Bitch is the New Black: A Memoir seems suspiciously like “chick lit” from first glance. The only thing missing is the standard heels and/or shopping bags on the cover.
When I initially picked it up, I fully expected it to be yet another fluff book geared towards a young female audience…
which truth be told, is exactly why I read it.
After recently giving law school the finger (more on that topic some other time), I decided to purge my brain from any and all serious reading material for a solid month straight. I considered it a necessary cleanse for my mental health, and jumped into pleasure reading with a voracity not known since the year a coveted Trapper Keeper was up for a competition prize at my elementary school’s library.
So naturally the last thing I expected was to feel so connected to DC-based author, Helena Andrews’ book. In her collection of short essays, Andrews proves it is possible to be both a woman and a commercially successful author of something beyond chick lit.
Bitch is the New Black is a raw, yet hilarious, look at the life of a young professional female. Andrews’ honesty is what immediately captivates the reader. For example, in one memorable scene Andrews cautions a friend about the dangers of dating sketchy guys by referencing the classic Sally Fields’ film, Not Without My Daughter. Interestingly enough, I forced my college roommate to watch the same film with me after I was 87.9% sure she had married a terrorist while vacationing in Vegas.
But the book’s overall comedic tone can quickly alter to profound sadness and loss. In an early chapter Andrews describes the pain of basically being kidnapped from her lesbian mother by her homophobic extended family. She later describes the pain surrounding a close friend’s suicide.
The book is largely set in DC. But beyond that, it is set in my part of DC. Andrews writes about places in U Street and Bloomingdale. She accurately writes about the trials and tribulations of living in a basement (I say this after living in my own Batcave for a year). And on a selfish note, Natalie and I both come from families of pug owners. So I immediately respected Andrews for her devotion to her black pug, Miles.
Andrews uses contemporary, mainstream slang without context. With her writing, you either get it, or you don’t. And if you get it—it is so refreshing. Now, that’s not to say that only people in their twenties to mid-thirties would enjoy Bitch is the New Black. Andrews has written for The New York Times and The Washington Post. Her writing skills are not up for debate. I’m just saying that if you are older than thirty-five you might have to look up her usage of the word “haterade” in Urban Dictionary.
So if you are 1) looking for a good summer read 2) enjoy telling people smugly that you read the book before seeing the film adaptation, and 3) aren’t an easily offended white person, hurry and pick up Bitch is the New Black: A Memoir. You’ll probably find it next to all the shoe books—but don’t be fooled.