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Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Welcome to the first ever Blushing in Hollywood Book Club post! Today I finished Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person and I really enjoyed it a lot. If you didn’t already know, Shonda Rhimes is the incredibly talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder. She is a serious boss lady that pretty much runs things on TV right now. She’s so much more than that though because she’s really changed the face of television to make it look more like how the world actually looks (instead of adding diversity she likes to refer to it as normalizing) and for her efforts she’s won a GLAAD award, several NAACP Image awards, and a Peabody Award. She’s a pretty impressive person.

shonda-rhimes-year-of-yes

The premise of this book is that Shonda’s older sister tells her she “never says yes to anything” one Thanksgiving and Shonda vows to spend 1 whole year saying “yes” to anything and everything that scares her. Now typically with books like this each chapter is another thing the person says “yes” to, but this book is a little bit different. She says yes to giving the commencement speech at Dartmouth and doing Jimmy Kimmel, but she also says yes to having difficult conversations, and doing one thing that feels nearly impossible as a woman sometimes- accepting a compliment.

I may not run all of Hollywood like Shonda, but there were lots of things in this book I really related to. Shonda is a naturally very introverted person and spends a lot of time in her head being terrified of everything. Sound familiar? She goes to parties and wants to be invisible. She wanted to lay on her couch and eat and watch TV and never leave. She found it nearly impossible to have difficult conversations with others. Shonda really gets vulnerable talking about how she may have seemed on the outside like she had it all, but on the inside deep down she knew she wasn’t truly living her life.

As you can tell from the title, once Shonda began saying yes everything her life becomes wonderful, she’s guest starring on her fave Mindy Kaling’s show, she’s hanging out with the president, she loses over 100lbs, she decides she never wants to get married and breaks up with her perfect boyfriend (wait, what?) One super interesting thing I noticed about this book is how little about it is about her love life. She mentions throughout the book that she’s a single mother of 3 girls (2 adopted, 1 gestational surrogate) and has a whole chapter about how there’s no way she could do it all without her nanny, but she doesn’t really get into the back story. It’s not until the very last chapter that she talks about being in a relationship with a wonderful man for a little while leading up to and during the Year of Yes and she decides that marriage isn’t for her and breaks it off with him. She then celebrates this by dancing. It’s interesting that the lack of the presence of a man really stood out to me and I kept wondering when she was going to talk about it. It made me think about how as women it’s important to have our own stories. One quote she brings up from Greys Anatomy is:

“Don’t let what he wants eclipse what you need. He is very dreamy,” she says. “But he is not the sun. You are.”

It’s interesting that she says despite her many personal and career accomplishments she never received as much praise as she did when she got a boyfriend that everyone liked. Yikes.

Some of my favorite parts:

  • Shonda is almost as obsessed with Beyonce as I am
  • When she talks about how as a teenager she would spend hours every morning trying to style her hair like Whitney Houston only to find out as an adult that Whitney was wearing a wig the whole time. Shonda’s all about shattering the illusion that having it all means doing it all yourself. It reminds me of when we see people on social media and automatically compare our lives that seem to always pale in comparison. “Sometimes it’s not that you aren’t measuring up. You just don’t have the wig.”
  • I also love how she talks about being a powerful woman in the workplace and how we can tend to down play or even get embarrassed when we’re acknowledged for our work and accomplishments when we should be owning them.
  • There’s also that weird fine line of owning your accomplishments and feeling proud, but not being too proud or too into yourself (another lady issue). So many people spend time, money, and energy figuring out how to love themselves, but once they do they’re an asshole.
  • And this quote:

“I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.”

YAS Queen! Read this book!! Or better yet, listen to it on Audible like I did because it’s fun listening to Shonda’s Olivia Pope-esque monologues in her own voice.

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