Monday, December 18, 2017

We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union

Hardcover, 272 pgs, Pub Oct 17th 2017 by Dey Street Books, ISBN13: 9780062693983

Celebrity memoirs are a special breed of animal. Considering how much speculation goes on around celebrity lives in the tabloids, it must be nice to be able to steer the conversation, and admit or deny things of which they have been accused. Gabriela Union keeps it lively; to my sensibility she appears fearless. Forty-five years old now, I suppose it is not too early for her to tell all. She is happily married, her work is widely admired and keeps her in demand, and she has figured out there is little time for regret.

But I probably wouldn’t have been so explicit about the sex. I don’t really care who she decides to sleep with, but even if one is a celebrity, one is not required to explain one's sexual preferences or positions. Why is her experience with multiple partners so different from that of other people? I didn't understand that part. Union writes about growing up in a white culture in California, and it may be the California part, or the celebrity part, or the movie part that feels distant to me. I’ll take her word for it what she describes is white California culture. It could be another universe from a strict white New England Yankee upbringing. White can’t be the operative word here. It’s something else.

The movie industry in California is all about appearances so it shouldn’t surprise me to find someone in the industry concerned with appearances. The discussion about hair is just interesting. As high school students we all obsessed about hair, but because Union is in the movies, she needs to continue to think about this stuff.

I’m just gonna state for the record that I would not put all that effort into hair, acting a role aside. I like black hair. I like the hair of NYTimes analyst and reporter Yamiche Alcindor. She wears it natural. It is interesting and it changes day to day, depending on humidity, I guess. It’s sculptural, and is a relief among Washington people who primp to excess. And yeah, it looks touchable. Isn’t that what guys always said they liked?

What Union does really well in this memoir is show us how minority actors are treated in majority white culture, how overlooked their talents often are, and how so few film companies are interested in minority stories or leading roles. This seems such a big mistake to me…is it really true the great films featuring black or other minority actors in major roles don't recoup their investments? I find that difficult to believe, frankly.

The other thing Union does really well is demonstrate that no matter how famous a black person is, they are treated differently by the public and by law enforcement. She explains that buying a house in a fancy neighborhood may invite more scrutiny and suspicion, and even going for a walk in one’s own neighborhood is not as straightforward as it should be. The American dream is nothing without the presumption of innocence.

I haven’t seen enough films with black leads. I remember Union’s performance in Bring It On as being exceptional, considering…everything about that film. I’d like to see her in more things. I’d also like to see again a female lead I saw in a Turkish soap opera once. I want to see the great actors no matter what color they are or what language they speak. It is pitiful that they don't have the same opportunity to develop their talent as do the least talented white actors.

There are some harrowing experiences in this book that Union is willing to share. I suppose when one’s life is under a microscope all the time with fans, one becomes accustomed to sharing with the world. She is generous.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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