Just As I Am: A Memoir

Just As I Am: A Memoir

By Cicely Tyson with Michelle Burford

Published By: HarperCollins

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

I’ve been a fan of Cicely Tyson’s work since I watched The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman on television when I was a child.  Since then, I’ve seen a great many of her works, including Roots, Fried Green Tomatoes, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion, The Help, How to Get Away With Murder and more.  On and off “the stage,” Cicely Tyson always seemed to be such a class act and I was saddened by her death early this year.  When I found out that she had written a memoir, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. 

Just As I Am: A Memoir opens with an introduction by another great actress and fan of Cicely Tyson, Viola Davis.  In her introduction, I learned that she, too, had first set eyes on Tyson in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and that her performance was what inspired Davis to become an actress.  After the introduction by Viola Davis, there is a short intro by Cicely Tyson herself in which she talks about how long she has put off writing her memoir.  A woman who has let her spiritual connection with God as well has her self-proclaimed “sight” guide her in life, it should come as no surprise that she would decide to publish her memoir just two days before her death.

I enjoyed reading about Cicely Tyson’s parents and their beginnings in Nevis.  Their journey to America brought them to places I knew well in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.  I also loved reading that Cicely was extremely shy in her youth, content to be by herself.  Not only could I relate to this, but I found it amazing that such a shy child could turn into such an amazing performer as an adult.  I found it interesting that she suffered similar angst and difficulties in her relationship with her mother as a teenager, something many women can relate to. 

Once she starts discussing her modeling and acting career, we begin to see the strength and determination that propelled Tyson to stardom.  And yet, when she discusses her relationship with Miles Davis, we are reminded that she is still human, still flawed.  She is unapologetic in her discussion of how she handled Miles’ womanizing and drug abuse, but it is easy to see that she truly loved the man.  Just as easy as it is to see that she loved her daughter, so much so that, although she must talk about her as she is a big inspiration for many of the decisions in her life, she was determined to keep her daughter’s real name out of the memoir and thus protect her privacy.  

Now, I have read many memoirs and some folks are quite content to talk about their pasts without really revealing anything about themselves.  Just As I Am is not one of those memoirs.  In this book, Cicely Tyson doesn’t just talk about her past, she talks about those who molded her into the person she became.  She also talks about her beliefs, political, personal and more.  Just As I Am is a well-rounded view of an amazing individual whose integrity and powerful belief in herself propelled her to the top and allowed her to be a mentor and inspiration.  This is definitely a must read for Cicely Tyson fans everywhere!

Buy Just as I Am: A Memoir at Amazon

Published by Melissa Minners

Site Manager

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: