Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

by Shonda Rhimes

Paperback, 2016




Simon & Schuster (2016), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Performing Arts. Self-Improvement. Nonfiction. HTML:The instant New York Times bestseller from the creator of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder shares how saying YES changed her life. "As fun to read as Rhimes's TV series are to watch" (Los Angeles Times). She's the creator and producer of some of the most groundbreaking and audacious shows on television today. Her iconic characters live boldly and speak their minds. So who would suspect that Shonda Rhimes is an introvert? That she hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances? That she suffered panic attacks before media interviews? With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for Shonda to say she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. And then, over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her. This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda's life before her Year of Yes??from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun??when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes. "Honest, raw, and revelatory" (The Washington Post), this wildly candid and compulsively readable book reveals how the mega talented Shonda Rhimes finally achieved badassery worthy of a Shondaland character. Best of all, she "can help motivate even the most determined homebody to get out and try something new" (Chicago Tribune… (more)

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½ (252 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jellyfishjones
Witty, insightful, and often thought provoking. A quick, fun read, but with substance. I knew very little of Shonda Rhimes and had never watched any of her TV shows, but decided to pick this up after catching part of an NPR interview she did The good news is you don't have to know anything about
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her previous work to enjoy and learn something from this book.
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LibraryThing member BookBarmy

I'm not usually one for "self help" books - especially celebrity ones. Still, one day, when I turned on NPR, Ms. Rhimes was being interviewed about her new book, Year of Yes. I was suddenly in rapt attention. She was witty, smart-mouthed, exceedingly down-to-earth and wow - a woman of color, and a
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driving force in the male-dominated world of network television.

Later that day, as a treat after teeth cleaning, I ducked into a favorite bookstore in the Marina and picked up Year Of Yes, certain it wouldn't be for me, but 20 pages later, laughing out loud in the aisle, I had to buy it.

Shonda Rhimes is the creator and producer of Thursday night network television - Greys Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. She claims she merely "makes stuff up for living" - which has made her a highly-respected television mogul and a multi-millionaire.

Although I was a fan of Grey's Anatomy (until Sandra Oh left), I've never watched any of her other hit series. But I've always admired that all her shows feature characters whom reflect what she calls normalcy - all races, ages, sizes, sexual orientation and backgrounds. Creating and producing these ground breaking dramas we find out took guts, perseverance and some major rule breaking. No gentle "lean-in" for Ms. Rhimes -- she kicked down doors, stereotypes, racism, sexism, and a few butts along the way -- all in order to get her ground breaking, vibrantly diverse shows on air.

This part self-help - but mostly memoir reveals that as strong as Ms. Rhimes was at work, internally she was a shy introvert, was most comfortable writing alone in mismatched pajamas and wished to remain very far removed from the typical Hollywood hype.

"When I first got a publicist, I told him and his team that my main reason for having a publicist was so that I never ever had to do any publicity. Everyone thought this was a joke, I was not joking."

Ms. Rhimes is a highly-educated, hard- working genius, raising three children as a single mom and a sister in a large competitive family - that seemed enough and protected her from having to say yes to things that made her uncomfortable.

Then, one Thanksgiving morning, her older sister angrily mutters that she never says yes to anything --- not to social events, publicity, family affairs, or to having fun. This proved to be a turning point for Ms. Rhimes as she realized her excuse of being too busy with three prime-time television shows and raising her daughters on her own -- was actually a cop-out. Ms. Rhimes began to discover that her “no’s” were preventing her from fully experiencing her life --- trapping her in negativity and isolation.

So begins her scary year of saying yes. Yes to accepting compliments and the help she needs to balance her career with single motherhood and yes, to taking care of herself -- which results in a 100 lb weight loss.

Ms. Rhimes gives herself permission to answer the question "How do yo do it all?" with the honest answer - she doesn't. She credits and idolizes her live-in nanny, makes no excuses when relying on Costco baked goods for school events (despite the other mothers' home baked offerings) and gives herself permission to unashamedly practice "badassery".

One chapter relates her decision to remain single and the hurt she causes the men she's loved in her life. And to those who ask, she answers that their idea of a happily-ever-after ending is not the same as hers. Again, yes to her life choice(s).

It doesn't mean she doesn't say no...

