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Just As I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson, Narrated by Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson (introduction)

Published January 26th 2021 by HarperAudio, HarperCollins Publishing

Description: “In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history.” –President Barack Obama, 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony

Just As I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.” –Cicely Tyson 

Just as I Am: A Memoir

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was offered this audiobook for review just prior to Ms. Tyson’s passing on January 28, 2021. I always enjoyed seeing her in movies and television offerings, so was quite excited to hear about her life from her own lips. This audiobook did not disappoint. First, the introduction was shared by Cicely herself, then the rest of the book was narrated by the wonderful actress, Viola Davis. I felt like I was sitting in the room with these ladies hearing about the journey that Cicely Tyson made over her 96 years. If you enjoy audiobooks, I definitely recommend you listen to this one!

She is known for many things, but will be remembered for performances that transcended stereotypes. Throughout this book she was adamant that she would not take a role if it did not enhance African American representation in the arts. We hear about her early life and the direction her parents pushed her to take. She went her own way into acting with her breakout role in the 1972 movie Sounder. She played Rebecca, the matriarch of a Black sharecropper family’s struggle to survive in the Jim Crow South. She received an Academy Award nomination for her role as well as setting her up for further offers. Cicely was not out marching and railing during the Civil Rights movement, but her quiet, regal being did much to open doors and bring strong, Black characters and their stories to both the large and small screen. She helped to bring about the acceptance of “realistic stories” featuring Black Characters and Actors, not the watered down version that producers and theatres thought audiences would be able to watch and stomach. Her lifelong faith is scattered throughout this story, as well as her humanity to all.

I enjoyed the stories she shared featuring the many Hollywood and Broadway stars. These stories were woven in with her life and showed how they impacted her life and career. Her tumultuous relationship with Miles Davis was presented honestly, but with a soft and loving presentation. Most of her stories were heartwarming, but always with honest reflections. She is not a mushy storyteller, but shares these friendships with humour, hope and joy, adding in the pain where needed. Her life was not easy, but she learned from every roadblock, every turn she had to take and every person that crossed her path.

I learned so much from this book and found myself stopping it and checking the internet for news stories and even more information. Cicely Tyson is a powerful, brilliant humanitarian, who fought in her own way for rights for people of colour as well as women. I definitely recommend this memoir to everyone. I was gifted a copy of this audiobook from the publisher upon request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.