“In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, but she has also 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.
About the Author:
Ms. Cicely Tyson is an actress, lecturer, activist, and one of the most respected talents in American theater and film history. From her starring role on Broadway in The Blacks (1961), to the Emmy-nominated 1999 HBO film A Lesson Before Dying, her work has garnered critical and commercial applause for more than sixty years. Her two Emmys for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman made her the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress. In 2013, Ms. Tyson won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Miss Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. A capstone achievement came in 2018 when she became the first Black woman to receive an honorary Oscar. The Board of Governors voted unanimously to honor her with the award, which came 45 years after her Academy Award-nominated performance in Sounder.
“My mother’s secret wasn’t any single ingredient. Her creations were a symphony of flavors, blended together perfectly with love immeasurably.”
That quote was in reference to a broth Cicely Tyson’s mother made. It’s also about her daughter and her family. It’s an apt description of this book as well. The writing is exquisite and the memories Tyson shares are full of wisdom. She lays bare her childhood and how the difficult relationship between her parents and she and them colored her own relationships and what she did about it.
Lots of Hollywood and N. Y. stars make an appearance as they were woven thru and impacted Cicely’s life and career. Her tumultuous relationship with Miles Davis has a much softer presentation, (than other accounts that I’ve read), with her gracious reflection applied. The vignettes with her various friends are some of the most heartwarming I’ve read in an autobiography. They’re not mushy-gushy, that’s not her style; what they are is meaningful observation. Tyson shares the true value of her friendships – pain, joy, humor, and hope; really lovely.
Cicely is prescient and speaks about it as well as her abiding, guiding, life-long faith; the single constant in her almost century-long life. A mix of Episcopal, Catholic, and Baptist from birth, her religious roots held fast and to this day, she remains an active congregant at an Abyssinian church in N. Y. The Divine leading in Cicely’s life was the strongest influence to her success, she followed the prompting: “God, the Source of all time, Creator of all life, has forever been directing mine.”
This is one of those books you’re just going to have to read for yourself. If you’re a fan of Ms. Tyson, you’ll devour it. If you’re a movie/tv history fan, it will be satisfying and highly informative, especially regarding black artists. There are racial discrimination issues to ponder from almost a century that are presented without political histrionics. Also, you can find advice on just about any other topic including diet and health – quite a volume, to be sure!
As soon as I heard Ms. Tyson published Just As I Am: A Memoir in the course of her speaking immediately purchased the book to read and be a reviewer. When I found out she passed away today before the book arrived have been mourning and reflecting. She’s been someone I’ve admired for many reasons. Not just as a star.Why I am so interested in the book is for her perspective on life. I’m in my mid-fifties and am contemplating the rest of my days. What can I do now to continue striving for the best? Before jumping on here to do an unusually different review, prereading, downloaded the audible version to start today and finish by tomorrow. Since it’s an evening I’m not going to be able to stay up long enough to finish.Narrated by Viola Davis, Cecily Tyson herself, and Robin Miles. OH MY GOODNESS.
As if Viola Davis is not enough as the narrator. This Queen of empathy and overcoming so much is one of my heroes for personal reasons.
Ms. Tyson is also reading. I’m not certain why I’m surprised. I’ve never been SO EXCITED to listen to a book.
Robin Miles is topping off this trio narrating. I’m just blown away.
Being able to hear Ms. Tyson speak her truth will be one of the greatest moments in my literary life.
Upon leaving the earth from her body less than 24 hours ago, Ms. Tyson has left me her spirit. Who she truly is. To listen, know, and learn from in ways I can only imagine.