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We're Going to Need More Wine

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The first time I laid eyes on Gabrielle Union she was lighting up the screen as the character Conny Spalding in the 2001 romcom, “Two Can Play That Game.” As she strutted down the street in a blazing red thigh-high skirt suit, my mouth dropped to the popcorn littered theater floor and I shouted, “Wow, who is that?” She was breathtakingly beautiful. She wasn’t a pretty black girl. She wasn’t pretty for a black girl. She was just simply pretty, gorgeous and if anything, her brown hue accentuated her God-given good looks. Not only was she beautiful, but she had a banging body and after doing a little research, I learned she had the other B-word—brains. So needless to say, when I recently read her memoir, “We’re Going to Need More Wine,” I was surprised to learn that Gabrielle’s beautiful hue resulted in her becoming the poster child for victims of racism in the town of Pleasanton, California where she grew up. Only one of a few African-American’s in her high school, life in Pleasanton wasn’t always pleasant for Gabrielle.

In her page-turning, you must read memoir, she talks about being her parents’ only dark-skinned child and that she had feelings about being brown. Her mother and two sisters are light-complexioned. As a result, she worked hard to excel in all areas of her life while grappling with racism and her own issues with colorism: prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone. Typically, among people of the same ethnic or racial group. The feeling that her skin color was a deficit rather than an asset even spilled over into her dating life. She admits that she had to come to terms with her tendency to never date guys who were darker than her.  While reading her book it dawned on me that Gabrielle and I had something in common. Growing up, I was also the brown middle child and my mother, and two sisters were light-complexioned. However, unlike Gabrielle, I was celebrated in my family for being brown. My mother and stepfather were black Muslims, and my mother longed to have a brown bundle of joy. I was that girl. My mother doted on me, and I grew up believing black was truly beautiful.

It was inspiring to read about Gabrielle discovering her true value and worth in her sometimes laugh out loud memoir. It was exciting to read about how she broke the chains of self-depreciation and how she came to realize what a beautiful and talented woman she is inside and out. As you may have recently heard, she’s a mother now. After all she’s been through, I believe she’s going to make a great mom.

I love how her story unfolds and how it’s written in an unconventional way. While reading it, I felt like the two of us were girlfriends hanging out, chopping it up. I believe that’s how she wanted the book to come across and it does. She makes you feel like you’re her bestie and that there are no secrets between you. She makes myriad revelations, including sharing about the time she was raped and how it paralyzed her and how she worked through that trauma. She talks about marrying her first husband when she shouldn’t have and how she and Dwyane Wade spent months haggling over their prenups and that at times she felt worthless during the negotiations. She talks about being a stepmother and how she helps her stepsons navigate through the world as young black men. All in all, she leaves no stone unturned.

Several years ago, I saw Gabrielle at LAX. We ended up on the same shuttle. This was post “Two Can Play that Game.” I’m not easily starstruck, but I admit I gushed. She was as beautiful in person as she is on screen. I told her I was a fan and that it was great meeting her. She reciprocated. I had no idea at that time that she would write a book and that I would read it. I’m glad we both did the latter.

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Born in Oakland and raised in San Francisco, playwright and author, Alretha Thomas is making her name through her pen. She started at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher picked and read her short story assignment in front of the class – that simple, loving act empowered a new writer. A graduate of U.S.C., Alretha’s plays have graced numerous Southern California stages. Her most recent production, “One Woman, Two Lives,” starred Kellita Smith of the Bernie Mac Show. Her debut novel, “Daughter Denied” was launched in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country. Her second novel “Dancing Her Dreams Away,” launched in 2011 and was also well-received. “Married in the Nick of Nine” is her third novel and she recently completed the sequel, “The Baby in the Window.” Alretha says the one and only upside to her 350-mile-a-week-commute, is that it gives her ample time to come up with story ideas. When not in bumper–to-bumper traffic she enjoys going to the movies, blogging, and spending time with her husband Roy.