Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes was a different kind of book for our group. We do read non-fiction, but usually historical. We read Quiet: the power of introverts by Susan Cain. And Shonda Rhimes is a self-proclaimed introvert who fits Susan Cain’s perfectionist, hard-working profile for successful introverts. Yet what exactly is the book about and did we benefit?
Our first responder didn’t like the book. She found it boring and wouldn’t have finished it if she hadn’t been listening on audio. Another really liked it, his face almost glowing. The chatter around the table was mixed. One member hadn’t liked it, although he agreed with some of her comments, and he wondered why we had read it. We already know all this—why would we care? The author is still in the middle of her career, raising children, while the majority of our group is retired, presumably done with all that.
Well, I chose the book to give us something different to discuss. It’s good for us to think about the differences and similarities in the world—between races, between social classes, between generations. Shonda Rhimes is a successful African-American writer and speaker, a strong female and single mother by choice. She espouses some pretty old-fashioned ideas while embracing new ones.
Our biggest complaint was that she didn’t give us more. She was repetitive and although this can be a literary and educational technique, many of us wanted more details, not more yes, yes, yes. How did she get to Dartmouth, and into the USC film school? Scholarships? Why did she want to adopt? Why would anyone ask her to write a book on motherhood? She had nannies and seemed hardly to be home? She definitely seemed self-centered. We talked quite a bit about her television shows, especially Grey’s Anatomy. We liked that she had her character Christina acting out her own desires and challenges. One of us liked the concept of covering up problems with food and we were surprised that such a successful person had anxiety to the point that she lost memories.
We disagreed about whether this was a self-help book or a memoir. We talked about play and quality time and the magic of driving in a car with children. One of us referenced Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, suggesting that men are more comfortable talking without looking and women prefer talking face to face. We also discussed the Wonder Woman pose Shonda Rhimes mentioned as a way to feel and act more powerful. Is it real? Is it helpful? Or is it like the alcohol-removed red wine I served, effective only as a placebo?
So was Year of Yes a good book for our group? Those of us who come out for our meetings every month, reading a variety of books – even ones we don’t like—are already saying yes to a challenge, yes to socializing, yes to being part of something bigger. Like Shonda, even yes to saying no to chocolate cake, macaroni and cheese, and buttered popcorn! Practice makes perfect!
- Other works discussed:
- Landline (2014) by Rainbow Rowell
- Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (1992) by John Gray
- Quiet: the power of introverts (2012) by Susan Cain
- ‘Round Midnight (2017) by Laura McBride (possible future book club selection)
- Grey’s Anatomy (television) 2005 – 2018
- Scandal (television) 2012 – 2018
- How to get away with murder (television) 2014 – 2018
- Station 19 (television) 2018