Reader Beware! This book heavily covers an abusive marriage, but portrays it distinctly in the past tense and without too many specifics. The abuser- again, not too graphically- spends a good chunk of the book snorting coke. There are more uses of “motherfucker” than any slurs; Tina sometimes uses less than PC language to describe peoples’ ethnicities, but in a way appropriate for the time in which it was written.
“It was like a horror movie. That’s what my life had become: a horror movie, with no intermissions.”
You read it here first, folks.
Tina Turner’s life story is consistently impressive and frequently heartbreaking. She knew from toddlerhood that she was destined to be an entertainer and collected a fair chunk of change singing for people in the mall through her elementary years. She was, naturally enough, picked up by local band The Kings of Rhythm near the end of high school. The Kings were led by Ike Turner, whose negative impact on her life far outshines the positive one.
I am featuring I, Tina because it discusses, in terrifying, realistic detail, that living-dead feeling when something in your life controls you so completely that you stop noticing individual days. Glancing back from the safety of the career she established herself, Tina’s coerced marriage to Ike reads like an uninterrupted blur of shoehorn beatings and manipulation followed by going onstage like nothing has happened. There are several years’ worth of examples in the text- by and large, the Turners’ coworkers knew what was happening and turned a blind eye- but the event that stood out to me was the cold Tina was forced to work through, which became bronchitis, which became TB, which took about a decade and several methodologies to kick in full. It’s obvious from the start that Ike sees her only as a money machine; there are no monsters so terrifying as other people who refuse to treat you as human.
If not outright frightening, I, Tina makes a personal hell relatable, not through star power but through sheer honesty. The reader doesn’t grow impatient waiting for Tina to leave but relishes with her the small victories brought by her talent alone. Teetering over the edge of believing the abuse and surrendering her humanity, Tina realizes that she is stronger than her circumstances: she wakes up from the nightmare; the horror movie’s credits roll. The rest is several Grammys worth of history.