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BOOK REVIEW: Year of Yes
by Shonda Rhimes
ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):
In this poignant, hilarious, and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood’s most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder reveals how saying YES changed her life—and how it can change yours too.
She’s the creator and producer of some of the most groundbreaking and audacious shows on television today: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder. Her iconic characters—Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating—live boldly and speak their minds. So who would suspect that Shonda Rhimes, the mega talent who owns Thursday night television (#TGIT), is an introvert? That she hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances? That she hugged walls at splashy parties and suffered panic attacks before media interviews so severe she remembered nothing afterward?
Before her Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes was an expert at declining invitations others would leap to accept. With three children at home and three hit television shows on TV, it was easy to say that she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. Afraid of cocktail party faux pas like chucking a chicken bone across a room; petrified of live television appearances where Shonda Rhimes could trip and fall and bleed out right there in front of a live studio audience; terrified of the difficult conversations that came so easily to her characters on-screen. In the before, Shonda’s introvert life revolved around burying herself in work, snuggling her children, and comforting herself with food.
And then, on Thanksgiving 2013, Shonda’s sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything.
The comment sat like a grenade, until it detonated. Then Shonda, the youngest of six children from a supremely competitive family, knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.
This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood creating imaginary friends to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her (like Cristina Yang, whose ultimate goal wasn’t marriage, and Cyrus Beene, who is a Republican and gay). And it chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage, appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and giving the Dartmouth Commencement speech; when she learned to say yes to her health, yes to play and she stepped out of the shadows and into the sun; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.
This wildly candid and compulsively readable book reveals how the mega talented Shonda Rhimes, an unexpected introvert, achieved badassery worthy of a Shondaland character. And how you can, too.
I had no idea who Shonda Rhimes was before I read this book. Maybe I live under a rock. I just don’t watch much television. I’m aware of Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve heard of Scandal. How to Get Away with Murder…hmmm…nope. I don’t know anything about that one. And I’ve never seen a single episode of any of these shows, but that doesn’t matter at all. If you’re more familiar with these shows than I am, it might help to have some frame of reference when she talks about them in the book, but it doesn’t really matter since that’s not really what the book is about.
“Year of Yes” may sound like the complete opposite of “Essentialism” — i.e. “say yes to everything,” but that’s not it. Rhimes doesn’t tell us to say yes to everything. Her “Year of Yes” was about learning how to face her fears and say yes to the right things, the things that challenged her and helped her grow — personally and professionally. “Year of Yes” is also about learning how to say no when appropriate.
My favorite quote in the whole book was when Rhimes was talking about how her child’s school required the parents to bring in cupcakes…and not just store-bought cupcakes, but they had to be homemade. Rhimes is a single working mother of three and this simply set her over the edge.
Here’s the quote:
“I will take off my earrings and ask someone to hold my purse for the verbal beatdown we will need to engage in if you try to tell me that I must define my motherhood in the same terms as yours.”
This may be the kind of quote where you “had to be there,” but this particular chapter was very encouraging for working moms. If you’re a working mom, you’ve more than likely experienced some form of judgement (maybe even ridicule) from “the other side.” In a humorous way Rhimes asks us all to put our judgement aside and start supporting one another. AND DON’T FORCE ANYONE TO MAKE HOMEMADE CUPCAKES!
Year of Yes is lighthearted and inspirational for all women. Rhimes talks about motherhood, dating/marriage, family, health (i.e. diet, health, and body image), and writing (which can be translated to whatever your passion might be). I highly recommend it. And if you’re a fan of any of her shows, you would probably enjoy it even more than I did.