Gabrielle Union book cover
HarperCollins

"We're Going to Need More Wine" by Gabrielle Union, HarperCollins, 272 pages, $26.99

Before Gabrielle Union became Mary Jane Paul, star of the hit show “Being Mary Jane,” she was Nickie Union from Omaha -- a member of the largest African-American extended family in Nebraska. "We’re Going to Need More Wine" is Union’s candid memoir of self-actualization as a black woman in white America, and the only book ever written where Nebraska is the epicenter of diversity.

Union grew up in Pleasanton, Calilfornia, where she was one of only a few black students in her high school, but spent her summer vacations with her grandmother and cousins in North Omaha where the neighborhood was “its own world, without white people.”

Her identity with her family in Omaha was always at odds with the expectations of assimilation at home. “Between Pleasanton and Omaha, I was caught in a dual consciousness: who I had to be when I was around my own people and who I had to be in high school … ‘Two warring ideals in one dark body,’ as Du Bois wrote; the dark body of a young girl.”

Union confronts the warring ideals within her family, white suburbia, Hollywood and American culture to illuminate the conflicting expectations inherent for black women in a white world. In facing these injustices, Union embraces her value and worth as a black woman.

Empowered by her hard-earned confidence, Union tells all in this unfiltered account of her personal life. From her early exposure to drugs, gangs and violence to her eventual success in Hollywood, Union shares deeply personal anecdotes of family and community, love and loss, power and fame.

With her life-experiences and sympathetic perspective, Union is wise beyond her vintage. "We’re Going to Need More Wine" is a robust and full-bodied memoir, with notes of honesty and humor; it is an easy reading varietal with a satisfying finish.

Erin Willis is curator of the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors at Bennett Martin Library.

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