking up her old interviews and watching The Real than reading this book. For example, in a story talking about her breakup with her now-husband, Adam she says “I don’t want to talk about it, even just thinking about it now brings a tear to my eye”. No memoir should have the phrase “I don’t want to talk about it” that is a signal that you do not need to be writing a memoir.

As mentioned above, she is best known for “Sister, Sister”. I had settled in to listen to the behind the scenes of the show and couldn’t believe that it was a blink and you miss it situation. One minute she mentioned they booked the show and the next she is saying when the show ended. For someone who is partly famous because she is an identical twin, she barely if at all talks about their relationship. We don’t learn more about her family and that’s because most of the stories were surface. I didn’t understand the choice to not talk about being biracial instead she refers to herself as a black girls with curls. She never referenced the reality show she had with her twin sister, never referenced the depression she went through in college.

I can give a little credit to her getting a little more authentic when talking about being on The Real and how much anxiety it gave her but she over compensated by telling us every 5 seconds how much she loved her coworkers and she spent most of it defending her husband. The chapter where she talks about the death of her niece due to gun violence was the other story she was authentic about. She tries to be down with people by talking about sex and how people consider her a prude to which she boldly tells us that they are wrong and she is infact “a freak in the sheets” (cringe). She proceeds to share her sex goals which are places she wants to have sex that include a lavender field and on top of a car in the rain (gosh) and then follows it up with it’s none of our business which ones she has checked off. Sigh.

Overall, I just got the impression that Tamera is the kind of person who likes for everything to look nice. She mentions how she is proud of her positivity but it almost sounded like a detriment in this book. I think the idea of the book was a cross between Yvonne Orji’s “Bamboozled by Jesus” and Gabrielle Union’s “We’re going to need more wine” except she failed on both ends. Orji found a fun way to give fun, personalized advice while Tamera told us things that everyone already knows and wasn’t able to capture Union’s realness. In case you couldn’t tell, I do not recommend this book. I gave it 1 star and immediately told Leggy that it is in the running for my worst read of the year.

If you have read this and think otherwise, I’d really like to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments!

Taynement

celebrity memoir, Memoirs, movie related topics, Non-Fiction

Book Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jeanette McCurdy

“Why do we romanticize the dead? Why can’t we be honest about them? Especially moms, they’re the most romanticized of anyone. Moms are saints, angels by merely existing. No one could possibly understand what it’s like to be a mom. Men will never understand, women with no children will never understand. No one buts moms know the hardship of motherhood and we non-moms must heap nothing but praise upon mom because we lowly, pitiful, non-moms are mere peasants compared to the goddesses we call mothers.”

I know. What a title. If this is your first time hearing about this book then congratulations to you because the marketing team for Simon & Schuster definitely went all out on this one. There was no way I was skipping out on this book, especially after Leggy read it first and told me about it.

Jeanette McCurdy is a former child actor, best known for her role on iCarly. Her memoir mostly recounts her life getting into the business and navigating it while managing the emotions of a narcissistic, emotionally abusive mother. She shares how her mother controlled her life and emotions including her weight which eventually led to an eating disorder. She speaks about how her life was still controlled by her mother’s voice even after she passed away from cancer in 2013.

Like most people, I know McCurdy from her days on Nickelodeon but I didn’t know anything about her personal life till I read a People magazine article on her in 2021 that talked about her one woman play with the same name as her book. I remember being taken aback by the title but much like the quote excerpt above from her book, I remember thinking back then that if her mom did do horrible things to her, why do we in fact romanticize the dead?

McCurdy is very blunt and matter of fact about how she recounts her life story especially how she walked on egg shells around her mom and spent most of her life trying to keep her mom happy including fulfilling her mom’s dream of being an actor. She does mention her dad in the book but he doesn’t seem to have had an active role in her life. I wondered if she harbored any resentment towards him but that is something she did not go into detail about. The other thing I wondered about was that McCurdy recounts things so well, to a time period as far back as when she was 6 years old that it made me wonder how she was able to remember everything verbatim and when I say that I mean generall. It was impressive.

I have seen this book described as humorous but I have to be honest, I did not encounter any humorous moments. I was more wrapped up in how in so many words, she was her mom’s emotional support human and through the pages I felt claustrophobic for her. The second half of the book follows her life beyond her mom’s control and how she tried to live life and manage her eating disorder. I confess I did not find the latter half as interesting and instead found her Nickelodeon years more interesting especially her description of Ariana Grande, the resentment she had for her back then definitely came through the pages.

