Book Review: Gray is the New Black, by Dorothy Rice

Genre(s): Memoir


Dorothy Rice’s memoir focuses on a year in the author’s early sixties in which she strove to work on her physical and emotional health, her physical and emotional relationship with her husband, her ability to love and accept herself, and her goal of writing a book about the experience.

As Rice explains on her website, going gray is “the metaphor I chose for my journey, a year devoted to dissecting stale expectations, festering wounds and fairy-tale dreams of fame, true love and passionate sex. The book is sad, but also funny. In terms of voice and style, I aspire to a Nora Ephron aesthetic, with generous splashes of Erma Bombeck.”


This review was originally published on the Story Circle Network site here.

Sixty-three-year-old Dorothy Rice is feeling fat, old, and unloved. Her youngest daughter has left for college and she’s convinced her husband is only staying in the marriage out of habit. She frequently binge-eats in secret, often to the point in which she literally makes herself sick. And she’s spent far more time helping others work on their writing than she’s spent working on her own.

Inspired by her sister’s suggestion that they embrace their advanced age and rock their naturally gray hair, and fed up with feeling lonely, unattractive, and unhappy, Dorothy decides to spend the next year becoming a healthier, happier, more successful version of herself. Specifically, she vows to finally finish writing her own book, losing weight gradually and in a healthy way, and working on her closest relationships.

During her year of transformation, Dorothy reflects on female shame, disappointing relationships, unrealistic expectations, sexual assault, the desire for fame, true love, and hot sex, and what she can do to live a happier life. She gives real consideration to the fact that her mother always told her Dorothy went with the low-hanging romantic fruit, the safe bets when it came to boyfriends and eventually husbands. She reflects upon her decision as a young teen to repeatedly hook up with her sexual assailant, knowing full well that he was using her and likely hooking up with others. And she recognizes that she usually fails in her dieting because she tends to binge whenever something disappointing or hurtful happens in her personal life.

I truly appreciate the fact that Ms. Rice’s memoir doesn’t neatly wrap up at the end of the book. Without a doubt, she made great strides in her emotional development and introspection in a year’s time, but she makes no claim of a storybook ending. Throughout the year, her weight continues to yo-yo and her marriage and personal relationships are far from perfect. But her story is inspiring nonetheless.

Ms. Rice proves to us that it’s never too late to work on yourself and your goals; that you can and will continue to stumble in life, but you should never give up on what you want. And that to truly love and accept yourself as you are, you’ll often need to revisit some painful, shameful life experiences and consider how those moments shaped who you are today.

I really enjoyed Ms. Rice’s book and could relate to her story in a number of ways. In fact, her raw honesty, vulnerability, and self-examination made me feel as if she was documenting many of my own thoughts. And if you’ve ever felt lonely in a relationship, unhappy with your physical appearance, frustrated with a friendship, your relationship with a parent, or your relationship with food, then you’ll undoubtedly relate to it as well.

My Rating: 4/5

About the Author: Dorothy Rice describes herself as “an author, developmental editor, writing coach and certified Amherst Writers & Authors workshop leader.” In addition to Gray is the New Black, Rice is the author of the memoir/art book, The Reluctant Artist: Joe Rice 1918-2011, and has had her essays and stories published in numerous journals and magazines. Born and raised in San Francisco, she now lives in Sacramento with her husband and their pets.

For more on Ms. Rice, go to

Gray is the New Black is currently available on Amazon.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Ms. Rice’s book, Gray is the New Black, via Story Circle Network, in exchange for my honest review of the book.


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