This one has been on my TBR since it won the popular vote in the “Humor” category of Goodreads Choice Awards in 2018. And when my long distance book club decided to read a memoir in March, and this one was one of the suggestions, you know I voted for it.
In The Last Black Unicorn, Tiffany Haddish smoothly mixes comedy and tragedy(?) together as she shares a bit about her life. From hilarious high school stories of being the school mascot to getting hired as, essentially, a hype-(wo)man for bar mitzvahs to unbelievable dating stories, Haddish definitely kept me smiling and laughing as I read. At the same time, she brings in more serious notes, speaking openly about her time in foster care, her mother’s mental instability after being in a serious car accident, and her experiences with domestic violence. This short, fast-moving, memoir definitely grabbed and kept my attention for its entirety.
I have some interesting mixed feelings about my time reading (actually, listening to) this memoir. First, I loved Haddish’s narration. Her tone, inflection and attitude were strong and real – her big personality came through clearly and I loved the dimension that added. On the flip side, I felt like the writing itself was sort of jumpy and disjointed. There were a lot of moments where it felt unpolished and sort of unfinished even. I can see how it could have been done on purpose, a stylistic choice that matches Haddish’s comedic delivery. And that’s fine. It just wasn’t my favorite. One other random note on the writing: if vulgarity and profanity offend you, this book is not for you. Personally, I really enjoyed that aspect. I think this was another example of keeping the writing true to Haddish’s comedic style and, in this case, I liked it much more. And just in a general sense, before I get into the meat of the review…the biggest thing for me that prevented me from loving this book is that I just think Haddish’s comedic style is not my preferred one. It’s not bad (in fact, I objectively think it’s quite good), but the over-the-top dramatics and ridiculousness are just not, subjectively, my favorite. And, for at least one dating story, I was a little uncomfortable with the way the jokes were crafted/presented. I totally get that comedy is there to address, in a making-fun-of way, the things we normally cannot. But there was just one big story that didn’t sit well with me at all (it is what it is).
As far as the content, this memoir was one of the more ridiculous ones I have ever read. Haddish has a knack for getting herself into insane situations, particularly with men, and handles them in ways that would literally never occur to me (but, honestly, make great fodder for comedy). For example, at one point she literally fills an ex boyfriend’s shoes with her own shit. Like…poop in a shoe. WHAT?! I laughed so hard at that – immature humor is great sometimes. Also, at one point, her hype-ing at a bar mitzvah was so much that it literally caused an old guy to die. He had the big one right there while she was trying to dance with him. Unreal! I won’t give more examples (you’ll just have to read the book), but I couldn’t resist sharing a couple, just to give you a feel for what to expect.
On the other hand, Haddish takes some time to legitimately share some more intense aspects of her life. She is incredibly open and honest about some of the lowest moments of her life. Her courage in sharing that, and hopefully inspiring others to see what’s happening to them before it gets as bad as it did for her, is legitimately inspiring. There are some other moments too, that Haddish presents in what is, truly, a humorous way (like how she couldn’t actually read until high school, or some details of her relationships with her biological father) that are in reality, not funny at all. It’s amazing and impressive the way she experienced and dealt with so much, yet stayed so resilient. How she has the strength to make fun of it all, to use some of these incredibly sad/overwhelming moments (that clearly have bled over into and still affect her self-confidence and interactions with others as an adult) to make others laugh is, again, pretty inspiring. Finding comedy in pain is a coping skill that has really been so important/beneficial for her. And I do hope that some of the introspection she has gained with time and experience allows her to live more freely and contentedly in her future!
Like I said, and as you should be able to glean from this review, there was never a point that I wasn’t riveted by this book. Basically, my complaints are all stylistic (with one small content issue) and therefore this is a great example of “it’s not the book, it’s me” in giving a mediocre star rating. Hopefully my review helps mediate that. Finally, even if you read the physical book, you should still get your hands on the audiobook (check your local library, people) because Haddish sings a bonus original song at the end that is not in the book and was such a hilarious and fantastic surprise way to finish the memoir! It was one of my favorite things about the book and everyone who reads this should have a chance to experience that entertainment. Anyways, I hope, if you pick this one up, you get all the laughs Haddish would want you to have from it!