Reviews for Just As I Am

by Cicely Tyson with Michelle Burford

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Author of the New York Times best-selling The Still Point of the Turning World, about parenting terminally ill son Ronan, Black uses Sanctuary to reconsider the concept of resilience, for which she was roundly praised when she rebuilt her life—another husband, another child, a booming career—after Ronan died. In Walking with Ghosts, celebrated actor Byrne recalls his formative first 12 years in a large Dublin family, interspersed with career highlights from acting opposite Richard Burton to winning a Golden Globe. As related in The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames, Cowan learned after her mother died that she had been raised in London's Foundling Hospital, a brutal institution that originated solitary confinement even as it helped create important cultural institutions (40,000-copy first printing). Abandoned young by his eccentric poet father and adopted by his stepfather, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Gilmour bonded with a magpie he rescued (named Benzene for its glistening black feathers). With Featherhood, he relates his subsequent immersion in a poem his biological father wrote about effecting a similar rescue and explains what Benzene taught him about parenting (60,000-copy first printing). In Blindfold, award-winning journalist Padnos relates what it's like to be kidnapped and tortured in Syria by Al-Qaeda for two years; originally scheduled for July 2020. In Aftershocks, Whiting Award winner Owusu limns a crisscrossed coming-of-age (she moved from Rome and London to Dar-es-Salaam, Kampala, and finally the United States for college) and subsequent assured sense of self; originally scheduled for May 2020. Fashion and beauty editor at Vibe, then Rolling Stone, the high-powered Smith collapsed in tears one day and, as Bevelations explains, completely remade her life (75,000-copy first printing). Tichenor's The Night Lake explains that as a young Episcopal priest, she had to learn how to integrate into her vocation twin tragedies: the death of her five-week-old son less than a year after her alcoholic mother's suicide. Tony Award winner, three-time Emmy Award winner, the first black woman to win an honorary Oscar, and the first black woman to host Saturday Night Live: Tyson has some story to tell in Just As I Am.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An acclaimed actor recounts her eventful career. In this highly anticipated and candid memoir (“plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside”), Tyson (b.1924)—winner of three Emmys, a Tony, an honorary Oscar, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, among other honors—ascribes her remarkable success to luck, grit, and the hand of God. She grew up in East Harlem, the daughter of West Indian parents whose marriage ended because of her father’s philandering. Her mother, a domineering presence in the young Cicely’s life, worked as a housekeeper. Irate when Cicely became pregnant at age 17, her mother insisted that she marry the child’s father. After two years, Tyson left her husband, patching together jobs to support herself and her daughter. A chance encounter set her on the path to modeling, which in turn led to an offer of a movie role. In 1972, she earned her first lead role, in Sounder—and her first Oscar nomination. While on tour to promote the movie, Tyson became increasingly aware of bigotry and returned home with a new sense of purpose, “saying to myself, Sister, you’ve got some educating to do.” She notes proudly that she became the first Black woman to star in a TV drama and “the first black TV actress to reveal my hair in its bare-naked state.” Besides chronicling her work in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, A Woman Called Moses, and as Kunta Kinte’s mother in Roots, among other roles, Tyson lays bare the details of her tormented relationship with Miles Davis, an unrepentant womanizer and substance abuser. “He had a strong need to be cared for,” writes the author, “and that need intersected with my desire to provide care.” Tyson ascribes her longevity to an organic vegetarian diet and daily meditation, and she defends her reputation for being difficult: “The truth is that I insist upon respect….Even now, at 96, I teach folks not to mess with me.” A forthright self-portrait of a determined woman and iconic cultural figure. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In Blindfold, award-winning journalist Padnos relates what it's like to be kidnapped and tortured in Syria by Al-Qaeda for two years; originally scheduled for July 2020.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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 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.)

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Cicely Tyson is a living treasure; at 96, she remains passionately outspoken about national affairs, politics, and the entertainment world. Her enthusiasm, intelligence, and wit sparkle across the pages of this engaging and lively memoir. Born in 1924 to Caribbean immigrants, Tyson rose above an imprudent early marriage to become a hardworking single mother. Spotted in a crowd and encouraged to try modeling, she poured her trademark energy and work ethic into this new career, eventually becoming an actor. Along the way, she befriended a who’s who of Black talent: Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Maya Angelou, and, most notably, Miles Davis, with whom she had a tempestuous and ultimately tragic on-again, off-again marriage. With steely determination and confidence, she pioneered in notable television roles, defied beauty standards by wearing her natural hair, and fought for meaty parts she was deemed “too sexy” to play. Undaunted by racism and sexism, Tyson triumphed in such iconic roles as Rebecca in Sounder, and the lead in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, confounding Hollywood stereotypes about the abilities and appeal of Black women. Whether discussing the politics of natural hair or the racial violence that led to the Black Lives Matter movement, Tyson speaks with incisive clarity, humor, and moral authority.Women in Focus: The 19th in 2020HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: After six decades of exceptional accomplishments, Tyson's first book will garner ardent attention.

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In this memoir, actress Tyson (Roots) recounts her childhood in a family she experienced as simultaneously loving and abusive; reflects on her decades-long, multiple-award-winning career on stage and screen; and shares her philosophies on life, acting, health, and faith. Among other distinctions, Tyson was a pioneer in the natural hair movement, as the first actress to wear her hair natural on television. She emphasizes her belief in Black excellence, relating stories of people working hard to better their lives and those of their family members. Tyson herself dedicated her career early on to positive portrayals of Black people, especially Black women, recognizing that there were few such portrayals when her career began. She ties her experiences as a Black woman to issues of systemic racism and generational trauma, and to recent police killings of Black people. Tyson's longtime partner Miles Davis features heavily in her reminiscences. Some readers will be distressed by depictions of children's corporal punishment and by repeated use of a slur for disability and disabled people. VERDICT Recommend to readers who enjoy engaging and sassy memoirs, and those interested in learning about 20th-century Black theater, film, and television.—Monica Howell, Northwestern Health Sciences Univ. Lib., Bloomington, MN