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Many of you know Shonda Rhimes’ work, if not her name. Scandal (yes, the t.v. show). Doesn’t ring a bell? How about Grey’s Anatomy, one of the longest running, most successful series t.v. show of all time? The Catch was added to her weekly list this past fall and has been renewed. How to Get Away with Murder? Got your attention.

I read The Year of Yes because of my work with Screen Thoughts, one of the few female movie review podcasts, where I am the reviewer Hollister. I love Grey’s Anatomy, and realizing that the illusive Shonda, who isn’t seen much outside of the credit top billing on her weekly show, had a book out on how she made changes that enriched her life and her work, was not a hard sell. I bought the book on tape and started listening as soon as I could find a reason to drive somewhere.

And, I got to read in this marvelous, vulnerable, let-it-all-hang-out-there-however-embarrassing book, about a person who is more than the creator of one of my favorite shows, but also my long-lost sister from parents that should have been mine. So many lessons, so little filter, so many gifts. There is a chapter about eating which has just enough insight to change my eating habits from this day forth. There is a chapter on #FriendsNotFriends that illuminates how saying goodbye to the toxic relationships of the past, however much longevity warrants them staying, will enable you to better your life. There is a chapter on being a mom which lifted the guilt load we mothers walk with on our shoulders by ten-fold. The fuzziness around the words “yes” and “no” are clarified and now I think I can use them the way they should be used. Need I go on?

But I save one paragraph for her most important lesson. Owning our own fabulousness. Honestly. Proudly. Wow. I, who have been told by clients that I can’t take a compliment, will change what I say when someone gives me one moving forward. I can’t wait.

I am going to say this is the best self-help book ever written that just happens to not be written like a self-help book. Oh happy day! 30-second dance party!

Because amidst the life lessons are tidbits about the Grey’s characters, story lines and plot twists that show us how Shonda works through it all. Her relationship to marriage and Cristina Yang’s missing eyebrows come to mind. The post-it note wedding vows. Avery’s wedding interruptous protest that stopped April’s wedding to the #PerfectNotPerfect guy. Shonda doesn’t want to get married. (Or maybe she does and doth protest too much, I’m not sure.) What the book does is show that the characters of Grey’s are living the life that helps Shonda get to figure out her life and now I feel that it’s all the richer. I get the relationship of a creator of a television show to the plot of the show, and now I will pay closer attention to the creators and the writers and recognize that that the great opening line in Peter Matthiessen’s book, Men’s Lives, which has always haunted me, now makes sense, “It’s men’s lives we eat for breakfast.” You have no idea about the personal life of the people behind what we consume in any form. The man who fills the cereal boxes. The woman who designed that pair of Not My Daughter’s Jeans. Grey’s Anatomy. What we watch on television reflects someone’s real life, or their wished-for life, or something about them for real, and that makes it all the better.

Lest you think I think my new best friend Shonda is perfect in every way and therefore I’m a jerk of huge proportions, there were things about her writing style that I hope she leaves out of the next book she writes. Like all the talk about us, the readers, judging her, or rather, not judging her. Just tell the story, Shonda, and practice what it preaches about not caring what people think.

I can also see that Shonda’s book would make a great series:  Shonda. It’s about a woman who is rising in a man’s industry, changing the world and facing all kinds of things. I think it would surpass Grey’s greatness and I think she should do it. Leave that cloak and dagger stuff of How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal and now The Catch behind, come out in the open and do Shonda, the sequel to Grey’s for a woman who just gave me the gift-of-a-lifetime in 311 pages.

See our Reading Guide for Year of Yes.



Christine Merser
A writer by night and a marketing guru by day, Christine reviews women-in-business books. She is also the author of Freesia Lane, voted one of the ten best women’s blogs, where her candor, wit, and insight come together around all things women.

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