When Gabrielle Union released her first memoir, The New York Times bestseller “We’re Going to Need More Wine,” in 2017, she had no intentions of writing a follow-up.
“I left it on the table,” she says, before adding that she put everything out there that she was ready to talk about — and that there was a lot, she’s since realized, that she wasn’t yet ready to reveal publicly.
In the following four years, the actress became a mother, after writing about her fertility struggles in the first book; gone to intensive therapy twice a week, and continued her journey of healing and understanding in a way that indicated to her she wasn’t done just yet.
What came from that is a second book, “You Got Anything Stronger?”, which is a new set of essays out now that continue to offer vulnerability to a robust community Union has created over the years.
“Once I released the book and went on the book tour, and [saw that] sharing my truth created community, [I was like] what the hell am I afraid of?’” Union says. “I had to do a lot of evolving and healing. And so that freed me up to revisit some of those chapters and then add in a ton more that’s happened in the last four years, but I’m just ready to talk about all of it. In ‘We’re Going to Need More Wine’ I was very nervous — I mean, I’m still nervous, but not in the same way.”
Here, Union talks about the two books, the pandemic and the community she’s built.
WWD: What are some differences you see in yourself between the two books?
Gabrielle Union: In “We’re Going to Need More Wine,” I was afraid of what the honesty would bring. I was afraid of what being vulnerable would open me up to. But now I’m very much “f–k it.” That’s [what happens] when you’re healing, and you’ve evolved to a point where you’re disinvested in a lot of those systems that trap us as women, and certainly as women of color, in little tiny boxes. When you begin to divest from those, and then you’re, like, “Oh s–t, I’m free. And who can I be? Who could I have been without this s–t? F–k, I’m free.” And some of that does come with privilege for sure, because I’m only falling so far because I’ve been insulated with my privilege, my husband’s privilege, but also I realized that radical transparency breeds community and lying or being cagey breeds, isolation. I’m not interested in that; we’re all out here feeling like we’re drowning in plain sight and that people are walking by us with life preservers on. When you survive something and you don’t share it even with your group of friends or you write it in your own diary, you’re cheating yourself from connecting.
WWD: You wrote the book during the pandemic; what was the experience like of doing the very personal work you were doing within the scope of the world’s events?
G.U.: It felt like freedom. It felt like I was slowly unlocking little chains that had been holding me in place, but I just had the time because we were all trapped in one place for the most part. I was able to gain a lot of perspective and also to look at certain people and situations more reasonably. I had the opportunity to be more fair in looking at my contributions to certain things and be less comfortable with placing myself in a position of being a victim.…Then you just see monumental shifts, because you have the time to actually work on yourself.
WWD: What is the community of women that has formed since the first book came out like?
G.U.: I used to be [able to tell] if somebody came up to me, and I’d be, like, “OK, ‘Bring It On.'” You can kind of tell what they’re a fan of. But once the book came out, it expanded the community, it expanded the village. And so many women took different parts. And just the things that people share. For a lot of people, it was the first time they articulated the harm and the trauma that they’ve experienced; granted, I’m a perfect stranger that they would probably never see again, but they got it out. You know what I mean? And that has been going on since “We’re Going to Need More Wine” came out and it’s just been a dramatic shift. The depth of what we’re talking about versus just more superficial things or just being a fan of my acting stuff [has shifted]. Now, we’re all seeing each other just differently and as humans, not like I’m some weird otherworldly thing that only exists on social media or in a magazine. We’re all in the same gang. I have enough money and resources to kind of mask certain things, but it doesn’t stop the harm, it doesn’t stop the trauma. You can’t cheat the hustle, and part of that hustle is healing.
WWD: You write in a very inclusive way, like you’re talking to the reader: “We’re going to need more wine,” “Where did we leave off?” etc. What was the reasoning behind that?
G.U.: I want these books to feel like we’re just having conversations. just like right now. When I get together with my friends or I’m at a bar by myself — I spend a lot of time by myself, on location or wherever, and I’m just at the bar having a cocktail and somebody comes and sits next to me — it’s kind of how those conversations go. I wanted it to feel normal. You don’t use all your SAT words in casual conversation, I wasn’t trying to write the “Iliad,” but I wanted to be able to express myself in a way that I speak. It’s funny because your editors are, like, “Did you mean to put ‘ass’ right here?” I’m, like, “Yeah, like cool ass, bomb ass, that’s how I talk so that’s what I meant to say. Ass goes right there.”
WWD: Do you see yourself writing a third book?
G.U.: I don’t know. We’ll see what happens to me in the next few years, if there’s some big things that I feel like I should cover. For sure more children’s books; there’ll be more “Shady Baby” books, as we’re in the midst of potty training and [her daughter, Kaavia] is going to school and playing sports and trying new things. She just gives us a bulk of topics to cover and I enjoy doing that with Dwyane [Wade, her husband]. It’s fun for us to do together. Yeah, I don’t know — maybe I’ll write a novel. I feel like I got to live more though. I got to live more and get some more material and see where it goes.