Overall, while I did not think it was an exceptional book, it was entertaining enough and I do think it was brave of her to push past the norm and recognize that she was not treated well by her mother. The book never addressed if her mom suffered from a mental illness but probably there was no chance to, given her cancer. As always, I did this on audio and McCurdy reads it herself but be warned that it does sound like she is rushing through, so don’t worry your audio speed is just fine 🙂

Taynement

celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Book Review – Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of “The View” by Ramin Setoodeh

The View is one of the longest running daytime talk shows hosted by a panel of women. Created by vet, Barabara Walters, it was the first of its kind at the time. Over the years, the show has gone through numerous hosts and public and private drama. Ladies Who Punch with interviews from almost all the hosts (in fact, all the hosts except for Elisabeth Hasselbeck) explores the behind the scenes drama and revisits the drama the public knew about.

You know, I am never quite sure what genre to classify these sort of books in (Read: Not All Diamonds and Rose, The Housewives etc) but I think they have shot up to the top of my list of favorite genres. These books basically read like reality shows and as a fan of reality shows and memoirs, it should be no surprise. I always welcome a peek behind the curtains on the actual personas of celebrities vs. the public personas we get.

All this to say, I truly enjoyed this book and it came at a good time as a palate cleanser. It was such an interesting feeling recounting some of the drama or notable episodes that I remembered and hearing what the true stories were about. I stopped watching The View many years ago, so everything read as new. I felt like I was just learning about Barbara Walters for the first time (might I add I wonder a lot about where she is these days?)

It was also interesting to learn just how much the crew HATED Rosie O’ Donnell. I used to love Rosie’s show back in the day, so learning this other side to her was new. On the flip, in the book, Whoopi seems to have rated highly with viewers in focus groups but arguably didn’t come off so great in the book. Star Jones seemed to take accountability for her mistakes and Meredith Viera seemed to genuinely be a sweetheart. In some way, The View played a part in Donald Trump being President (don’t ask me how lol) but he is featured a lot in the book.

Overall, if you are into behind the scenes and let’s call it what it is – gossip – then this is the right book for you. I will say that I hesistate to call it gossip because Setoodeh comes with straight facts and a lot of what is in the book is straight from the horse’s mouth with people backing up what was being said. He speaks a little with Meghan McCain who he has known for a while but we interestingly get nothing from Sunny Hostin. I wonder why…?

Taynement

celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage by Heather Havrilesky

But I have to admit, there’s something reassuring, to me, about breaking down, falling into disrepair, losing your charms, and misplacing your keys, when you have an equally inept and irritating human tolerating it all, in spite of a million and one very good reasons to put on his walking boots and take his love to town. In other words, if marriage is irrational, as with child-rearing and ambition and art, that’s also part of its appeal.

I had never heard of Heather Havrilesky until a twitter thread of hers made its way to my timeline. A thread complaining about the sexist treatment of her book about marriage. She talked about how people had read only an excerpt in the New York Times and decided she was just a wife who hates her husband and then without reading the entire book for context found her hateful and not grateful enough. Even though I am not married, I put her book on hold at my local library and promptly forgot about it until it checked out to me. Then I debated on if I really wanted to read a book about marriage but after clicking “deliver later” twice, I finally just caved and started it and then read it all in 24 hours.

“People always assume that love is all about celebrating someone else’s amazing qualities. But true love is also about accepting another person’s flaws. In order to create a love that grew and adapted over the years, you had to commit to someone else’s flaws the same way you commit to their qualities. That was love. Loving someone’s bouts of neediness and self-loathing the way you love their hot face.”

Heather has written a very honest book about her marriage. She doesn’t try to sugarcoat the intricacies of it. She doesn’t sell you the rom com view which a lot of books on marriage and a lot of relationship pages sell you on instagram, and I understand why that would make people mad and uncomfortable. But I ask you to sit in your uncomfortability and ask yourself why honesty makes you squirm. Why we have to sanitize the truth of two strangers meeting, living together and raising children? This is not a book of advice, Heather does not implore you to adopt her marriage style, she only tells you how she and her partner, Bill, have managed to navigate theirs.

“Marriage is a lifelong market correction to true love’s overvaluation.”

Considering the sexist world we live in where women are supposed to be eternally grateful to have a man love them and everybody around the world works around the clock to protect the ego of men they have not met, the New York Times excerpt was probably not the best to go with. Yes, it’s loud and controversial and I can see how a publicist or Heather herself thought it would garner attention and lead people to the book but only a man can get away with that kind of excerpt without context. Heather loudly declares in the excerpt that of course she hates her husband and everyone ignores the dichotomy of sometimes hating someone you genuinely love and adore. I saw people giving this book one star based only on that excerpt without even reading the book. It was quite interesting to see people rushing to the defence of an imaginary bruised ego instead of just deciding – that book is probably not for me and moving along, they had to punish Heather for daring to be open and vulnerable about all her feelings even those we might think are ugly and should not be spoken out loud.

“Oh, Bill, Bill, Bill,” she said, sounding disgusted. “He’s not so perfect, you know!”

