Sunday, October 20, 2019

Review: The Pretty One by Keah Brown


After months of waiting with anticipation, I finally had the pleasure of reading Keah Brown's book debut: The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability and Other Reasons to Fall in Love With Me.  While not all the essays resonated with me, I'm going to focus on the ones that did.  The ones that made me go: "People need to read this right dang now!"

LOVE YOU, MEAN IT: As a twin myself, it's a rare day when I get to read about the uniqueness that is the twin relationship.  While my relationship with Tara is very different than Keah's with Leah, I found myself feeling so much fondness reading this essay.  Keah's connection to Mary-Kate and Ashley mirrored our own and when Tia and Tamera Mowry appeared in Sister, Sister, we watched every week, thrilled to see another set of twins, even closer to our own age - and who both got to appear on screen at one time!

IS THIS THING ON?: This essay might be my favorite in the entire book.  Keah pulls no punches in discussing her identity as a Black disabled woman.  She discusses disability history and problematic euphemisms around disability. This is the essay, more than any other, that made me feel like things are changing in the publishing world.  Though I've seen a lot of these sentiments articulated online, I've not yet seen them published a book like this.  Read this dang essay.  (Better, read the whole dang book.)

YOU CAN'T CURE ME, I PROMISE IT'S FINE: I related painfully well to Keah's essay on church and its teachings on disability.  On just how harmful they can be to people with disabilities just trying to grow their faith and relationship with God.

FREEDOM OF A PONYTAIL: This was the only essay in Keah's book that I'd read previously, and I loved it just as much as I did the first time I read it.  Because in many ways, it mirrored my own struggle in my mid-twenties, trying to figure out how to put my own hair in a ponytail and having nowhere to look for guidance.  (My younger cousin finally taught me by sitting on my lap and reaching behind my head to put a ponytail in my hair, and letting me hand-over-hand it with him.)

And finally, this excerpt of CRY, BABY, CRY blew my mind:  "My family understood that three surgeries at once was a lot for a young girl, or anyone, to take on." (The Pretty One, pg 188)

Reading that passage made me think seriously about my own history with surgeries, the issue of consent and the vital part family support plays.  While my experience does not mirror Keah's own, it's a mark of good writing when a piece can make you realize something for the first time, or completely reframe something from your own past.

I love that this was the very first book I've ever read by someone like me.

I hope to read so much more by Keah Brown.

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