This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare (a mouthful of a title), by Gabourey Sidibe is a pretty breezy read. In fact, it’s an extremely breezy read, and I was able to read it in not much more than a single part of an evening. However, this is not a knock against the book. Sidibe has style to spare, and more than one celebrity memoir (I’m thinking of a particular little book from the Holiday season last year), don’t actually reveal very much about the author. Look, it’s not like each book has to be a confessional in which a well-known person pours his or her heart into the book, but a glimpse behind the curtain is usually very welcome.
In fact, the appearance of the name Lena Dunham in the book (and on the back cover, which I only discovered afterwards), provides a bit of a clue for how Sidibe might have classified her book versus how it played out. Lena Dunham’s book was quite dishy and despite coming under fire for reasons I still think were kind of unfair, managed to balance style and readability, distance and disclosure. In a perfect world, Sidibe’s accounts would be the equaivalent of Dunham’s and quite frankly, they’re not.
I don’t usually read the acknowledgements section closely, but one such anecdote did stop me in my tracks, which is when Sidibe revealed that a helpful editor often turned three stories into one story, or something of the like. I wish that the editor had kept going, because there are too many sections that feel like drafts. In terms of Twitter, which Sidibe mentions quite a lot, this style works well (a section offers some unpublished tweets, which were genuinely funny).
But again to use Dunham as an example, she closed off her Twitter not long after publishing her book, and Sidibe’s all over the place stream of consciousness likely fares better in 140 characters or fewer. It’s not lacking for material, as the book both starts and concludes with Sidibe’s big break in Precious, a section on reading IMDB comments is heartbreaking, and her experiences at a phone sex line offer genuine intrigue. But there’s just no unifying device to tie it all together. Quotes and aphorisms to start each chapter are a start, though there’s revealing, and then there’s oversharing. While the book does not constitute an overshare, a lack of cohesion makes it feel like it does.
This is just my face: Try not to stare was provided by Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review. It may be purchased from your friendly independent bookseller or other fine bookstores.