"No is a powerful word. To me, it's the single most powerful word in the English language. Said clearly, strongly and with enough frequency and force, it can alter the course of history."

Her public calendar becomes full. She revels at sitting next to First Lady Michelle Obama at the Kennedy Center Honors - and realizes that, a year ago, she would have turned down this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

If you google Shondra Rhimes you can watch her interviews and public appearances with Oprah, Jimmy Kimmel, even a commencement address to her alumni at Dartmouth.

But, I believe her best speech is a short one, when she was awarded the Sherry Lansing Award for leadership. Here Ms. Rhimes credits the many, many women who came before, those who actually broke the glass ceiling so that women in the last 20 years could be successful. Recommended viewing (just Google Rhimes Sherry Lansing Award).

Trust me, Year of Yes is not a fluffy celebrity memoir with advice thrown in, Ms. Rhimes doesn't preach or condescend. She touts a mean work ethic and her message is; you've just got to do it -- the impossibly difficult, soul-breaking work; you can't (and won't) be able to do everything; you will make sacrifices; you'll make mistakes - but no matter what, you continue to do the hard work.

Year of Yes is a quick read, it's funny and down-to-earth, but don't sell it short - within its short pages are the thought-provoking life lessons learned by a woman overcoming her fears, succeeding on her own terms and being comfortable with all of it. She ends the book with this:

"I am different. I am original. And like everyone else, I am here to take up space in the universe. I do so with pride."

See all my book reviews at
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LibraryThing member melissarochelle
Shonda Rhimes writes like she's sitting around chatting with a friend. However, she's also really repetitive. Yes, this book is filled with wonderful advice, inspiring personal stories, and is incredibly relatable. Wonderful. Inspiring. Relatable.

Wonderful. Inspiring. Relatable.

Should I say that
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one more time?

Despite the repetition, it's a fun, quick read.
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LibraryThing member marcejewels
From my blog

I have been a huge fan of Grey's Anatomy from the beginning and continue to be. I watched a little of Private Practice but that isn't a miss even though I loved Addison as an actress. Scandal became my new love but the way the season ended in November, I have no interest in continuing
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and I had made a decision not to even start with How to Get Away with Murder. So over all, I'm a Grey's fan. This is not my kind of book but I downloaded the sample and was laughing, became engaged and had to read it. I'm glad I did, very fun book.

Shonda is a successful female but she is an introvert. I am not like Shonda but I was able to appreciate her story and laugh at her or with her. I thought she did a great job on balancing, allowing us in but not with the details of to much personal. Her ride to die friend, who is also badass is Christina Yang, not Sandra Oh the real person but Christina. I loved everything about Christina, she could do no wrong and Shonda wrote her in order to have someone on her side. The parts of Christina in the book were my favourite, I understood.

I won't go into it but the way Shonda ended the season of Scandal, uggggh, I had anger for a few days until I finally told myself to get over it but getting over it means giving up on Scandal, I'm done. Shonda definitely showed herself in Year of Yes and it explains the decision on why she decided to end the way she did. I still don't agree and hate that story line and will continue to feel like Liv could have had it all in Liv's way, the Gladiator way, the unmarried but still with the man she loved way. ANGRY..... I will accept it as I have no other choice but i'm done, I'm glad Shonda found her way of saying Yes and eventually No also. This worked for her and she creates the story lines, so it is what it is.

So many debatable topics, the stay at home mom which should not be in the category of work. She hates the word diversity, her word is normalizing, she says "I'm normalizing TV. The dancing Meredith and Christina did is a way of living for Shonda, sweet moments. Sharing some of her speeches, all had inspiring moments, I appreciated this being shared. All these areas were favourites of mine in the book,

I think there will be a few that hates this book but I think that would be the category of thinking celebrities are not real people. Shonda showed us who she is and writing was what she loved, the pretend world. The speeches, social media, events etc came during her Year of Yes which she acknowledges change, she is not perfect. In my head now, she is laugh out loud hilarious, she had me crying at times. I would love to go to a games night with her. It is not a game to her, she actually is not allowed to host or be invited to games anymore due to her inappropriate intensity. We all have that 1 friend, dancing and saying "IN YOUR FACE, BITCHES!!!" I seriously was cracking up.

