Gabrielle Union’s second book, You Got Anything Stronger?: Stories, just came out in September. I was really excited to get my hands on a copy from my local library. It was so new there were no renewals allowed, but I didn’t need that anyway. I finished it in 2 days.
First, Union’s debut memoir, We’re Going to Need More Wine, was published in 2017 and featured truly personal essays about everything from beauty to gender to race to family. It was all about how Union connected to these topics and how she experienced them. She seemed to be hoping to guide others into living their own truths by sharing her own story.
Gabrielle Union is a magnificently inspiring person. She leads a life now widely in the public eye, which must have its own challenges, but she has stayed true to herself and her successes are powerful without the spotlight.
You Got Anything Stronger? is equally as personal and divergent in its stories. Union explores infertility, marriage, parenting, friendship, race, gender identity, sexism, and family.
Chapter 1 starts with something so personal it really hooked me in. Union has publically discussed her fertility story and inability to carry a child to term. Here, she goes into really great detail about how she felt after nine miscarriages and the heartbreak of losing each baby. This chapter is so moving and heartfelt, it will really help other people struggling through similar situations.
“I’m going to tell you a secret about life. You might know part of it, but chances are you don’t know the whole story.”-Gabrielle Union, You Got Anything Stronger?
Union continues her theme of family by discussing her role as stepmother to Dwayne Wade’s three other children. It really is a challenging situation to blend families and have everyone find their role and relationship. Later in the book, she talks about her own parents. Family is complicated, but Union shares her ups and downs. Thankfully, more ups than downs.
There’s a pretty sharp detour in chapter 4. Union shares a tale of being constipated at a strip club and taking a laxative that works a little too soon. It’s completely out of place and the shock factor is not done well. Not my favorite part.
As with most essay-style books, You Got Anything Stronger? is colloquial and short. It’s an easy read, but it will make you think long after you finish. I think that’s the point she was trying to make. Read these stories quickly, but don’t forget the message after you put it down.
I struggled to relate to some parts where I felt she was more focused on name-dropping and showing her fantasy life than expressing her feelings and thoughts. It was distracting for me as a reader to go from heartfelt, personal stories being a mother to living this glitz and glamor movie star life with extravagant vacations and hangouts with other celebrities. I skimmed some of these sections and was a bit disappointed. If you closely follow her TV and movie career, you might get more from reading about her other celebrity friends, but I did not.
I did really enjoy Union’s insight on sexism. She’s been discriminated against based on gender and race and she shares these stories in an inspiring way. She shows how standing together and accepting yourself can help combat sexism, especially in the working world.
“Misogyny is already enough of a fucking stressor.”-Gabrielle Union, You Got Anything Stronger?
Union dedicates a lot of space to the LGBTQ+ community and gender discussions. This was very personal to her and I liked her insight. She was sincere and offered good advice to other parents or friends who have someone in their life working out who they are within this context. Definitely my favorite part.
There’s an excellent chapter dedicated to her take on one of her most famous roles as Isis in Bring It On. I was thrilled to read about her experiences filming the movie and the mark it left on her after the premier all those years ago. What an encouraging and uplifting character to spark constructive conversations on race. Plus, if you’re like me, you fell in love with that movie and dreamed of having her cheer and dance skills. It was an adult window into a childhood fantasy.
I recommend You Got Anything Stronger? to anyone looking for some insight into family life or wanting inspiration to keep doing the right things in life. Union does a really nice job expressing her love for her children and husband and the work she does. All around good book.