In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I’ve been a stan of Issa Rae since her co-worker caught her rapping along aggressively at a stop sign on Youtube. That fandom exploded when her show, Insecure, hit HBO in 2016. I’ve always related quite a bit to her experiences on her web-series, and (not surprisingly) the trials and tribulations of adulthood chronicled on the small screen spoke to my own experiences in dating, working, and trying to look like I had my sh*t together while I fumbled through the process.
I’m honestly a bit disappointed it took me so long to get my hands on her autobiography, but it was worth the wait. It’s an easy read and felt like I was kicking back on the couch with my girl from way back, reminiscing about the good, bad, and ugly. (Sidenote – Issa Rae is my friend in my head. She completes my sentences and we do that thing where you can give someone a look and they know exactly what you’re thinking). I appreciated from the start her ability to inject wit (albeit often self-deprecating) into her retellings of her life experiences. She has built a reputation on being unafraid to poke fun at herself, something anyone familiar with either of her series’ will pick up on. That quality shines through here, whether it was her poor fashion choices, inability to dance, reckless romantic choices, or naivete. Issa bared it all and lets us see behind the curtain of her life and, in my observation, that of a facet of black life.
Issa is perhaps more transparent than I anticipated. She openly addresses the breakdown of her parents’ marriage and how that impacted her approach to dating and fidelity. Her struggles with finding her own identity while navigating black American life and African culture were particularly eye-opening. Despite being a fan, I wasn’t aware of her family background and really enjoyed learning about her travels to her family’s home in Senegal and how that influenced her life at home. The book doesn’t always cast her in the best light and there are definitely a few moments that had me giving a strong side-eye. But I think that’s the beauty of it – she’s flawed, she knows it, and presents the facts and lets the reader draw their own conclusions.
I didn’t expect this book to have a conventional feel to it, so I wasn’t disappointed in this regard. There isn’t always a conventional flow to the book. The chapters hopscotch to different topics and sometimes bounce back and forth chronologically. Where the first chapter catalogs her early forays into online dating (and catfishing) at twelve, the next explores her ongoing battle with her love of food. These are spliced with nuggets of wisdom in the form of an “ABG Guide” to anything from mastering the art of eating at restaurants alone to managing the various types of annoying coworkers. It all comes together in the end, but can be confusing if you’re expecting something that simply follows the timeline of her age.
I admit I am biased – I think Issa Rae does good work and represents a segment of the black experience that is often overlooked for those that are easier to sell. Her “misadventures” are at once hilarious and touching, but powerful in giving a voice to all the awkward black girls (present company included) out there. This is definitely getting a strong recommendation from me.