Obviously: Stories from My Timeline

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
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Lots of life lessons in YouTuber's funny, inspiring memoir.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

For aspiring YouTubers, there's a short chapter, "How to Make a YouTube Video," that offers specific steps, from "Overthink how to shoot it" and "Agonize over the thumbnail image" to "Take a nap."


Positive Messages

Your self-worth should never depend on how much someone else believes in you. It's much better to be known as the funny or smart girl.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While humor is central to Hughes' memoir, she never makes light of the challenges she had to overcome and writes honestly about confronting racism in the classroom and battling issues about body image and self-worth before finally achieving her dreams.


Hughes writes that "an older boy I knew from high school did something unforgivable to me when I had a sleepover with his sister," and she has to fend off the straying hands of a man seated next to her on a bus.


Fair amount of profanity ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "hell," "goddamn"), and boys label a girl "retarded hot."


Lots of passing references to movies and TV shows (Sesame Street, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Lion King, Girlfriends, The Simpsons).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Obviously: Stories from My Timeline is a memoir by comedian, YouTube celebrity, and Crooked Media contributor Akilah Hughes (Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever.). Unfolding in short autobiographical essays, her timeline moves from her childhood in a small Kentucky town to New York City, where she finds success as a writer and performer. Hughes mixes the humor with serious life lessons for readers, as her essays cover everything from "Fifth Grade Is a Scam," "Racism to a Fifteen-Year-Old Girl," and "Getting Too Good at Your Plan B" to "Bad Skin" and "Weight." There's a fair amount of profanity ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "hell," "goddamn"), and boys label a girl "retarded hot." While Hughes "wouldn't call this a self-help book," she does promise readers "you will feel better about your life after reading a number of these essays." 

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What's the story?

OBVIOUSLY: STORIES FROM MY TIMELINE begins in the small town in Kentucky where Hughes grew up as the daughter of an absent father and a supportive and encouraging mother who worked two jobs. Deemed "gifted and talented," she often found herself the only African American student in her class. She yearned to be a cheerleader (a dream never realized) but instead was a spelling bee champion who constantly battled weight and body image issues. She faced racism from a teacher and writes about making the painful decision to walk away after a close friend adopted the racist beliefs of her boyfriend. Hughes began making comedic YouTube videos during college and dreamed of being as famous as Oprah. After graduation and a few going-nowhere-she-wanted-to-go jobs, she moved back home and found yet another job she really hated. What she wanted was "an opportunity to really compete," and for Hughes that meant moving to New York City. It was a bit of a rocky start, as she discovered "my clothes suck," and there were some embarrassing and sometimes hilarious encounters with celebrities. A failed relationship with a White boyfriend gave her a first taste of success when she turned it into a YouTube hit called "Meet Your First Black Girlfriend." Hughes began producing videos for major outlets like MTV, Oxygen, and Essence, and as this timeline ends, she's working on writing and starring in her own projects.

Is it any good?

Warm and engaging, Hughes' honest and deeply personal essays deftly mix humor with inspiration and encouragement for any teen with big dreams for the future. The format of Obviously: Stories from My Timeline (and a table of contents filled with intriguing chapter titles) makes it easy for readers who don't want to tackle an entire memoir to begin by reading essays that appeal to their specific interests.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the racism Hughes encounters in Obviously: Stories from My Timeline. How would students at your school react if a teacher made openly racist statements in the classroom? Like Akilah Hughes, would you ever end a friendship because the person made racist or demeaning remarks about minorities or people in the LGBTQ community?

  • How much influence do you think YouTube videos have on kids your age? Are there channels you follow on YouTube? What made you decide to follow a channel, and what have you learned from watching it?

  • Hughes believes it's better to be known for being smart or funny than it is for fitting into a specific (and sometimes unattainable) body image. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Book details

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