Thursday, April 14, 2022

Open Book by Jessica Simpson


Open Book by Jessica Simpson
Release Date - February 4, 2020
Publisher Website - Harper Collins Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 416 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**borrowed from library**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Jessica tells of growing up in 1980s Texas where she was sexually abused by the daughter of a family friend, and of unsuccessfully auditioning for the Mickey Mouse Club at age 13 with Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling before going on to sign a record deal with Columbia and marrying 98 Degrees member Nick Lachey.

Along the way, she details the struggles in her life, such as the pressure to support her family as a teenager, divorcing Lachey, enduring what she describes as an emotionally abusive relationship with musician John Mayer, being body-shamed in an overly appearance-centered industry, and going through bouts of heavy drinking. But Simpson ends on a positive note, discussing her billion-dollar apparel line and marriage with professional football star Eric Johnson, with whom she has three children. 
I, like many people, had preconceived ideas about Jessica Simpson before picking up this book. There were things about her that I assumed I knew. Open Book showed me that many of my assumptions were incorrect and that I had done a disservice to Jessica in making those assumptions.

Jessica is someone that I am adding to the list of female celebrities of the 90s that I feel society owes an apology to. Many of us who were teenagers in this time period are still unlearning a lot of that conditioning that shaped our viewpoints of other women at the time. Jessica herself seems to struggle with this at times. She is very open about wanting to embrace her body and yet still being desperate to be skinnier. It may seem like a mixed message (and it totally is) but it shows how deeply society can impact how we view others and ourselves. 

The first thing I took away is how funny Jessica is. She absolutely laughs at herself, doesn't take herself seriously and that makes her endearing as well. She is incredibly insightful, especially about herself, and this means that you feel like she has confided in you the way she would a friend.

The honestly that she shares is brutal at times. She isn't afraid to display the messy parts of who she is and I cannot over emphasize the mess part. She bares everything and a lot of it doesn't paint her in the best light.  She is not perfect, and I think she'd be the first to tell you that. She's also full of contradictions as a lot of the words she is saying do not always match her actions. However, the frankness in which she shares the details of things like the ending of her marriage and her struggles with alcohol are what makes the whole thing work. She is sharing a part of herself that allows the reader to connect with her no matter how different their life experience. She also turns an insightful gaze on the people in her life and some of them do not come off so great either (looking at you John Mayer). 

There are experiences and events in her life that are obvious touchstones. Things that shape and define her. These include a death of a family member she was close to, her marriage and divorce, and the birth of her children just to name some of them. You can tell each of these has impacted her in profound ways and she is open about the fact that she needed therapy to work through it all. I appreciated that she highlights this point through her book. You don't have to do it alone and shouldn't.

This is Jessica's truth and with that knowledge we do have to admit that some things will been viewed through a biased prism. She is telling us what she perceives to be true. There are definitely things in here that people will judge her for. She does show all the messy parts of herself as I said before. There are things she is still hopefully going to learn and grow from. I took these parts of the story as proof that we're all works in progress. We all learn from or mistakes, but that doesn't mean we won't make new ones.

I left this book with a greater respect for Jessica Simpson and what she has been though. I think it takes a certain kind of bravery to let people see all these unflattering parts of yourself. Nonfiction books are strange to review as you can't really talk about them without addressing those within them. They are real people and that feels like judging them as much as you are the book. Do I think everyone will like Jessica Simpson after reading this? Not at all. Do I think people's opinion of her will have changed from what it was before they read it? Absolutely. She shares so much of herself that it has to. 

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