PERFORMING ARTS

Just as I Am

HarperCollins. Feb. 2021. 432p. ISBN 9780062931061. $28.99. FILM
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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.

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