I first really noticed Tiffany Haddish when I saw a clip of her on Drunk History talking about the story the Monuments Men is based on. If you haven’t seen it, take a look cause it’s pretty entertaining. Her book, The Last Black Unicorn, is more than that, though. It’s also inspirational and heartbreaking and unique.
She was on a bunch of talk shows promoting this book (see here for a clip of her talking about treating Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith to a Groupon tour), and when I found out about it, it jumped to the top of my to-be-read list. I’d been struggling through a lengthy tomb of a novel and frankly needed a break. This little book was a breath of fresh air.
If you’re not familiar, Haddish is an actress and comedian who was recently the breakout star of the movie Girl’s Trip. While she was promoting this book, she hosted SNL, making her the first black female comedian to host SNL (which, let’s face it, is not something that should have waited until 2017).
Here, she writes about her very non-traditional upbringing, growing up in South Los Angeles and her career until now. She opens, for example, with a story about how she was semi-literate up until 9th grade, despite being enrolled in A.P. classes, and how she finally learned to really read and write (mostly due to a crush on a boy named Audie).
If you’ve seen anything with Haddish in it, you know she’s very charismatic and engaging. This book is like that, too. It’s fast and entertaining (and sometimes a little heartbreaking).
Haddish is self-made and had a complicated childhood, including spending time in foster care; her mother suffered a brain injury which resulted in severe behavioral issues, so she wasn’t able to take care of her properly. She’s been abused and homeless and had shitty boyfriends and even shittier guardians. But she found a way to practice her comedy and even made money MC’ing bar mitvahs on weekends.
Her stories are varied — from her experiences dating and with marriage, to doing comedy, to one quick (and very funny) story on joining and subsequently leaving Scientology. Haddish writes plainly about her crazy life experiences:
“When I was in Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, the Channel Two news came, and they did a story on me. But since I was a foster kid, I had to go to the courthouse to get permission to be on television. Since foster kids are technically state property, I couldn’t be on TV without the court’s permission. It’s just like you would have to have your parents’ permission to be on television, I had to have the court’s permission. That was my parents at the time — the state of California.”
The Last Black Unicorn is not literary. Like, at all. The book is written the way she talks, that is to say, slangy and with profanity and whatnot, so if that is going to drive you nuts, maybe it’s not the book for you.
Another caveat I’d mention is that, well, her life is pretty…ratchet for lack of a better word. She deals with some seedy characters. She is imperfect and not politically correct. I love that she seems so unrehearsed (and not in a I’m-having-a-breakdown-so-I’m-going-off-script kind of way), but I guess it depends on what your appetite is for that sort of thing.
Co-writing and Controversy
When I flipped to the last page, I found out that the book was actually co-written by Tucker Max, of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell fame. A very unfortunate discovery, because I hate Tucker Max. He got famous on stories about sleeping with women and treating them as disposable objects, and I don’t care if he has grown as a human or not, I still hate him. I liked this book, but if I’d known beforehand, I probably would have skipped it.
There’s also been questions about the accuracy of the book’s claims now that her ex-husband is denying her allegations of abuse. Haddish posted some videos on Instagram live (click to view) that she thought the content of the book had been “tweaked” by her editors. She also mentioned that she corrected some parts when she was reading it for the audiobook.
From the video: “I ain’t gon’ lie. Some stuff in the book is a little bit… I was like, ‘What?,'” “I don’t know if when they edit, maybe they tweak things a little. So, then, in the audiobook, I‘m like, ‘No, this is what it is.'”
For just the chapter entitled “Ex-Husband” (where she discusses abuse), I listened to the Audible unabridged audiobook version and compared it to the book, but didn’t find any notable differences. So, maybe she corrected some other parts of it, I guess. Feel free to drop a comment if you know of anything that was different in the audiobook versus the printed version.
Read it or Skip it?
Personally, I’m not all that concerned about whether some stuff is exaggerated or not. Even taken with a grain of salt, this book is worth a read if you’re even marginally interested. (I tend to assume that most memoirs are lightly fictionalized anyway. I hope I’m not the only one that assumes this…)
I just don’t think there is too much stuff out there like this. It’s frank, funny and a fast read. I started it late one night and ended up finishing it in that sitting and being all sleepy the next day. Worth it. Even if you don’t love it, I would be surprised if you didn’t at least get something out of it, which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of books out there. If you’re curious at all, give it a shot.
Have you read this book or are you thinking about it? What’d you think?