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Year of Yes, in terms of its would be “disclaimer” and prologue, presents a rather odd opening for a book. One in which a part of it seems forced in a way, yet willing to push on. Which hopefully isn’t how the reader feels as we move through the chapters.
Main Storyline (with Commentary)
When it comes to prominent media figures, the majority of the ones we all know are in front of the camera. We have Will Smith, Oprah, various sports stars, and for those behind the camera, there are quite less well-known names. We have Spike Lee, a long standing famous director, and Mara Brock Akil (known mostly for Girlfriends and Being Mary Jane). However, one could argue that Shonda Rhimes has done much more for television in recent memory than many of her predecessors.
Yes, she may not be a writer who points her attention solely to the Black experience and is often criticized for her pairing of interracial couples, but this book isn’t about that. In fact, Ms. Rhimes outright tells you that this is not some insider’s look onto her shows and how she writes them. This is about her, a girl who since childhood has seemingly hidden behind various fantasies, calling herself a professional liar, all because, within the span of 8 days, she produces fully fledged lives featuring a slew of characters that have made her the queen of Thursday night programming.
However, as noted when she spoke with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday episode, and notes in the beginning of this book, as accomplished as she is, as aggressive as she can be to reach her goals, the woman herself, Shonda Rhimes without all the fancy titles, is nothing like her characters really. Well, bits and pieces of her are in everyone, but as a whole? No. She is someone who opens her book speaking to you as if she is already preparing for you to get bored of her. She speaks as if she knows what you may be coming for, and she wants to let you know off the bat this is not that kind of story. So what kind of story will it be as we follow her on her year of yes? Will it be a journey which simply humanizes her? Makes her seem as boring as the rest, but with her dreams come true so she has a more noteworthy life? Only future chapters can tell.
In Rhimes’ effort to almost push you away, she sort of brings you closer. She presents herself as shy, yet determined; an old woman in her mind, but youthful in spirit, and it is hard to not, in some way, identify with that. She is someone who isn’t flashy, is into her work, and yet isn’t someone addicted to it. She likes the rush of coming up with stories, yet at the same time, she wants to go home to her kids and just be one of the family. Which perhaps is what compensating for a lackluster opening. Though I must admit, the Super Soul Sunday piece is where most of the feelings for the highlight come from.
The book really doesn’t try to grab you from the start. It honest to the page seems like it’d rather convince you to just stop reading, for Rhimes doesn’t feel she is worthy enough to have her life documented. I mean, as much as people praise humility, this outright seems self-deprecation and not in the way many comics use.