I Need More Self-Help Gurus Like Keke Palmer

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Keke Palmer made it clear that her new book I Don’t Belong To You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice isn’t a memoir. It’s more of a “guide to living” based on her personal experiences. In other words, it’s only part memoir. The other part is inspirational text. Before I even had a copy of the book, I was intent on only reading through it for the juicy tidbits about Keke’s life. And I wasn’t disappointed. The actress and singer opened up about the evolution of her career, the stress of being a teenage breadwinner for her family, and her own sexuality. But I was surprised to find myself just as interested in her philosophies and life advice. When I look for self-help gurus, I rarely find people who look like me or Palmer. A host of older white men and women typically lead the charge there. Think Joel Olsteen and Eckhart Tolle. Even the current stock of Black self-improvement gurus leave much to be desired. It’s hard for me to overlook Oprah’s massive fortune and take her demands for me to live a fuller life seriously. Other people, like T.D. Jakes, are firmly tied to religious doctrine that makes me feel icky. And Steve Harvey is a hot mess so I don't want to act or think in any way he suggests. It is refreshing but rare to read a self-help text that relates to the intersections of young, Black women. The truth is that race, gender, and class play a part in our ability to “lean in.” And many of us “eat, pray, and love” in a different way because of our identities. We need to expand our ideas about whose lives we think we can learn something from. What Palmer has managed to do with I Don't Belong To You is include herself in the same “experienced” category that Black girls are usually denied entry to. Honestly, it was the closest thing to getting advice from a homegirl going through similar struggles. There is a way to be wise before we get to middle age. I don’t need to be dispatched advice exclusively from the sunny “other side” of personal growth and development. Palmer, with her glossy pages and emojis generally sprinkled throughout the pages, submits a report live from the road. Sure, she’s found a groove, but she’s still on the journey right with me. And I appreciate that more than anything right now. If nothing else, Palmer gave me another reason not to judge a book by its cover.

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