I was happy to see the inside of a celebrity from their point of view. I found it light, fun, badassary (Shonda added this to her Dictionary as a new word). I was a Grey's Anatomy fan but now I can say I'm a Shonda fan.

The Year of Yes can be very inspiring for some, and it all started with her sister saying "You never say yes to anything." It was a great fun read for me, this was more about Shonda, her own personal challenge then a book about inspiring us.


That's my superpower - telling good stories. Smooth stories. Funny stories. Epic stories. Kindle 9%

With the empty whiteboard of an episode before me, I slip into a zone of calm confidence. I feel the hum. Making television for me is.....blissful. Kindle 45%

A Favourite Quote, great debate this would start

I find it offensive to motherhood to call being a mother a job.
Being a mother isn't a job.
It's who someone is.
It's who I am.
You can quit a job. I can't quit being a mother. Kindle 36%
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LibraryThing member Jenson_AKA_DL
An autobiography by the producer/writer of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal". Although I don't watch any of the shows Shonda works on, her book was recommended and loaned to me by my boss. I found the writing to be engaging and easy to read. It kept me interested and I enjoyed it. Even though I can
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see where she certainly comes off a little egocentric (and much more outgoing, even prior to her "Year of Yes", than she assumed herself to be), I could still identify with much of what she was saying. As an introvert myself, I know how hard it is to get out there and put yourself in uncomfortable situations where you must deal with people. Also, she has really accomplished quite a lot and broke out of the stereotypical mold many women find themselves in.

My favorite part was probably the description of her parent's marriage. I love the visualization of the ducks imprinting on each other, very sweet!

