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YEAR OF YES by Shonda Rhimes

This book has an excellent subtitle: "How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person".

If you don't know who Shonda Rhimes is, it's only because you don't pay attention to the credits on several popular TV shows. She is the creator of Grey's Anatomy, the now-cancelled Private Practice, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder. She is (or was) the head writer for the first three, and produces (with her company, Shondaland) the fourth.

She has written a book about doing things that scare her, which turns out to be a lot of things, really, since she was a major introvert who was stressed out and self-isolating for a while there. And it's all because she overheard her sister Delorse muttering "You never say yes to anything" during Thanksgiving in 2013.

She writes excellent dialogue on her shows, and some of the book reads like excellent dialogue - it's facile, and it's pithy, and sometimes it skims the surface, even when she claims to be going deep. And yet . . . it manages to make its points while revealing some truths about Shonda (if not going overly deep), because her points are so relatable. She gets just personal enough for a reader to feel for her, without being allowed (let alone pulled) all the way into her messy personal business. And the parts of herself that she chooses to convey are done with just enough specificity to resonate and feel they can apply to lots of people, not just her.

The chapters that particularly appealed to me included "Yes to Speaking the Whole Truth", "Yes to My Body", "Yes to No, Yes to Difficult Conversations", and mostly "Yes to Who I Am", which is largely about self-care. Many of you with younger children will really appreciate "Yes to Surrendering the Mommy Way (Or, Jenny McCarthy Is My Everything)" (which is about how she relies on her nanny, who happens to be named Jenny McCarthy, for not only childcare, but sometimes to help her know how to be a better parent).

She is funny and somewhat warm, although she never pulls the reader close enough for it to feel super-personal. I feel as if I'm sounding tepid about the book, but I have to say that I don't really find this to be a defect in a book that is supposed to be inspirational and aspirational. I compare this to the discomfort I felt sometimes while reading Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking, which was also extremely good, but so confessional that it was sometimes awkward or painful reading (as when she discussed an unexpected pregnancy that had to be terminated because she was taking a medication that meant very bad things for the fetus, or the pain and awkwardness occasionally present in her marriage or other relationships). I can't say which I prefer - the extreme closeness of Palmer or the arm's-length approach of Rhimes. But I did like - and do recommend - both books.

I'm especially taken with Rhimes's transition over the course of a year or so, and how she arrived at a place of really good self-care, which is a concept I'm working on.



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