What to Read: 'Sorry Not Sorry' by Naya Rivera

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Oh, the things you did in your youth!

All those late nights, sneaking out of the house and thinking your parents didn’t know (they did). The crazy things you did on the road, hoping the police would never stop you (they did). The parties, the goofy fashions, the drama, all the fun and all the regrets… like author Naya Rivera, are you “Sorry Not Sorry”?

Even before she entered the world, Naya Rivera says she loved the spotlight.

Her mother was a model while pregnant with Rivera and almost as soon as Rivera was born, she became a model, too. She did print ads, then a few commercials until, at five years old, she landed a part on a comedy with Redd Foxx.

Alas, when Foxx died, the show did, too, and after some minor guest spots and TV commercials, Rivera became just a regular “awkward” Hollywood preteen with “quarter-white, quarter-black, half-Puerto Rican, and all frizz hair.” She longed for straight hair, curves and a boyfriend. She missed her career.

But adolescence wasn’t the only hard thing Rivera dealt with: her father was on-and-off-unemployed, their family of five moved from veritable mansions to near-hovels, and there were more times than not when Rivera had no money for extras at all. But yet, in a weird Hollywood twist, she “was almost always financially helping my family in some way” through funds set aside when she was a kindergartener. That caused a lot of pressure, and Rivera became anorexic.

At age eighteen, she got the rest of the funds, and went a little wild. Taught by her father about money management, she nevertheless let credit cards get out of hand and she fell into trouble.
For that, she is sorry.

She’s also sorry for drooling on Nicole Richie, starving herself, focusing on “material things,” sleeping with a married man, the death of a friend, and an abortion. She’s not sorry for writing down her goals, occasional splurges, lying on a resume, her lesbian character on Glee, “being an other,” or falling in love with the right man.

Having read my share of name-dropping, chirpy H’wood bios, I approached this one with caution. Turns out, I didn’t need to: “Sorry Not Sorry” is actually very good.

Yes, author Naya Rivera drops names, but how can she not? She grew up in the midst of other stars in a town filled with stars; still, rather than breezy bragging about knowing famous people, readers get a sense that Rivera knows how unusual her friendships were and how special her growing-up was, despite the poverty she endured.

This is a chatty book; Rivera writes to her readers, rather than at them, which is refreshing. She’s also quick to reveal her mistakes and regrets, but she’s not preachy in the least; in fact, she offers a personal story rather than advice.

That, and the happy ending we’re handed, makes this a sometimes-funny, sometimes-outrageous memoir that’s easy to like. If that sounds perfect, “Sorry Not Sorry” is a book you won’t regret reading.


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