In no way imaginable can you call “This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare” traditional. If only because, it takes the idea of being conversational to a new level. For nevermind how personal it is, but it is also a bunch of scattered thoughts slightly made cohesive. I explain that statement further below.
Like any person you meet, there is a massive story behind what happened before you were introduced to them. For Gabourey, her story deals with a complicated relationship with her father, and a loving one with her mom. Alongside that, she focuses on her relationship with food, exercise, and her mental state. Such as her dealing with depression and once having an eating disorder.
Sprinkled amongst that is her rise as an actress. How her mom getting requested to play Mary in Precious led to Gabourey knowing about the book. Then, years later, sort of on a whim, her auditioning for the role and getting it. Thus leading to the young woman you see and surely have come to love today.
Someone far more confident than she once was, but still a bit in awe of her mother’s aura. A young woman who loves her size, but recognizes that some of her habits couldn’t be maintained. But what perhaps matters most is this odd girl from New York, despite all that life threw at her, survived and is now in a place to share her story. [note]I should note, especially considering the latest Mo’nique rehash of her beef with Lee Daniels, Gabourey has a moment with him too. Such as when André Leon Talley, referred to Gabourey as a “Fat Black Bitch”. Albeit as some weird sort of compliment, since he wanted her on the cover of Vogue. However, Lee Daniels, who he was talking to didn’t say anything about not calling his star that. Sort of pushing the idea of this whole “Playing the game” thing Mo’nique has said. For, I guess, when people call you out of your name, you’re supposed to roll. That is, as opposed to addressing what was said. Well, at least if you are a woman.[/note]
It Does Feel Personal and Without Agenda
Unlike Taraji P. Henson’s book, there isn’t this vibe that the book release is coinciding with a possible awards campaign. There isn’t this idea that Sidibie is doing it for money, relevance, or anything like that. She, similar to Shonda Rhimes, though in a different way, is trying to explain how she survives. Sidibie is trying to break down for you how she was a bit lost and not sure what to do. Yet, now at the age of 34, she has gained some form of stability.
Something you get the vibe she believes you can too. Hence why she is sharing this story so that maybe you can relate. For while Gabourey had her mom, her family, and many others to look up to, you may not have that. There may not be someone dark skinned or plus sized like Gabourey who is active in your life. So, like a long lost cousin, or sort of auntie, she presents herself for those people. Not to be a role model, perhaps, but to present the idea that, with opportunity, things can get better.
It Isn’t Chronological and Doesn’t Necessarily Have Transitions or a Flow to It
What may certainly keep you from enjoying this book, at times, is that it isn’t chronological. We don’t start from when Gabourey was a kid and work our way up. She’ll talk about the period after filming Precious, but before its release, when she would hang out with Lee Daniels. Then she’ll go into her childhood, bounce back to modern times working on Empire, then somewhere in her 20s. With that, each chapter feels like its own conversation rather than cohesive parts of a book. Making it where you could read this book out of order if you wanted to. Yet, still relatively get the gist of what Gabourey is trying to say.
On The Fence
It Sort of Feels Too Soon For Gabourey To Write About
Like when musicians have greatest hits record after three albums, this book seems done too soon. For while Sidibe’s stories and struggles I’m sure will interest readers, they seem unresolved to a point. What I mean is, you get the vibe she has reached that point to be able to share these stories. However, she isn’t at that point where she can reflect and lay out the lessons learned.
There is an attempt, but it isn’t conveyed in a sort of sage advice way. That is, in comparison to what you can read in Taraji P. Henson’s, RuPaul’s, ’s, Wendy Williams’, Diane Guerrero’s, Iyanla Vanzant’s or Shonda Rhimes’ memoirs. Which, again, isn’t to say her words have no value. For maybe some people prefer, even the toughest moments of someone’s life, to have this sort of fluffy voice attached. One which seems less like an older family member, or family friend, and is just done by your buddy.
What I mean is, unlike the aforementioned, there is a colloquialism to this book. Sidibe doesn’t present herself as someone schooling you or breaking down a life they feel most couldn’t understand. She, pretty much, is just spilling the beans. If not presenting a follow up to the proverbial “You Don’t Know Me” statement made when people criticize her.
For, so it seems, she wants you to get to know her. Sidibe, similar to Janet Mock when it comes to being trans, wants you to get past what people keep talking about. She wants to be more than Precious to you or the big girl in The Big C or Empire. She wants you to see and understand who Gabourey Sidibe is and all the parts which made her.
Overall: Mixed (Borrow)
I bought this book more so out of curiousity than the belief that Gabourey had something to say. Something which could change or influence my life. For, really, all memoirs can’t be like that. Not every last person is going to tell you their life story and you’ll find laughter, quotes which you can hold onto, and things like that. This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare is a prime example of that.
What you get here is a series of conversations and essays. All of which, as Gabourey notes, was a mess before her editor helped make into this book. But while everyone’s story deserves to be heard, I feel this doesn’t meet the standard many are perhaps used to. If only because you don’t get the vibe she has reached that teachable moment in life. Like, she has come to the point where she can talk about things. However, she isn’t at the point where she can impart wisdom from the series of events. She can just tell you a story and explain how she felt. Which, isn’t a terrible way of finding someone to relate to or get inspiration at all. It is just, she sets an unfamiliar standard.
But despite This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare seeming a bit early in Sidibe’s lifetime, I won’t say to skip it. For while chapters feel disconnected, it is an entertaining book. It won’t change your life or make Sidibe your “Spirit Animal” but it is comical. Sort of like a random drunk person at the bar who tells you all their business.