I must confess, I haven’t really known much about Viola Davis except for one or two movies I have seen of her before. It was not until I watched Fences and Woman King that I thought I should read her book.

There are a lot of valuable lessons that can be picked up from Viola Davis’s biography, but the two key lessons that stick out to me the most throughout the book are:

Firstly, Viola Davis grew up poor. There were paragraphs that left me shocked and a bit emotional while reading the book.

Viola’s story contains some frightening moments. Feels like reading an uncensored and intimate diary of Davis’s life, where the tragedy and pain are still fresh.

Secondly, Viola Davis was born into poverty and has a dark black complexion. In this book, Viola discusses how, due to the fact that she is dark-skinned, she was a target of bullying at school. She describes how it felt to be on the receiving end of such treatment.

People with darker skin tones are more likely to be ignored or looked down upon by society, which frequently favours those with lighter skin tones.

The book details her efforts to dispel the stereotype that people of dark complexion cannot hold influential positions. There was a period when individuals of dark complexion were stereotyped as being unattractive and so unfit for prominent roles. Viola’s success in the acting industry required her to defy that typecasting.

To read this memoir is to gain an understanding of just how hard this extraordinary performer has worked to build the career and life she has today. It is also to gain an understanding that even for a performer who is as extraordinarily gifted and dedicated as Davis is, component X known as luck can never be underestimated.

It is without a doubt one of the most straightforward and unflinchingly honest autobiographies that I have ever had the privilege of reading. Viola had a difficult childhood, and it wasn’t simply that her family came from a low-income background; rather, she grew up in an environment where substance abuse and violence were commonplace.

Viola was able to get some support from her siblings and programs that were offered to her which helped to build her self-esteem, incentivised her to change the course of her life, and propelled her toward achieving her dreams despite the fact that her parents were busy dealing with their own demons. The descriptions of the living conditions in her home are difficult to comprehend.

Rating

9/10

The book is beautifully written but can be quite harrowing at times. An open, honest, and fearless portrayal that is absolutely amazing in every way of how one of the most talented actors of our time became who she is now.

This book was strong, beautiful, and very authentic to the woman who wrote it. Viola is such an inspiration, and I admire how open and vulnerable she is and how willing she is to share her story with the world.

While Finding Me is mostly a chronicle of the grit and determination needed to succeed despite setbacks, it also provides a lot of practical guidance for any actor hoping to make it in the difficult world of acting.

Favourite Quotes

  • “I’ve always been an introvert, and when I was young, I was extremely shy. At an early age, I became a keen observer of the world around me. I blended into the wall in almost every setting, and I was able to see without saying a thing.”
  • “It was the dead of winter and we had no heat. Next, the electricity was cut off. And then we had no phone. It just kept escalating. When you have no heat, no gas, you have no hot water. . . . It was subzero weather. Freezing. Absolutely freezing. And the pipes froze, so there was no running water. We couldn’t even flush the toilet. To make matters worse, we were all extreme bed wetters. Not going to school was unheard of for us, but that day we all stayed home. I remember sitting in the living room all day in subzero weather, all huddled together, pissy, freezing, watching my mom.”
  • “When my dad passed, part of my heart went with him that’s never coming back. I feel the same way about Julius. I feel the same way about my child, my mom, sisters. It’s one heart. They are completely entwined in my spirit.”
  • “Memories are immortal. They’re deathless and precise. They have the power of giving you joy and perspective in hard times. Or, they can strangle you. Define you in a way that’s based more on other people’s tucked-up perceptions than truth.”
  • “That’s what he asked me next. It was a big moment for me. I said, “No, but I’m doing the work. I’m in therapy. I’ve gotta clean things up before I can invite anyone into my life to love me.”
  • “Learned the hard way that when there are underlying issues, money does nothing. In fact, money exacerbates the problem because it takes away the individual’s ability to be held accountable.”
  • “There was an expectation of perfectionism without the knowledge of emotional well-being.”
  • “For a whole generation of Black people we were the dream. We were their hope. We were the baton they were passing as they were sinking into the quicksand of racism, poverty, Jim Crow, segregation, injustice, family trauma, and dysfunction.”

One thought on “Book Review: Finding Me by Viola Davis

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