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Black History Month Book Recommendation

Lately, I can’t help but watch, read, and hear everything through a Jewish prism. It's one of the many ramifications that the October 7th events have on me.

So when I started reading "We're Going to Need More Wine" by Gabrielle Union, I asked myself the following question:

Is it easier for a black girl to assimilate into a white Christian community than for a Jewish one?

A smiling Gabrielle Union sits with her chin on her hand
We're going to need more wine by Gabrielle Union

At the beginning we meet young Nickie Union who yearned to assimilate so deeply, that she mistreated or ignored anyone who wasn't white or Christian—whether Black, 'brown', or openly Jewish. She tells us that she managed to do it so perfectly that her friends, ‘forgetting’ she was black, spoke in racial terms next to her.

So at first I thought, okay then, as long as you’re Christian, you’re okay. Religion transcends skin color.

But it was the wrong conclusion to jump to, the wrong question to ask, and far too early in the book.

As I immersed myself in Union’s confident voice, she drew me in, and I stopped reading her as a Jew. Here was a woman—a kindred spirit, a fellow minority, a fellow career professional—struggling to succeed.

She talks about her mother and father, both of whom are still alive, with openness and honest brutality that makes for compelling reading. It’s amazingly non-judgmental. I couldn't help but admire Gabriel’s courage in writing about her upbringing, shedding light on the good parts, but also on the many mistakes her parents made.

I felt that this non-judgmentalism while serving her in most of the book, falls short when she talks of the black community’s unique shortcomings. Gangs and their violent culture arrived in Omaha while she spent her summers there with her grandmother. The way she writes it, you'd think the arrival of gangs was inevitable. A force majeure, like the tornadoes, there's nothing you can do about it.

She writes with bravery and honesty about how she was brutally raped. She talks openly about her post-trauma and also on the ways in which she is lucky - and other rape victims aren’t. The book is worth reading if only for this astounding chapter.

She did get around Hollywood, and the name droppings (while still in high school she dated Jason Kidd), are very entertaining (Heath Ledger, anyone?), but not too frequent. This is not a gossipy book. Reading about Prince’s parties is fun, but also eye-opening in the sense of what mingling and connections, so essential always, are taken for granted for some, yet are totally out of reach for others.

“I always want there to be a point to what I am saying, and I don’t want to bring up the issue of …” she says. But every chapter in this amazing book, which is a group of essays framed into a memoir, carries a point and intent - and I loved it.

She talks about ‘colorism’, a term I wasn’t familiar with and denotes the color scale black people use to measure their worth within their own community: when light is good and dark is bad. She writes openly about making more money, or less money than your partner - and how that affects the relationship.

She speaks about dropping “black bombs”: saying loudly home truths about what it is to be a black person in America. How you need to be constantly aware of it, careful with your actions and demeanor - especially if you’re a young black man.

She is completely open about her sexuality. She has slept with many guys and it is totally fine. She writes about cheating on her first husband (who cheated on her almost from the get-go).

Favorite quotes:

“I, like many women, know what the hell is wrong with me. Whether we choose to do something about it remains to be seen.”

“I think I can deal effectively with the world precisely because I am a black woman who is so comfortable in my black-womanness. I know what I can accomplish. And anything I have accomplished, I did so not in spite of being a black woman, but because I am a black woman.”

Do you have a book by a black female author that you loved? Let me know!



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