Gray is the New Black
Author: Dorothy Rice
Book Review by Sabrina Moscola
We are reminded of the old adage, Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, upon opening Dorothy Rice’s recent memoir, Gray is the New Black. The simple cover — black background, minimal white font donning only the book’s title and author’s name — gives no hint of the complexity of emotions that lies between its pages. Rice illustrates a year of her life as she navigates retirement, weight loss, questioning her marriage, writing a book, empty nesting, the relationships between sisters and, of course, letting her gray hair grow out. Written from the perspective of a 63-year-old woman who has received an MFA in writing post-retirement to fulfill her life-long dream of becoming a published author, it’s really written from the perspective of being human. She so candidly narrates the nuances of relationships, internal struggles, the wisdom that comes with age and self-doubt that never fully leaves with it, all the while sprinkling in relatable humor that speaks to all genders and ages.
Rice appropriately quotes William Faulkner early on, “ The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.” We see this unfold as Rice questions everything from her battle with sugar addiction, the validity of her 20-year marriage, an unexpected journey to memories of early unhealthy romantic relationships, and coming to grips with her Hair Stylist moving out of town. Even through the darkness, her wit captures the reader, making us root for her the entire time.
Starting out strong, as most of us do with New Year’s goals, with the intention to lose 40 pounds and write a book in a year, Rice yo-yos from motivated and disciplined to unconfident and backsliding. She continually fishes for compliments from a husband who lacks the ability to provide one, making us realize that at any point in a relationship and at any age, we are all just looking for love and validation. She recalls her mother who was constantly on a diet and asked a question that would haunt her for life, “Why do you hate yourself?” She begins writing about something she swore she never would: a rape that happened as a teenager. Rice bravely faces the realities that wounds from adolescence run deep and long, battling intermittent candy binges that bring on debilitating migraines in between it all, vowing each one to be her last. As the months pass with little headway in her weight loss goal and writing a lot of stream of consciousness with little semblance of a book, we are left uncertain if Rice will ever meet her goals. The beauty being that she ends up meeting goals she never set: processing her life’s choices, realizing reasons for her addiction and romantic choices, and coming to accept herself as she is, for better or worse, in migraine and in health.
Does she lose the 40 pounds? Does she finish writing the book? Guess you’ll have to read and see.