As chief equality and inclusion officer at Procter & Gamble, Shelly McNamara addresses many groups. No surprise, then, that her slim, polished memoir resembles a TED talk for readers. Her entertaining, inspiring stories about processing grief and overcoming prejudices are a testament of personal growth.
McNamara grew up outside Cleveland, the youngest of 15 children. Her alcoholic father was largely absent, and her mother held the family together on a nurse’s salary. Like many families, they didn’t discuss tragedies, like the time a drunk driver killed a close family friend when McNamara was a teen, and this contributed to her persistent anxiety.
She also feared being ostracized for being lesbian. Early in her 35-year human resources career at P&G, she distanced herself from others, including a years-long coworker who knew nothing of McNamara’s partner and identity until the author mentioned them on the coworker’s last day—to their shared regret. McNamara began examining her own fears and biases, unlearning habits that had protected her from judgment and pain and taking more risks to be authentic.
McNamara offers interesting anecdotes. For example, she describes Christmas 1986, months after her father died, when her mother brought out a surprise batch of gifts, one for each child and grandchild. The author was stunned to see a framed photo of her neglectful father. Mom was quietly inviting her children to forgive, which the author eventually did, with the help of therapy.
McNamara includes poems about various events. However, they are so literal that they add little to the presentation. Instead, it would be a joy to see photos of the main players in the book.
The memoir’s title comes from the time her partner’s mother, years before the long-time couple legally wed, validated their relationship when she introduced McNamara to a neighbor as “my daughter in law” – without pause. It offers valuable lessons, reflecting years of work and earned wisdom, that any reader can apply to his/her life.