Overall, I liked the book and would certainly recommend.
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
One Thanksgiving Shonda Rhimes's sister told her that she never says yes to anything. Rhimes mulled that over for awhile and realized her sister was right: she turned down pretty much every opportunity that would have challenged her in new ways or that scared her. She decided that was no way to
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live and embarked on "the year of yes," where she would say yes to everything. The book chronicles that year and explores what Rhimes learned by making it a prerogative to say yes. It's funny and insightful and feminist and body positive, and I enjoyed it a lot. I wouldn't describe it as self-help (there's no plan to follow or anything), but rather inspiring, in a way that feels real and organic rather than Inspiring. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member St.CroixSue
This was a very enjoyable and enlightening book about a year in the life of the uber-successful Shonda Rimes, the well-known script writer of Gray’s Anatomy, producer and head of the production company Shondaland. She was an expert at declining invitations, but vowed to spend a year saying
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‘Yes’ to everything. Funny, entertaining, and candid with lots of take-aways
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LibraryThing member Course8
The author, Shonda Rhimes, is clearly in the genius category. Anyone who can have long-running, concurrent Thursday-night prime time shows is not your typical writer. This book is inspirational in the approach to Saying Yes as a way to engage more successfully with life. Her life seemed pretty full
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even before she embarked on the Year of Saying Yes. Her three writing jobs and her three children, plus extended family life seem to be quite enough to fill all the available hours. Yet, by saying Yes, she extends the joy and learns much more about herself. I appreciate that the author was also able to discern when it was appropriate to say No. I found the conversational writing style irritating and repetitive.
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LibraryThing member DKnight0918
Very inspiring!
LibraryThing member Alie
I didn't know much about Shonda, other than she's created some of my favorite shows, but after reading her book, I just adore her! She gives a lot of insight and encouragement for the reader to be confident, proud of their accomplishments, and say 'yes' to enjoying life by sharing her own journey.
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Her book is often funny, and very enjoyable. I'm glad I read it.
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
I am not a fan of personal growth books, but I am a fan of Grey's Anatomy. And now, I am an even bigger fan of Shonda Rhimes. This is a fantastic look at how our fears and insecurities can hold us back from saying 'yes' to opportunities and experiences. And also, how those same fears and
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insecurities keep us from saying 'No' when we really don't want to do some things. Since I've read this book, I've passed on copies to 3 friends. It's definitely the type of book that would be a perfect book discussion among a group of women. Life changing and eye opening.
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LibraryThing member Jewel.Barnett
Shonda Rhimes is an amazing talent and person inside and out. We are definitely friends in my head. I read this book four times before I put it down because it has so much wisdom in it. If you want to change your life for the better, pick up this book and just start saying yes.
LibraryThing member Kiddboyblue
This memoir was inspiring, funny, heartfelt, and honest. Just to name a few attributes, though there are plenty more.
I think that Shonda really let down her guard in this one and allowed herself to be truly vulnerable, which was important for the memoir to work. She accomplished this, and in turn,
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I fell in love with her. I fell in love with her spirit, her awkwardness, her sass.
Even if you have no idea who Shonda Rhimes is, or maybe don't even watch her shows, this book is beyond all that, and I feel anyone could enjoy. It comes off almost as a self help book without truly trying to be preachy or...self helpish. You can get inspired by Rhimes' approach to a year of yes, and inspired by the outcome. You can get inspired in your own life by reading what can happen when you simply begin saying yes to things.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves Shonda's TV shows, but beyond that, I recommend it to anyone who may feel like they are in a slump or a time of their life where the motivation isn't there. This can serve to show you that sometimes one simple word can change everything.
Simply put, Inspiring!
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LibraryThing member startwithgivens
I was so moved by this book I cannot even put it into words. As an avid fan of Grey's Anatomy, so many of the words I read and stories Shonda Rhimes was gracious enough to share put so many things into perspective for me. I loved it!
LibraryThing member jmoncton
I am not a fan of personal growth books, but I am a fan of Grey's Anatomy. And now, I am an even bigger fan of Shonda Rhimes. This is a fantastic look at how our fears and insecurities can hold us back from saying 'yes' to opportunities and experiences. And also, how those same fears and
Show More
insecurities keep us from saying 'No' when we really don't want to do some things. Since I've read this book, I've passed on copies to 3 friends. It's definitely the type of book that would be a perfect book discussion among a group of women. Life changing and eye opening.
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LibraryThing member karenvg3
Don't just stand like Wonder Woman, be Wonder Woman. I loved this book. It made me laugh, cry, break out in goose bumps, and really take a look inside of this introvert. I listened to the audiobook and don't think I would have enjoyed it as much had I read the book. Being able to hear her actual
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speeches was amazing.
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LibraryThing member Bricker
This is a fun, witty and inspiring book. She is self-deprecating(although she specifically says she isn't) and honest in the best possible way. Part memoir and part self-help book, but minus the holier than thou undertone. Just Shonda explaining how, and why, she was unhappy with her life and the
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steps she took to try and rectify the situation.
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LibraryThing member ASKelmore
I’ve seen every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve stuck with it through LVAD wire cuts, Dead Denny visions, the Seattle Grace / Mercy Death merger, plane crashes, bombs, active shooters, you name it. I’ve stuck with it (and almost always enjoyed it) even when she takes extreme dramatic
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license with the details of how catastrophic emergency response in Seattle would work. (Side note: Shonda, feel free to call me if you’d like to talk about how a mass fatality would be handled in this city that I love.)

Between Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, Shonda Rhimes has created worlds that may not act like ours most of the time (thank goodness), but that actually look like ours. Not everyone is white. Or a dude. Or straight. Or cis. Not everyone wants to get married, or have kids. Her worlds are awesome.

It makes sense, then, that she would be able to write a compelling memoir / personal growth book.
The year (actually 18 months) of yes started with a flippant remark her sister made, about how Ms. Rhimes was always turning down invitations and pretty much just staying at home when she wasn’t working. After realizing this was a frighteningly accurate description of her life, she decided she would say yes to all invitations. She’d give a commencement address. She’d agree to be interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel.

That might seem to be a bit hard to relate to if you aren’t currently fending off invites to the Vanity Fair Academy Awards after-party, but I got it. Yes, she’s extraordinarily successful in her career, but that doesn’t guarantee happiness. So she started saying yes in other ways, like yes to ridding herself of toxic relationships. And yes to herself, in the form of taking better care of her health. I found what she had to say interesting and compelling, and pretty darn motivating.

