Book Review: Year Of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Year Of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

AUTHOR: Shonda Rhimes.

BOOK TITLE: Year Of Yes: How To Dance It Out, Stand In The Sun And Be Your Own Person.

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster.

RELEASE DATE: November 2015.

LENGTH: 336 Pages.


With audacity stemming from the cumulative number of memoirs I have so far read, I can say that the bulk of them are merely fun and unnecessarily expository at their core. Some strive to be more, maybe striving a little too much, and end up losing it in the process. Few memoirs, however, successfully achieve that balance of being fun and being more at the same time without forcing it. One of such memoirs is Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

The memoir, Year of Yes, focuses on a particularly eventful year in Shonda’s life. Detailing events that, for their private nature, we never would have found out about had the writer not shared. The decision that led to these events was sparked by a simple and sincere remark from her elder sister.  A remark which Shonda initially considered to be snide and took offense to.

After being told by her sister “You never say yes to anything.” Shonda made up her mind to set out on a journey of saying yes as much as possible. Deciding it was time to start doing something different for a change. Braving the uncertainty of where this decision would eventually lead up to, Shonda Rhimes chose and stuck with saying yes. This basically explains the reason behind her title she chose for the memoir, Year of Yes. Simply put, a year of saying yes.

The memoir documents events as they transpire in the span of the subsequent year following Shonda’s new resolve. Detailing how saying yes more often made Shonda into a better version of herself. A version she, prior to this experience, was not aware of.  A version she enjoyed discovering. And, most importantly, a version she easily felt comfortable with and ended up loving.

To be completely honest, my major motivation for reading Year Of Yes was to discover more about writing for television. There wasn’t really more than that at the back of my mind at the point of picking the memoir up. I was mostly expecting Shonda to touch on how she has achieved her many successes. Also, I was expecting her to share some practical tips and practices that have ensured her continued success in television. I would love to say that my expectations, which in hindsight were slightly myopic, were at that time highly justifiable. I mean, what would you have had me expect as the recurring theme in a renowned television writer’s memoir?  But, as I would later find out, I had all the wrong expectations. Even though the memoir occasionally bordered on writing, Shonda Rhimes offered more in Year Of Yes.

It is, needless to say, a thing of joy to read a work of art and be able to relate to it. Reading a book and feeling so strong and so deep a connection is bliss. The bliss described here was what I experienced whilst reading Shonda Rhimes’, Year Of Yes. I connected with Shonda Rhimes’ story on so many levels. Sometimes, it almost felt as if I was looking in a mirror and seeing my own reflection as I read.  Maybe it was because just like Shonda Rhimes, I write primarily for the visual medium. Or, maybe it was due to my discovering that we both suffer from being chronic introverts. Whatever the reason, I would forever cherish this writer-reader bond that this memoir birthed between Shonda Rhimes and myself.

Year of Yes, is a beautifully written memoir. It is the type that leaves you with the urge to immediately start work on yours. Year of Yes excels on many fronts, Shonda’s clear and concise writing style being one of those.  The perceived candor is another strong point of the memoir – even though Shonda opens by calling herself a liar. The memoir is both whimsical and motivational. Worthy of note, however, is how everything was done in appropriate proportion. The memoir was not inordinately humorous to the point of becoming watery and annoyingly ludic. Neither was it excessively formal to the point of becoming boring and not enjoyable. Shonda did a good job of maintaining a perfect balance between fun and seriousness for the course of the memoir.

The interesting thing was how obvious it was that Shonda wasn’t struggling to be motivational with the memoir. She simply focused on telling her story as best as she could. And thank God she did, as it turned out her story already had it in it to be motivational. The subtleness of the motivational aspects of the memoir makes it even more acceptable. That it isn’t overly preachy and disgustingly up-in-your-face works so well in its favor. Maybe, if motivational writers would adopt this style of writing, striking a fun/seriousness balance, motivational books would become fun to read.

Own your successes. Believe in your gifts and innate abilities. Be dauntless about your dreams and aspirations. Don’t let life pass you by, live it consciously. Don’t leave to chance the things you have control over. It’s okay to be afraid, but it’s not okay to be crippled by your fears. These and many more are some of the lessons I got as takeaways from reading this memoir by Shonda Rhimes. In the end, compared to what my expectations were, I learnt nothing substantial about writing for television. Come to think of it, I am not sure I learnt anything about writing at all. But, even at that, I cannot complain. Shonda Rhimes makes up for all my unmet expectations with the goodness that Year of Yes turned out to be.

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