Me who has actually read the book thought because she was being brutally honest she made sure to actually point out how amazing her husband is at the end of every anecdote. He actually does 50% of the housework, does actual parenting and always tells her how hot she is. At some point I felt exactly like her mother in the quote above. Like Girl, you must have hit the jackpot with this man. The most uncomfortable I felt while reading this book is when she tells her husband about this author she had dinner with hitting on her. They talk about it in such detail and she kept bringing up the fantasies she’s been having about this man and they even discuss rationally the idea of her having an affair with this man. It made me so uncomfortable because me as a single person, my idea of love and long term relationship does not include this type of radical honesty. I kept thinking, why can’t she just shut up about this man and deal with this privately? We all are so sure that we want absolute honesty from our significant others but I think that the romance that has been sold to us has convinced us that it won’t include having conversations about attraction to the opposite sex and possible affairs. I think in my mind once you’ve found the one you love every feeling of desire you have about everybody else just dies especially if you’ve really and truly found the one!

Maybe in the future Bill can save himself a lot of time and effort and just hand his future third wife this book and say, “It’s all in there.”

This is a brutally honest look at Heather’s marriage. If you are someone who worries about airing out dirty laundries or you care deeply about how this book may have made a man you do not know feel, this book is probably not for you. If you are someone who refers to themselves as a good person, this is probably not for you. I think if you see yourself as an individual capable of being complicated and do not intend to project your view of marriage and companionship on another person’s reality then this book is for you. If you just want to sit back and read how someone else has navigated her 15 year marriage even though it might not be how you navigate yours or how you intend to navigate yours then read this story. Again, this is not an advice book. This is a book sorely about Heather’s marriage.

Every book about marriage is actually a book about survival, and about trying to find happiness together in spite of the fact that you’re doomed to fail from the start. You’re doomed because even though you’re aiming for forever, forever doesn’t really exist. You either die or your marriage does. There is no forever.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this one and have recommended it to Taynement because I want to hear what an actual married person who I like and trust thinks about it. If you intend to read this book, I implore you not to read that excerpt in the New York Times or read any angry reviews of this book. Judge this book purely on the words the author has put down on paper in its entirety. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads. I docked one star because I actually did not laugh once. Yes, a lot of the digs at her husband were tongue in cheek and meant to be funny but I think the best part of this book is the quiet honesty and the fact that the author does not shy away from the ugliness that makes us human.

Leggy

celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, Self Help

Book Review: Will by Will Smith

“Stop thinking about the damn wall!” he said. “There is no wall. There are only bricks. Your job is to lay this brick perfectly. Then move on to the next brick. Then lay that brick perfectly. Then the next one. Don’t be worrying about no wall. Your only concern is one brick.”

Will is the eponymous autobiography by Will Smith. At the beginning of the book, Will tells us that his personality is one that tries to clean up and make everything nice and I think that is what he did with his book. While one could argue that he was honest and vulnerable, you could also argue that it was a case of saying a lot without saying much.

“How we decide to respond to our fears, that is the person we become. I decided to be funny.”

I think Will did a good job of laying the groundwork on us understanding where he came from and what led to his fears and insecurity and also his strong work ethic. It was good to see behind the curtains how he became a force in movies and music through intentional planning but also a splash of luck. I found it interesting that Will didn’t focus a lot on his race during his journey to fame and I don’t think it’s something I fault him for and I wonder if it was a conscious thing. I also didn’t get the impression that it isn’t something he doesn’t consider because he does tell a story in the book when he was in South Africa, where he stood up for the right thing.

“If you cultivate the fantasy that your marriage will be forever joyful and effortless, then reality is going to pay you back in equal proportion to your delusion. If you live the fantasy that making money will earn you love, then the universe will slap you awake, in the tune of a thousand angry voices.”

With the many stories that have come out about Will and Jada, it is a safe assumption that this is something most people would be curious about but you will be dissapointed in because he doesn’t get into the salacious details. Will focuses a lot on just himself in his book and doesn’t speak much for other members of his family only in context as it relates to a story about himself. A lot of the stories he tells, you may have heard about before and all he does is add a little bit of context with his humor.

“We’re all waiting until we have deep knowledge, wisdom, and a sense of certainty before we venture forth. But we’ve got it backward—venturing forth is how we gain the knowledge.”

I have to mention that this book veers into self-help where Will gives a lot of nuggets he has learned along the way. You’re not always in the mood to get preached to so in those moments, my eyes glazed over. I wish there was a count for every time he said the word “Every”. It was a lot. He does remind us of all his accomplishments and I have seen some people refer to it as him bragging and I did not get that sense at all. To me, it was straight facts and especially as a black man in America, it is a hell of an accomplishment so I have no issues with him tooting his horn.

As always, with celeb memoirs I did this on audio and I recommend you do the same. Besides, the voices and imitations he does, we also get the added bonus of actual music which adds a different level of interaction. While it still seems a tad performative, your thoughts on the book will ultimately depend on what you are hoping to get out of it so for those looking for inspiration this is a 10/10 but you won’t lack for entertainment.

Taynement.