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Book Review: 'Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir' gives uninhibited look at Toni Braxton

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'Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir' by Michelle Burford and Toni Braxton

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"Braxton Family Values" is one of few real reality shows out today. Viewers will probably get a bit TMI, but that seems to be something the Braxton sisters were ready for -- minus Toni Braxton. And even with the initial skepticism to do the WE tv show, the fun-loving, juicy and often overwhelming series has lasted three seasons and counting. This may have been the push Toni Braxton needed to prepare her to share some more of her own truths.

With the help of celebrity ghostwriter Michelle Burford, Toni Braxton shares surprising and not-so-surprising moments in her music career. By now, most of her fans know she has lupus, a medical disease that can affect the nervous system, joints and skin. And "Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir" talks about how Toni Braxton suffered while doctors disagreed on her final health results. According to Lupus.org, black females disproportionately are burdened by lupus so it was a brave and smart move for Toni to incorporate health tips and her own reaction to having lupus in the book. Her experience may help others who have the same fate. The same goes for how she handled the initial news and her reaction to improving her son's autism diagnosis.

And while health is an important part of her life, "Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir" delves into various other issues: the cause and result of both bankruptcy legal trials, how the IRS handled her bankruptcy, why she switched management teams, her relationship with both songwriter-producers L.A. Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds as a beginning artist to today, why she was so honest on BET's "The Wendy Williams Show" about wanting to retire, how she feels about the WE tv reality show, whether her sisters really are "acting" for the cameras, why she had an abortion, how her mother made her feel guilty for her musical success, how she dealt with guilt from her sisters who also seemed to feel entitled from her success, her dating life as a beginning artist, her marriage and divorce with Keri Lewis, how her relentlessly strict upbringing in a religious household has shaped her views on religion today, and more. And she tries to incorporate humor even through the most uncomfortable parts, like wardrobe malfunctions.

Life is like that sometimes -- you often just have to keep it moving, even when your booty is exposed. - Toni Braxton

Regardless of the snipes about Toni Braxton's spending habits (and yes, she talks about her reaction to her appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show, too"), she gives aspiring artists useful tips about how to guard their money with contracts and tours. She doesn't make too many excuses about her own spending, but she does defend her right to spend money she earned. And while people will still have their own opinions about her actions before and after the bankruptcies, she did a surprisingly good job making readers sympathize with her legal issues.

There were moments in the book with unnecessary details that didn't have much to do with anything (ex. losing eight pounds during "Dancing With the Stars" or her outfits for different performances), but right when the boring details come about, here come the juicy ones (ex. disguising her nurse as an "assistant" so people wouldn't know she was worried about her lupus diagnosis during practices).

For readers who are interested in religion, her upbringing left a lasting impression. Toni Braxton dealt with great extremes in religion -- being forced into never wearing pants, feeling like she missed out on holiday celebrations, dating a man so religious that he felt God wanted them to separate, dealing with her own sexual desires, being frustrated by atheists who were just as adamant about there being no need for prayer. However, her parents were the people who had her attention the most when it came to organized religion.

She doesn't really wag a finger at her parents for being so interested in faith that they would invite people from all walks of life into their homes before finally deciding on which religion. But she does seem to be dissatisfied with some of the decisions she was forced to follow because of their views on faith. Now whether readers think her childhood rules were extreme or not are anybody's guess.

"Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir" has many sections that follow this pattern, and it makes her memoir even better. Instead of trying to drill an opinion into readers' heads, Braxton and Burford explain what really happened in a situation, Braxton tells her opinion on the issue and leaves the impression that readers are welcome to reach their own verdicts.

As for how the jury feels about the entire book, this juror gives it 4-1/2 stars for a great read.

Shamontiel is also The Wire Examiner, and for the gladiators, she's the Scandal Examiner, too.

Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all of her latest TV, book, music and movie reviews; photo galleries; entertainment saving tips and other entries, or subscribe to her National African American Entertainment channel at the top of this page. Also, follow her @BlackHealthNews, and follow this Pinterest board to read her celebrity interviews.

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