There’s honesty and then there’s honesty. The first kind requires nothing more than a refusal to lie. Some believe that to be nearly impossible, but I disagree. It’s been my policy for a long time now and without question, I think honesty is actually the easy route.
The second variety, though, is a whole different animal. It’s a willingness to just pour it all out there—the sweet and the salty—and let it simmer. While I’m pretty much an open book, I have chapters that require a passcode to read, and the list of those with the code is a pretty short one.
Much shorter, say, than the gazillion readers who’ll happily turn the pages of You Have No Idea, written by Vanessa Williams and her mom, Helen Williams. Honesty, the second, more courageous kind, fills page after page, chapter after chapter. All sorts of good.
Biographies can be great or they can be the most torturous of reads. Puffed up egos often become evident in these types of offerings, but in this case, honesty trumped ego—much to the benefit of the Williams women and their readers.
As I read, I turned back corners of the pages when I encountered lines that spoke to me. By the time I’d reached the end, my copy of the book had a ridiculous number of dog-eared pages. I’m not going to share all of them with you (you’re welcome), but I would like to highlight just a few.
- Vanessa Williams on how her mom loved nice things for her home and her dad loved to build them for her: “My childhood home was a brick-and-mortar love letter to my mother.”
- Helen Williams: “…I couldn’t express my disappointment in words and there was his head—just available—waiting for me to whack it.”
- Vanessa Williams: “I peed on a stick while playing a nun and prayed that I wasn’t pregnant.”
- Vanessa Williams: “I thought I understood what it was like to be heartbroken. The moment I saw my dad’s lifeless body, I realized I had no idea.”
Then there was the scene that felt a bit like a replay from something I’ve lived. Milton Williams, who had been a stellar husband and father as well as an all-around good man, was dying. His wife, Helen, had to let him go—had to give him permission to go. I’ve done that—the heartbreaking granting of permission—and I felt the pain of it all over again as I read her words. “The night before Milton died I whispered in his ear, “You can go now.””
Finally, Vanessa Williams shared the words she prays, which are very close to my own. “God, I surrender. Just show me the way and I will follow you. Let me see the signs.”
You want more now, don’t you? I completely understand. Go. Read. And dog-ear your own copy. You’ll be glad you did.
This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.
One more thing: You wouldn’t like it if someone stole your words, so please don’t steal the work of photographers and graphic artists to provide images for your blog.