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We're Going to Need More Wine

Here’s to us.

A toast to our years together, our friendships, things we’ve done and laughs we’ve had. Here’s to us — together forever. We need to do this more often. We need to stay in touch. As author Gabrielle Union says, “We’re Going to Need More Wine.”

When she was still a small child, Gabrielle Union knew how life kept score.

She was born in Omaha but her parents moved the family to Pleasanton, California, about an hour from Oakland, when Union was in second grade. Her father was intent on “keeping up with the Joneses” with the move, but he didn’t quite accomplish that: He’d chosen a “nearly as good” neighborhood, but it wasn’t good enough.

For much of her childhood, Union “felt real green on being black.” She spent junior high trying to fit in with the white girls at school and wishing for a boyfriend; in summertime, she stayed with her grandmother in Nebraska, trying to catch up on “being black.” It was there where she finally realized that “black boys like me.”

It took time for her to like herself.

As with many girls, Union says that she didn’t know much about her own body, which was troubling, but she learned over time with (and from) her peers. She fought her natural hair and “learned to apologize for my very skin” because she was darker than her mother and sisters. She was told that she was “funny,” when she really wanted to hear that she was pretty.

That finally happened when a white boy went from “JUSTASFRIENDS” to temporary boyfriend, and Union lost her virginity. It was bittersweet — their romance didn’t last long at all — but there it was. Stealing boyfriends, though ... that could be problematic.

So could marrying a man when you see big issues even before the wedding.

So could a TV part, when you’re literally the first black person to appear on the show.

So could working at a retail store, and a man with a gun walks in ...

I have to say that I didn’t like “We’re Going to Need More Wine” at the outset. The introduction feels awfully familiar, in a forced-friendship kind of way, as though it was trying too hard to make me like it.

My advice: Skip it. Or read it last. Whichever; you’ll like the rest of the book so much better because author Gabrielle Union is worth getting to know on more casual terms, with stories that will make you laugh, sigh, and nod in recognition — but beware. Union writes in a manner that makes you feel as though you grew up in the same neighborhood, but she also doesn’t seem to be someone who holds anything back. While that candor is refreshing, it can also be explicit, profane, and painful to read.

And yet — you’ll learn a few things in “We’re Going to Need More Wine”: about Union, about celebrity, surviving, and about responsibility. If that sounds like the book you want to read next, then here’s to you.

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