“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
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
With her iconic roles in movies like Sounder and the miniseries Roots, Cicely Tyson was an inspiration to audiences all over the world. Yet the groundbreaking Black actress rarely spoke up about her private life. In this intimate autobiography, published just two days before her death at age 96, Tyson guides us through her personal journey, from her impoverished childhood as the daughter of stylish, uncompromising West Indies immigrants to her rise to world-renowned model and performer. We were enraptured by Tyson’s candor about her struggle to support her daughter early on, and by stories that illustrate how her irrepressible faith and curiosity led to her award-winning career. Tyson’s poise and wit are captured beautifully in this poignant testament to a woman who changed the face of American culture—both literally and figuratively.
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.