Remembering Whitney by Cissy Houston

Maybe it was because I was younger or maybe it was because I was in the throws of puberty and school, whatever the case may be, my memory of Whitney Houston is nearly blank. Other than her credentials, her troubles and family are like a fever dream to me. So I thought reading this biography, written by her mother, would be the best way to fill in those gaps and honor Black History month.

And I got to say, I was wrong. Yes, I learned some things about Whitney Houston: the basic steps of her life. But if you asked about anything specific or personal about Whitney Houston, I think I’d only really have something to say about Cissy Houston.

I’d have a lot of things to say about Cissy Houston. This biography really made me not like her. She makes subtle antisemitic comments, homophobic comments, and willfully ignored her family’s growing drug problem and mental health issues.

There were so many moments within the book that Cissy herself shares with the world but seems to be oblivious of its implications. When her older brother fell to addiction when she was a kid, she witnessed the danger of drugs in her gene pool firsthand at a young age. Still did nothing, now I’m not expecting a kid to hold an intervention, but maybe take an interest in the effects. She did not.

When Robyn Crawford-who’s friendship with Whitney angered Cissy and led to some of those homophobic comments I mentioned earlier-shared her concerns with Cissy, Cissy did basically nothing with that information. She didn’t confront Whitney, work with Robyn to help her, or once again take the opportunity to do some research to help. This conversation occurred shortly after Whitney’s second album, before she was in the heavy throws of addiction.

Within the book, Cissy writes moments after moments of Whitney showing signs of addiction, of mental health problems, of friends and family conversing with Cissy on Whitney’s behalf, or confronting Whitney on their own. At one point, friends of the family took Whitney on a religious journey to Jerusalem, hoping that they could replace Whitney’s dependence on cocaine with faith. Which is when Cissy wrote some of her antisemitic comments, as though Whitney finding solace in the Torah is worse than her addiction. If it had saved her, would it really be the end of the world for Cissy that Whitney believe in something else?

I just don’t know about Whitney, which was my attention when reading this biography. Perhaps Robyn Crawford’s is better and I’ll read that next. For now, only read this book if you’re craving a speech from Jehovah’s witnesses.

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