I listened to the audio version, which is read by Ms. Rhimes. With the audio book comes the inclusion of three talks she gave as recorded at the events, which was a really cool idea. Hearing her actual address to Dartmouth grads (instead of reading the words) gave them more life, in my mind.
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LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
Read this for my book club, and while the writing is not my style, the stories challenged me to think about saying yes to more good things in my life. I suspect this would be better as an audiobook. 3.5 stars.
LibraryThing member LibroLindsay
Holy cow, that was good in so many ways. I had initially just picked it up because I heard the audio (read by Rhimes) was great--I'm finding lately that I'm becoming increasingly inclined to check out an audiobook for its reader alone and not necessarily the story...weird. Anyway, it quickly turned
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into this mega personal moment, being so perfectly timed on the verge of graduating with this second >> Master's degree and maybe finally having all the free time that I never had during my 20s along with desperately not wanting to let myself fall into the hermetic life I got used to by necessity for earning a SECOND GD MASTER'S DEGREE while working full-time. Whew. Yeah so.

It really got under my skin. I could totally relate in just about everything she said, and BOY HOWDY! was I so, so, so, so relieved to finally hear a woman talk comfortably and assertively about the choice not to live with/marry her partner. I have never heard that from a woman, and I really, really needed to. I made a list a couple days ago of all the wonderful things I look forward to saying yes to once this last class is over (end of July!), things that will make my life a whole lot more fun and, more importantly, make me a better human being (hopefully). Long and short, it was a great pick-me-up without actually feeling like a self-help book...which it isn't. It's about HER, not you. (Oh yeah! I only ever watched maybe the first season of Grey's Anatomy waaaay back when it first aired...maybe if I ever feel like watching TV again, I'll start with Shondaland.)
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LibraryThing member dcoward
I really enjoyed this novel. Shonda Rhimes had incredible professional success, but found that she was shutting out most of the world outside of her tv show and her children. Some of her changes during her "year of yes" really resonated with me.
LibraryThing member eraderneely
Turns out that I love TV writers talking about themselves. Mindy Kaling, now Shonda Rhimes...TV writers are my kind of people.
If you write for TV - assemble a memoir, narrate the audiobook, and just send it my way.
LibraryThing member readingover50
I have never watched Grey's Anatomy or Scandal, but I have heard of Shonda Rhimes. It is hard not to these days. I wanted to read this book because I like the idea of it. A year of saying yes to opportunities that come your way. I feel like I say no to a lot of things, and wish I was brave enough
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to change. I was hoping this book would help inspire me along the way.

I enjoyed learning about Shonda's life, both personal and professional. It is always interesting to see how a super successful person thinks. Shonda does enjoy an incredible support system and has opportunities that most people don't have but an introverted person in this position can feel the same was as an average introverted person. Sometimes it is hard to say yes and get out of the house.

The book was interesting, but the writing felt very redundant. She repeats herself constantly. The speeches that she published in the book were hard to read. I found them very boring. Maybe if you were in the audience listening to her, they would have been good, but I found them to be very rambling. For me, this book was ok, but nothing super exciting.
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LibraryThing member amandanan
Marking this abandoned since I have really no desire to finish it. Loyal Shondaland follower, but she just doesn't get personal enough. I feel like most of this could be found out via the Internet.
LibraryThing member bbbbecky13
I really enjoyed this book. A lot.

But Shonda Rhimes uses this weird sentence construction all the time. That thing where a person starts a sentence with a question when it really shouldn't be a question.

Let me give you some examples from Shonda herself.

"My mother? Looks incredible."
"And that
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yes? Turned out to be something much more terrifying."

I could keep going. I really could. I counted as I read, and she did it 69 times. But you get the idea.

She also says the kind of things that drive me crazy:

"Am I kidding me?"
"I give good story."
"I had to drink about it."

I don't know why it drives me crazy, but it does.

But despite all of that, I really liked this book. Rhimes is a wildly successful woman who shares the same insecurities and worries as everybody else. Her decision to say yes to everything that scared her was terrifying for her, but she did it anyway, because she wanted to grow.

I love that she was open about her weight, and her nervousness during interviews. I love that she admitted to using "Athlete Talk." I love that she wasn't satisfied where she was - even after "owning Thursday nights" - and she did what she needed to do to improve herself and her life, because she wanted to.

And if I can ignore that writing style that reads like nails on a chalkboard to me, because I just can't stop reading? Then it's a good book.
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Audie Award (Finalist — Audiobook of the Year — 2017)
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Nominee — Biography/Autobiography — 2016)


Original language


Physical description

8.38 inches


1476777128 / 9781476777122
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