You Got Anything Stronger?: Stories by Gabrielle Union

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union picks up right where we leave off from her first autobiographical story collection and takes us on her adventure of learning from life’s most impactful moments.

Her 2017 memoir We’re Going to Need More Wine made headlines with the author’s admission of losing count of her numerous miscarriages. The second book begins with her fertility struggles and her decision to choose surrogacy. She takes us down the journey of selecting the right surrogate mother and how many women look for a surrogate by targeting Black and Brown women’s wombs to house their fetuses, which informs her decision of who will be the best vessel for her daughter Kaavia James.

The chapter highlights her continuous fertility struggles, including her adenomyosis diagnosis that comes after her in vitro fertilization attempts never worked successfully. And she addresses the hardship of trying to get pregnant while her basketballer husband Dwyane Wade had a baby with another woman during a time she calls a bad place in their relationship before marriage. She talks about the pain of not birthing a child as her partner can conceive a child—a topic she says she didn’t feel comfortable discussing in her previous book. We also revisit her rape in college when she was working at a Payless ShoeSource by following the aftermath and healing process as she stays glued to watching the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.

Surprisingly, one of the poignant chapters is a heartfelt letter dedicated to Isis, Gabrielle’s pivotal character in the 2000 cheerleader flick Bring It On. Isis leads the East Compton Clovers to victory after finding out the Rancho Carne Toros led by Kirsten Dunst’s character Torrance have copied the all-Black cheerleading team’s moves for years. The actress goes into the awkwardness of being the only Black person at the audition rehearsing stereotypical slang. Once she nabs the role along with Clover characters named Jenelope, Lava, and LaFred, played by the R&B girl group Blaque, Gabrielle finds herself every day editing the script to subtract the slang she knows wouldn’t come out of Isis’ mouth. She even reveals how she worked out a storyline for Isis to go to a top university, but it didn’t make the cut. Twenty years later, Isis is a mainstay on the top movie villains lists every year, a downer for Gabrielle who felt she let down Black teen girls by not making sure Isis deserved role model status. This motivates her to become a better role model for her daughters Kaavia and Zaya.

Her relationships with her daughters are interlaced in the stories. While she talks about her journey to mothering Kaavia, she also talks about her journey in understanding Zaya’s gender and sexual identity. She is a supportive stepmother with going to the school administrations whenever the family moves due to Dwyane’s basketball career to explain Zaya’s preferences. Those preferences evolve until Zaya realizes she is a transgender girl. And with that evolution comes the family’s evolution in creating a safe space for Zaya and asking others to do the same.

Stories with heartache sit between comedic chapters like when Gabrielle takes a laxative before going to the strip club that turns into a night in the strippers’ dressing room with a cold compress on her forehead to when her younger sister gets drunk off frozen limoncello at Thanksgiving that Gabrielle made after seeing Danny DeVito blame his televised drunkenness on the alcohol.

Overall, the memoir is another well-written collection of stories from different times and themes throughout the author’s life. Via the audiobook, her voice comes alive with the storytelling and the brilliant choice of words.

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