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A Literary Analysis of Gizelle Bryant’s Award-Winning Novel My Word

Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Publisher

The following contains spoilers for My Word, which is a “novel” loosely based on Gizelle Bryant’s life as the First Lady of a megachurch. In it, the main character Ginger goes on a journey of faith and family when she discovers her husband, Jamal Bryant, I mean Jeremy Williams, is involved in some adulterous shenanigans.    

Remember back in season three of The Real Housewives of Potomac when Gizelle read “an excerpt” from her unfinished novel, My Word, aloud at a luncheon? She stood in front of the ladies, stumbled over a plot summary, and then Monique suggested she hire a ghost-reader in addition to a ghostwriter. Well, as seen in recent RHOP episodes, Gizelle got the last laugh by winning the African American Literary Award for Best Fiction, which is an award because it involves a trophy.

Curious if My Word would be worth suggesting to my favorite AP Literature teachers, I did a close reading of the truly majestic 292 pages. So without further ado, here are the crème de la crème, hall-of-fame literary devices that most scream “AWARD WINNER”:


• “It almost felt like we were being held hostage the way the deacons stood, like soldiers, at the closed doors. All the male armor bearers were poised like they were bearing arms — all aimed at keeping everyone in their place.” (Chapter 1)
This is on page one! It’s almost like the ghostwriter wanted to create her own content warning for what was to come.

• “It was so different building a relationship on a foundation of friendship. It was as easy as slipping on a new pair of Uggs — they were new, but they felt old, like we’d taken this walk before.” (Chapter 3)
Is this spon-con? If so, it’s honestly genius. More writers should broker product-placement deals for their works of literary fiction. Between this and that puppy in the Telfar collab campaign, consider me influenced.


• “It was just that the First Lady of Knotting Hill Missionary Baptist Church was a walking billboard for Vogue Magazine. From casual to chic to after-five, André Leon Talley should have had her on the payroll.”  (Chapter 8)
Not to get all fact-checker on y’all, but … This part of the plot takes place in 2018, so First Lady Rena would have been out of a job — André Leon Talley relinquished any control he had over the Vogue payroll five years prior.

• “Two weeks after I’d sent the first invitations, Chris Brown strolled into the Holiday Inn conference room where we held our church services during praise and worship … He helped to put Reverend Williams and New Kingdom Temple on the map.” (Chapter 7)
Okay, so this is technically not an allusion, but it’s worth discussing. Writing a fictionalized version of your life means that you have complete control over casting. There is no other R&B artist available to stroll into a Holiday Inn conference room and put your church on the map? Mary J. Blige? Sure. Usher? Why not. Lauryn Hill? She’s down and she’ll even show up on time. Alas, this choice was made.


• “I shook aside, my rage moving aside to make room for all of my sadness.” (Chapter 21)
The feelings in Ginger’s standing-room-only brain are so polite! I would really love for my anxiety to acquire even a speck of spatial awareness so there would be capacity in my brain room for anything else.


• “When he rang the bell to 1701, which was across the hall from the only other apartment on the floor, I added, ‘And maybe we can leave before dessert.’ 
‘I agree. Why have pie when I can have your cookies?’” (Chapter 12)
Oooh, Jeremy. This is spicy and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. How does he know that pie will be served for dessert? What kind of pie is it? Would pecan change the game here? Which of Ginger’s lady bits are the “cookies” in this innuendo? Or do cookies just cover the whole lot?


• “How could I not slap the slime out of Jeremy with what I knew?” (Chapter 14)
Slap. The. Slime.


• “It didn’t feel like it was time for me to ring the alarm, but there was definitely a yellow caution sign in my heart.” (Chapter 12)
Either I missed a few days in driver’s ed or this is an extremely mixed metaphor.

• “‘I don’t know what I’m going to find,’ Dru said, ‘but I’m going to do my best to find something so you can get out of the constipation that has become your life … It’s just that you’re stuck. Nothing’s moving. Just think of me as the laxative that’s gonna get things going.’” (Chapter 17)
A flashback and a metaphor at the same damn time! What a gift. I earnestly look forward to using “constipation that has become your life” to systematically set all my nemeses aflame in the future.

Extra Credit

• “‘Okay, cool. It’ll give me a chance to change into jeans or something.’ ‘Nah, don’t do that.’ ‘Why not?’ I frowned. ‘We’re just gonna hang out, right?’ ‘Yeah, but I love looking at your legs and Sundays are the only time I get to do it.’” (Chapter 6)
Where do the legs go on days that are not Sundays? Do they disappear? Or does Jeremy usually keep his eyes closed when he is “having those cookies?”

• He nodded before he leaned over and gave me one of what I’d come to call a soul kiss. (Chapter 6)
Nope, no thank you.

And finally, in case you were wondering about the titular “my word,” it appears to be SAUNTER, which Bryant uses eight separate times to the same dramatic effect. The runner-up is probably SOFA, but that one isn’t exactly dropping jaws in your average game of Scrabble.

A Literary Analysis of Gizelle Bryant’s Award-Winning Novel