cover image Didn’t We Almost Have It All: In Defense of Whitney Houston

Didn’t We Almost Have It All: In Defense of Whitney Houston

Gerrick Kennedy. Abrams, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4969-8

In this stirring work, journalist Kennedy (Parental Discretion Is Advised) reexamines “all that Whitney was and all that she was never able to be.” Raised in a family of musical, devout Christians and trained by her mother Cissy, a talented gospel singer, Whitney Houston was discovered by music executive Clive Davis in 1982 and fashioned into an “All-American, Miss Beautiful.” Kennedy explores how, up until her 2012 death, that image took from Houston as much as it gave her, denying her from expressing her personality and sexuality, and leading her to end her “tender and loving” friendship with Robyn Crawford, which didn’t fit into “the music industry... an intolerant place where homophobia openly thrived.” He also points out how despite rising to meet “the moment”—from making history as “the first woman to debut atop the Billboard 200” to singing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl—her Blackness was wielded against her. By telling Houston’s story alongside those of contemporary Black celebrities including Beyoncé—who, Kennedy writes, have spent their careers walking the high wire between being “too Black” and “not Black enough”—the author both celebrates the legendary singer’s inimitable talent and offers a rousing critique of oppressive systems still at work today. This is a must-read for fans. Agent: William LoTurco, LoTurco Literary. (Feb.)