Day One Reads – Year of Yes

“Losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one “no” at a time. No to going out tonight. No to catching up with that old college roommate. No to attending that party. No to going on a vacation. No to making a new friend.”

“Year of Yes” was an odd read for me. It was absolutely rammed with passages I eagerly wrote down, yet when I finished it off I couldn’t shake the idea I didn’t love the book as much as the P2P ratio indicated I should have. Much of the content shines, and Rhimes is an amazing narrator of her own book (I particularly LOVE that she includes live recordings of the speeches she references), but to be honest the story of the “Year of Yes” is sort of tangential here: it’s a frame created to talk about Rhimes’ journey and perspectives (many of which are fascinating, powerful and unapologetic) but very quickly takes a backseat after the first chapter or two. I loved her content, adored the speeches, and overall was more blown away by parts of the book than the book as a while. Those parts are so damn good this is certainly a recommend however.

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Title: Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Category*: Biographical

Author: Shonda Rhimes

About the author:

Shonda Rhimes is the critically acclaimed and award-winning creator and executive producer of the hit television series Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and the executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder. Her writing credits also include Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement, Crossroads, and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Rhimes holds a BA from Dartmouth College in English Literature with Creative Writing and received her MFA from the USC School of Cinema-Television, where she was awarded the prestigious Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship. Rhimes was born and raised outside of Chicago, Illinois, and now runs her production company, Shondaland, from Los Angeles, where she lives with her three daughters. She is the author of Year of Yes and The Year of Yes Journal.

How I found it: Honestly, I was in the midst of binge re-watching Grey’s Anatomy and in search of my next book, which I also wanted to be by a person of colour. Well, when this popped up on Audible as 2017’s “Audiobook of the Year,” I figured the universe was telling me something.

“When you become a person with any kind of power, don’t ever become a person who screams.”

Book Jacket description:

2017 Audible Award Finalist for Audiobook of the Year. The megatalented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder chronicles how saying yes for one year changed her life – and how it can change yours, too. 

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the ubertalented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.  And there was the side benefit of saying no for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear. 

Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: Just for one year, try to say yes to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed – and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life – and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes. 

Amazon Rating: 4.6 (2049 ratings – Canada)/4.6 (2373 ratings – US)

Goodreads Rating: 4.11 (2079 Ratings)

Anything someone might quibble with: While it’s easy to relate to our tendency to say “no,” and interesting to hear how Rhimes’ shift in perspective changed her life – her experience isn’t particularly relatable. Her social anxiety is probably more pronounced than most people’s and a discussion of the challenges of facing Jimmy Kimmel, Oprah, or running an entire evening of television are fascinating but hard to connect with. Of course, as a friend of mine pointed out: “I’m all about having to read a book by a black single mom that comes from a place of any kind of privilege.”

Second, If you’re someone who isn’t a parent (especially if you’re someone who doesn’t wish to be), the depth of discussion about motherhood and the cultural expectations surrounding it may eventually disconnect you emotionally from parts of the book. However, that would likely be a quibble only for those in the same specific situation as I: I have a feeling they’d be absolutely liberating for many people. Finally… saying “I said ‘yes’ to everything all year” as the premise of a book and then doing chapters on the things you didn’t do by arguing “this is saying ‘yes’ to saying ‘no’” is a workaround that made me roll my eyes a couple of times.

“I don’t think it ever occurred to me before how much, and how often, women are praised for displaying traits that basically render them invisible.

“Velcro quotes” (ideas that are going to stick with me moving forward):

  • “A good story is not about purposely lying. The best stories are true. Giving good story requires that I leave out the untidy bits.”
  • “When you become a person with any kind of power, don’t ever become a person who screams.”
  • “A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #stoppretendinghashtagsarethesameasdoingsomething. Hastags on Twitter are very pretty, I love them, I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything, it’s a hashtag.”
  • “The stakes got even higher for Scandal: if the first network drama with an African American leading lady in 37 years didn’t find an audience, who knows how long it would take for another to come along? Failure meant two generations of actresses might have to wait for another chance to be seen as more than a sidekick. I am what I have come to call an FOD: a First, Only Different. We are a very select club but there are more of us out there than you’d think. We know one another on sight. We all have that same weary look in our eyes: the one that wishes people would stop thinking it remarkable that we can be great at what we do while black, while Asian, while a woman, while latino, while gay, while a paraplegic, while deaf. But when you are an FOD you are saddled with that burden of extra responsibility. Whether you want it or not.”
  • “When I made my first television show I did something that I thought was perfectly normal: in the 21st century I made the world of the show look the way the world looks. I filled it with people of all hues, genders, backgrounds and sexual orientations. And then I did the most obvious thing possible: I wrote all of them as if they were people. People of colour live three-dimensional lives, have love stories and are not funny sidekicks, clichés or criminals. Women are the heroes, the villains, the badasses, the big dogs. This, I was told over-and-over was trailblazing and brave…I was doing a thing that the suits had said could not be done on TV and America was proving them wrong by watching. We were literally changing the face of television. I was not about to make a mistake now. You don’t get second chances. Not when you’re an FOD. Second chances are for future generations. That is what you are building when you are an FOD. Second chances are for the ones who come behind you.”
  • “I don’t think it ever occurred to me before how much, and how often, women are praised for displaying traits that basically render them invisible. When I really think about it the culprit is the language generally used to praise women, especially mothers: ‘she sacrificed everything for her children’, ‘she never thought about herself’, ‘she gave up everything for us’, ‘she worked tirelessly to make sure we had what we needed’, ‘she stood in the shadows, ‘she was the wind beneath our wings.’ Greeting card companies are built on that idea…This is good we’re told: it’s good how mom diminishes and martyrs herself. The message is: ‘mothers, you are such wonderful and good people because you make yourself smaller. Because you deny your own needs. Because you toil tirelessly in the shadows and no one ever thanks or notices you. This all makes you amazing!’ Yuck, what the hell kind of message is that? Would anyone praise a man for this?’

Total Pages:   336

Total “pulled passages”: 68

Page to Pulled Passage Ratio**: 4.9:1

P2P Ranking within category for 2020: #2 of 5

Overall P2P Ranking for 2020: : #7 of 14.

*I break books into one of three categories in order to better compare apples-to-apples.

  • Reflective: Relies on first-person stories or insights
  • Biographical: Tells the story of an individual or organization from a third-person perspective
  • Research-based: The author(s) collect third-party research to support their discussion of a particular topic.

**As I read, I highlight certain passages/insights that really connect with me. Things that make me think “buying this book was worth it for ideas/information like that.” At the end of the book, I go back and “pull” them from the book and copy them all into a single document. P2P Ratio indicates how many pages on average tend to go by between these particularly powerful insights. This book’s 4.9:1 ratio means I felt there was a passage worth pulling out and writing down every 4.9 pages.