- What: We’re Going to Need More Wine
- Who: Gabrielle Union
- Pages: 260 pages
- Genres: Memoir and short stories/essays
- Published: 2017
- The lit: of 5 flames
If you’re not a Lady Who Lunches, I highly recommend giving it a shot; my own LWL girlfriends have been saviors over the years. I’ve been close friends with Dana, Hilary, Katie, and Kelliann since I moved to New York. We’ve all worked for the same finance company at different points and have enjoyed many lunches, happy hours, and dinners in the Financial District. We are definitely “well-off, well-dressed women who meet for social luncheons, usually during the working week,” though we do still work … even if we spend the majority of our work days chatting one another. A year ago, we started Friday virtual lunches together so we could still see each other and to ease our anxiety about the pandemic. These weekly gatherings were often weekly highlights.
While I read Gabrielle Union’s book, I couldn’t help but think she was gathering with my LWL gang over bottles of wine and numerous cheese plates. That companionship usually didn’t stem from the stories themselves because she’s had such different experiences than any of us have had, especially because she’s a Black woman who’s dealt with so many degrees of racism. It was her writing, which felt so honest, blunt, relatable, and humorous.
Union likely intended for her readers to feel like she was their newest BFF waiting with a drink in hand; the title itself alludes to those long-gone happy hours where the drinks keep pouring. *Oh memories.* The writing certainly lives up to the title’s promises.
I can’t sugarcoat it: Gabrielle Union has been through some shit. She’s an incredibly strong woman, and all of those difficult experiences make their way into her memoir. Every chapter relives one or a collection of related, powerful moments and everything she’s learned from them. But the book is in no short supply of relatable and hilarious moments. Some chapters make you quite literally laugh out loud, including when she graces us with her home remedy for a yeast infection. I also thoroughly enjoyed hearing about when Union first started her period. Like so many others, this chapter was incredibly relatable and filled with wisdom; not to mention it was LOL-worthy. It took me back to being a preteen and not knowing anything remotely related to sex education and the reproductive organs.
Just as many chapters, though, are equally difficult to read. She retells in heartbreaking detail how she was raped at 19, as well as grappling with being a young Black girl trying to hide her identity in a white neighborhood. She also discusses the difficulty of raising Black boys in a world that continually crucifies them. Her experiences with racism — and her statements and insights about them — are incredibly profound and important to read.
Regardless of the content — goofy yet relatable or harrowing and inspiring — Union bestows the wisdom she’s gained from these experiences on her readers. And you feel honored to be sitting at the table with such a strong, powerful woman who is willing to share her deepest secrets. I especially love the aspects of her writing that contain little nods and winks to the reader — those parenthetical phrases that seem to break the fourth wall, which doesn’t really exist in her book because Union values honesty so much.
Take this quote from the book when Union digresses her unhealthy marriage to a man who has always been a cheater. She had previously noted she found a piece of paper with another woman’s number on it, and she waited until the perfect moment to mention it to her cheating husband.
“‘You think you’re gonna call this bitch?’ I screamed. ‘YOU THINK YOU’RE GONNA CALL THIS BITCH?’
Reader, I put the paper in my mouth. I chomped and chewed until I could swallow.
‘You’re not calling this bitch,’ I said, coughing a little.”We’re Going to Need More Wine
She put. The paper. In. Her. Mouth. Stunning.
The scene itself made me laugh, but by addressing me, the reader, she had me howling as if she had saved this story and her storytelling just for me.
Her honesty creates an array of emotions in you: empathy, sympathy, heartbreak, amusement, respect, and awe. This happy hour that the two of you are attending will have you spitting out wine from the laughter and dabbing at your eyes from her pain. These varied emotions wouldn’t be possible without her unique storytelling, which is filled with candor. Her book and her writing are so incredibly raw, and I cannot stress enough how much you feel like her closest girlfriend and how grateful you are to hear about her highest of highs and lowest of lows. Even in these lows, Union injects humor, but it doesn’t feel like she’s putting up a wall and using humor to avoid the pain. Her banter makes you realize she’s simply gone through so much, sat with her emotions, and come out stronger on the other side. From chapter one, you’re punched in the gut and completely in awe of her strength.
I’d be lying, though, if I said there weren’t some confusing or off-putting moments in We’re Going to Need More Wine, which prohibited this enjoyable and insightful book from garnering the full five flames. Union is extremely self-aware on so many fronts. For example, she’s been very open in real life about being a mean girl in the past, and she delves into that in the book:
“When you’re in a place where you don’t know what makes you happy, it’s really easy to be an asshole. I put other people’s pain on my Happy List.”We’re Going to Need More Wine
Because she had consistently demonstrated so much self-awareness, I’m surprised that a few of her comments seem a bit out of touch. Toward the end, when Union discusses how difficult it is to raise Black boys and the added complexity of being a working stepmother, she comments that she doesn’t have the “luxury of someone covering [her] shift,” so she can attend her stepsons’ events. If I worked shifts or grew up with parents who had, I would have taken offense to this statement. If you’re a celebrity who can fly wherever and whenever regardless of cost, that’s the luxury.
Furthermore, her conversational tone, which I greatly appreciated, didn’t always clearly communicate each sentence’s message. I often had to reread a line to understand what she was saying. I probably wouldn’t have had this issue had this style been communicated verbally, but in text, the meanings got lost in translation due to her chatty and fun style.
That’s where the conundrum lies because it’s that exact style that makes this book so fun, entertaining, and insightful. I’d rather have some confusing moments than something more formal or poetic; that would completely change its tone, which makes this book for me.
The conversations she had with me felt so much like the LWL conversations that have granted me some of my best memories in my nearly seven years in New York. Union’s humor, honesty, and strength are inspiring and appreciated, just like my LWLs.
Gabrielle, if you’re ever in New York, hit us up. We can share champs and stories any day.
Cheers — and many, many, many thanks — to Dana, Hilary, Katie, and Kelliann, to whom I dedicate this review.
Epilogue: Because I need to fully express how funny and relatable this book is, here is one more example that really hits home (and that literally promotes having LWLs in your life):
If you haven’t hurt yourself dancing, you’re not doing it correctly. Am I right? Or am I right?