Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Better Than Alright (BOOK REVIEW)

Better Than Alright:
Finding Peace, Love & Power
by Ledisi  
Essence Books
Hardcover, $16.95
176 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-60320-182-7
Book Review by Kam Williams

“I can’t believe someone found my journey interesting enough to want to put it in a book…Being on display as an artist is never comfortable for me. 
Behind my songs and my words lies a very shy little girl who has become a strong woman. Luckily, there are people around me who push and lift me to be open and transparent…
So here I am, and in every chapter of this book are fragments of my life between the lines and spaces of music. Pivotal moments that are filled with ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. Experiences that shaped the woman and singer you have come to know as Ledisi…
I hope you will be inspired by my journey.”
-- Excerpted from Chapter One – The Journey (pg. 7)

            In recent years, hip-hop icons from Eminem (The Way I Am) to Jay-Z (“Decoded) have written memoirs in which they ruminate about their private lives while deconstructing the deeper meaning of their poetry and song lyrics. R&B diva Ledisi is the latest star to take just such an approach in terms of an autobiography.
            Ledisi Anibade Young was born in New Orleans on July 9, 1978 to Nyra Dynese and Larry Sanders, a musician who abandoned the family when his daughter was still an infant. The name Ledisi, which means “to bring forth” in Yoruba, was picked because of the spunk she exhibited during her valiant struggle to survive a host of life-threatening ailments as a premature baby.
            In the book, Ledisi lets us know that she admires First Lady Michelle Obama (“I love her!”), Nina Simone (“Reminded me to be proud of my skin”), Malcolm X (“A class act”) and Miles Davis (“My muse”). However, she credits another role model, her beloved Aunt Gussie, a choir member who only performed for the Lord, with helping her cultivate that soulful singing voice, a blessing she had to learn the hard way not to take for granted.
            Overall, Ledisi paints a stylish self-portrait, here, via a vibrant mix of artistically-illustrated rhymes, proverbs, photographs, personal anecdotes and introspective journal entries. Wearing her heart on her sleeve, the unguarded author tackles such subjects as love, forgiveness and faith with an enviable vulnerability.
            For example, in the chapter on Beauty, she suggests that “When you don’t know how beautiful you are, you will always be in search of happiness.” By opus’ end, expect to feel oh so nurtured by the practical pearls of wisdom reflecting the essence of the insightful and likable lady who goes by Ledisi.
            And that’s better than alright.

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