In the middle of the swirling dysfunction of my own family, it's comforting to know we are not alone. Vanessa Williams didn't always listen to her mother; Helen Williams was emotionally distant and yelled sometimes. In a single word, they are normal, and in the 282 pages of the pair's new release, "You Have No Idea," they exemplify family disputes, difficult years (not just days), and respect that powers through.
From the first chapter, the reader is made aware of the scandal that engulfed Vanessa Williams in the last six weeks of her reign as Miss America in 1984, and her subsequent relinguishing of the crown. It's a flagrant move to hit head-on the star's notorious scandal and to dispell rumors that have probably circulated for years. It also sets the defining tone of the book: Mom might know best, but sometimes we have to figure it out on our own.
In a flip-flop narrative style, Vanessa takes the lead in the book with her story, and Helen inserts her opinion in the sassy language Vanessa describes her in. Some scenarios in Vanessa's life Helen didn't realize until she read them; she's very honest about that.
Overall, the book is an easy read (I read it in a day and a half), and it's inspiring. It illustrates the fact that there is not a single perfect family, but respect and love can mend relationships. And, at the end of the day, we are family. It's inspiring to read about Vanessa's goals (described by herself) and see how, in the course of the book, she achieved them. In what feels like candid transparency, she admits when she was wrong, how she fixed it, what she learned and how she moved on.
It's something we could all learn to do more of.