cover image Jenifer Lewis: The Mother of Black Hollywood

Jenifer Lewis: The Mother of Black Hollywood

Jenifer Lewis, with Malaika Adero. Amistad, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-241040-5

At the onset of this energetic memoir, entertainer Lewis boards a cruise ship seeking some well-deserved relaxation and considers whether to retire from her 40-year career in show business. She quickly realizes that to retire at the age of 57 would be akin to stopping breathing: “I AM the SHOW in show business!” she tells herself. From there she describes growing up in a small, poverty-stricken Missouri town where at age five she sang at the Baptist church, already hell-bent on becoming a star. Readers follow the feisty singer through cabaret performances, TV and Broadway shows, tours, many mother roles (thus the title), and love affairs (like the performer, readers will most likely lose count). She revisits the years when many young male friends died of AIDS, the times when she scrambled for parts and didn’t get them, and endless moments of triumph. At age 33, Lewis was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and she began to understand her sexual addiction, as well as to face the demons of her past. Her memoir is frank, funny, and uplifting, capturing the singer’s authentic voice, her humor, and her profound and bold capacity for resilience. (Nov.)