The book I'm reviewing today is a bit of a departure for me, or at least these pages, where we focus on literary and creative writing topics. But in a part of my life I don't publicize, for obvious reasons, I'm sort of a fiend for celebrity gossip.
I'm not proud of this. But there it is.
But it is also why I leaped at the chance to review You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other), by Vanessa Williams, and her mother Helen Williams.
It is mostly the story of the life of Vanessa Williams, she of Miss America, Ugly Betty, and Desperate Housewives fame. But throughout the book, direct and forthright Helen, Vanessa's mother, speaks up, adding her point of view to the proceedings.
I've always liked Vanessa Williams, because to me she comes across as an intelligent non-diva, and that's exactly the impression I still have of her after reading this book. Helen's part in the narrative really helps this. Both women are good company. I often get bored reading books like this, but I finished this one with interest. And I loved all the photos that are interspersed throughout. Vanessa Williams really is a stunningly beautiful woman who manages to look good no matter what. Sigh.
One of the things I kept thinking about as I wrote was ghostwriting. As most of you know, one of the writer's hats I wear is ghostwriter. In this case, the ghostwriter got a credit. Irene Zutell is listed as a "with" on the cover. I think she did a good job on this book, as the narrative of each woman comes across as the distinct personalities they are. From a note at the back, I presume there was lots of meeting for interviews in locations across the country.
Sounds easy, right? Meet a celebrity in some glamorous location, interview her, transcribe the pages and clean it up a bit. And voila! You've got yourself a memoir. But it doesn't work like that, because the spoken word doesn't necessarily translate to a unique written voice. Weird phenomenon, but there it is. The ghostwriter has to really work to get the voice of the subject on the page.
Anyway, if you're a fan and you get the chance to read this book, do it. You'll enjoy it. And it would make a great Mother's Day gift. Also, you can read tons more about it on the BlogHer Book Club page.