You (Best Be) Ready

The first time I watched Tiffany Haddish on TV, she was telling a story about how an old guy died while she grinded on him at a bar mitzvah. Then of course I heard the story about her taking Will and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp tour. From there, I read about the $4,000 white Alexander McQueen dress that she insisted on wearing at the Girls Trip premiere, SNL, the Oscars, and, most recently, the MVT Movie & TV Awards. Haddish and her antics have been everywhere the past two years, and I wanted more.

Then I came across her memoir The Last Black Unicorn. You know how I feel about memoirs. This time was different.

Haddish’s standup comedy special famously proclaims, “She ready!” Me too, girl, me too.

The Last Black Unicorn

Make no mistake: Haddish didn’t have an easy path to fame. The Last Black Unicorn covers it all and holds nothing back. From foster care to domestic abuse, from working as a pimp (you read that right) to an estranged family, Haddish includes all of her heartbreak in her 2017 memoir.

Haddish doesn’t feels sorry for herself, though. This is the real treat to Last Black Unicorn. The author may have had a difficult past, but she doesn’t waste this opportunity to ask for sympathy in a tell-all. Rather, Haddish makes us laugh page after page, gawk at her expressions and brashness, and relate to someone who fought through her rough patches, all while making people laugh.

Tiffany Haddish grew up in a poor neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. Her father left her and her mom when she was just a young child, and then her mom married a conniving womanizer. Her mother had a seemingly successful life until a car accident, which Haddish’s stepfather has claimed to have set up, left her with a mental illness. From that point forward, Haddish found herself in abusive situations and fending for herself with the help of her strong-willed grandmother.

It wasn’t until high school that she found what truly made her happy: making other people laugh and smile. Her joy in this skill led her to become the school mascot, an energy producer (in the white world, this is known as a “hype man,” and this is how the old man died), and finally a comedian.

“I didn’t have the uniform yet. It was too big for me, so I had my grandma do alterations on it. I had a T-shirt, and I wrote on it in big black letters: ‘Will have uniform in 2 weeks. Grandma doin’ it.’ — The Last Black Unicorn

Besides one particularly difficult chapter to read, Haddish had me laughing out loud. Her writing is a gem mainly because she writes exactly how she talks. There’s non of the “trying too hard” that can come with memoirs. There’s not a haughty bone in her body; she is who she is with no apologies.

The sign of a good writer is someone whose voice shines through in their words. Welp, from page one I was reading this book in her sassy — sometimes loud — tone, which only added to the experience of reading this book. Even the pseudonyms she uses to describe people in her past (Old Man, Jewish Lady, Drunk Girl, Redneck, Old Lady 1 and 2, Rumpelstiltskin, etc. etc.) scream Tiffany Haddish. Reading Black Unicorn is like watching a 60-minute special with her.

“I buy too much weird stuff that pisses him off. I bought a $300 microscope, because I’m into science.” — The Last Black Unicorn

Remember that difficult chapter I mentioned above? That’s the other amazing thing about this book: She doesn’t hide the bullshit. Haddish is honest about an abusive marriage that she was in not once, but twice. She calls herself out for not seeing the signs, for not running away, and for going back when she could have had a clean break. She also calls out those people — including her ex-husband’s family — who encouraged the volatile relationship.

Haddish warns she’s leaving out all jokes in this chapter, and it hits hard. But in a good way. It stresses just how much this author has gone through, making you a confidante in her life story. She’s honest about almost not including the chapter but ultimately decides to keep it for three reasons:

  1. She always tells the truth.
  2. She hopes young girls can learn from her mistakes.
  3. She believes everything happens for a reason.

It’s painful to read, but I’m glad Haddish didn’t hold back. This woman is a badass bawse.

“No, we ain’t divorced. We twice divorced.” — The Last Black Unicorn

I often roll my eyes at memoirs because there’s a degree of egotism that comes with the license to write one. Tiffany Haddish earned her stripes though, and not for nothing, they can teach you a few things too.

“You can’t get your comedy stripes on your back, you got to earn ’em on your own two feet. ‘Cause you can’t fake funny.” — The Last Black Unicorn


3 thoughts on “You (Best Be) Ready

  1. Pingback: Ranked: Reads in 2018 | Big Little Literature

  2. Pingback: A Lot of Fight Left in Me | Big Little Literature

  3. Pingback: Literature and the Power of Diversity | Big Little Literature

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