Just As I Am: A Memoir

Cicely Tyson with Michelle Burford. Harper Collins, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06293-106-1
In her spirited debut memoir, actor Tyson recalls her extraordinary life, as well as the racial and gender stereotyping, movie-business prejudice, and ill-behaved men that shaped her seven-decade career. Tyson highlights her lifelong penchant for rebelling against convention and injustice, from speaking up against her straitlaced West Indian mother and her abandonment of an early marriage (an ordeal of “tedium and regret”) to fighting off an attempted sexual assault by acting teacher Paul Mann. She also discusses the importance of pushing back against excessive workplace demands. (“When the show’s director would not grant me the time off, I took it anyway.”) The memoir dives deep into Tyson’s reflections on how her performances affected audiences and fans, noting how “deeply satisfying” it was to hear from “those who approached me, tears in their eyes, to say how [the character] had touched them.” She also provides an intimate glimpse into her stormy marriage to jazz maestro Miles Davis, which ended in divorce. (“I felt no need to drape words on the hanger of inevitability. The marriage had long since been over.”) It’s in these poignant moments that the memoir becomes a resonant meditation on the link between an actress’s life and her art. This showstopping tale hits the mark. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 12/11/2020
Release date: 01/26/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-293108-5
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-06-302884-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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