I imagine I would get along famously with Chitoka Webb. The author’s smiling face graces the cover of Something Inside of Me: How to Hang on to Heaven When You Are Going Through Hell (Emerald Book Company, July 2011), and she radiates the kind of warmth that tells me I would probably love to go shoe-shopping with her.
The cover copy touts Webb’s memoir as an inspiring story of how she fought her way through poverty and an illness that affected her eyesight to become a successful businesswoman. Her message is one of strength and perseverance and the ability to triumph over adversity.
Raised by a single mother in Nashville, Tenn. housing projects, Webb overcame her own doubts and insecurities to make her dreams a reality. When Webb’s family attends her high school graduation, they wonder why she never walked across the stage to receive her diploma. She stayed home, a half a credit short to graduate and too embarrassed to admit failure to those she loved. It’s not until Webb earns her GED and stands proudly before her family and friends that she realizes the high school teacher who failed her was right: self-empowerment comes with what you earn, not what you are given.
While Webb offers a compelling story of her many life challenges, including working three full-time jobs for three months to make her dream of opening her own barber shop a reality, Something Inside of Me fails to reach the reader. The resulting effort makes it difficult for the reader, who is skipping ahead to the next paragraph hoping for a reason to connect and, quite frankly, to care. Instead of drawing the reader in, Webb leaves her audience on the outside with too much focus on the lessons she is hoping to impart rather than allowing the reader to come to the same conclusions she did.
Though the execution falls short, Webb’s smile and spirit shine through. Love was poured into every word, and Webb’s goal is to inspire others to overcome whatever personal obstacles they may face so that they, too, can come out on top.
Something Inside of Me is a story worth telling. It’s just not a story told well.