Saturday, August 1, 2020

Book Review | Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I never watched Glee, not a single full episode. While I thought the premise was interesting, I could not stand Lea Michelle, and quickly abandoned any ideas I previously had about watching. Even so, it is still hard to escape Glee-related news even after the show ended. Cory Monteith's death due to an overdose, Mark Salling being a disgusting fucking excuse for a human being and then committing suicide, and then Naya Rivera, the victim of a tragic accident when she drowned in early July during an excursion with her young son.

I can not explain why, but I was immediately drawn in as word spread quickly that she was missing. I think partly this was due to the fact that I have a young child myself (though a couple years older than her son) and I could never imagine a scenario when I would leave Eleanor alone on a pontoon in the middle of a lake. From the very start I wanted to be optimistic, but as a mom I just knew in my heart that something terrible had happened.

I read thread after thread of fans sharing their favorite scenes from Glee, and watched clip after clip after clip. The one that really hit me though, was her rendition of "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry - and I have no doubt I am not the only person struck by this performance. Rivera's character Santana sang this song for Finn Hudson, the character played by Cory Monteith. It was such a haunting performance, her voice so pure and filled with grief. The first time I saw it, I started bawling by eyes out, while at the same time completely confused as to why. This was a celebrity who I had very little knowledge of, and I don't say this to sound crass or uncaring, I just mean that I anticipated a reaction much like others I had to celebrities who I was only vaguely familiar with - prayers for their families. I had no emotional attachment to this actress or show.

Yet there I was, sobbing as she sang. And I think it all comes back to that common denominator we have: we are mothers who love our babies so fiercely that we are willing to lie, steal, cheat, kill, or die for them. In Rivera's case, it appears that is exactly what happened, she gave her life for her son's. We will never know for sure, but I think it is safe to say that it is the most likely scenario.

I decided to read Rivera's memoir to get to know her, this person who had suddenly brought out these huge emotions in me, who I did not know at all. I've watched tons of clips by now of her being amazing as Santana Lopez, and have never laughed harder than at some of her quips - often at the expense of Lea Michelle's character, which I am always down for.

What struck me throughout was the completely candid way Rivera spoke of her life, her career, her mistakes, her choices both good and bad. She owns everything, and knows there were plenty of times she messed up, but also plenty of times where she took responsibility and forged her path. She's confident and to some that will probably come across as arrogant, which could be off-putting but I found it refreshing. It's clear she was an immensely talented person and the world has been robbed of that talent.

I appreciated that this was not just a gossip-fest, and that Rivera gave ample attention to all stages of her career, not just Glee. I had no idea before this that she had been a successful child actor who had appeared on several shows, including Fresh Prince and Family Matters. But after that, roles started to disappear and by the age of eleven, Rivera was dealing with going back to being a regular kid - something she had absolute zero interest in. She did continue to go on additions, but nothing came of those. As she grew up Rivera details all of the jobs she knew she did not want, and what it was like to have lived her dream, knowing it was still out there, but potentially giving up for good. Her role on Glee almost didn't happen, because she was ready to call it quite for good. Her mom convinced her to wait it out a little longer, and the rest is history.

Rivera does not shy away from some very serious, painful topics. She is open and honest about her decision to have an abortion, which I think is commendable. No one has the right to judge a woman for making this decision, and I appreciate that Rivera opened herself up to criticism and makes no apologies to those who might look down on her decision. Rivera also discusses her identity as a biracial person, and how she felt that she did not fit in as a result. She also outlines her struggle with an eating disorder and how that impacted her for a long time.

Though I had only limited knowledge of Monteith, I found the section devoted to him incredibly moving. It is clear the two were close and that his death impacted her greatly. Learning about their friendship made the clip of her singing "If I Die Young" all the more heartbreaking.

For those like myself who at first did not understand the big deal about Glee, and Naya Rivera in particular on the show, the book helped - as did the many fan tributes that poured in during the search for Rivera, and after the recovery of her body. Sanata Lopez might have been the supremely confident, vicious cheerleader, but she was also so much more than that to so many viewers. She was among the first to portray a Latinx teenager who was also queer. This representation is absolutely critical to those who so often feel invisible. The journey Santana went on to become who she truly was, and to be able to declare openly and without fear that she was a lesbian, this was huge. And Rivera played the part stunningly. She was witty and scathing and took no shit from anyone. She was confident and talented, much like Rivera was in life, and will be remembered as such in death.

One of the things that also brought me to tears as I read were the many instances where Rivera referred to something in the future. It was so heartbreaking to know that just four short years ago when the book came out, she had these ideas and plans, which will never come to be. She talked about having more children, her (ex, as of 2018) husband, and all that entails and I could not help but tear up, thinking again of her son out there alone on the lake, terrified, having no idea what was going on.

Page 235: When I started writing this book, I knew I didn't want it to be the kind of book everyone was expecting me to write, which was a trashy tell-all that talked a whole bunch of shit - I'll write that book when I'm 85 and just don't give a fuck anymore.

Page 171: Getting a second chance at parenthood with the person I was always meant to be a parent with...

Page 148: "Years from now, when I'm still married and Ryan and I have all these kids and grandkids running around, I can sit back and think, "Yeah, I lived. I really lived."

Recommended for pop culture/Hollywood fans who especially appreciate a strong, badass female.


  1. I appreciate strong, badass females but I don't even have a TV in my house and have never watched Glee. I have heard this woman's name though and now I know more about her thanks to you.

    1. Thanks for checking out my review! I now wished I would have watched the show, and appreciated her talent from the start. If you have not done so, Google some clips of her. She was stunning.


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