ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



February 2023



Finding Me by Viola Davis

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for:
Those familiar with Davis’s work. Those interested in a serious discussion of the challenges a Black woman faces.

In a nutshell:
Actor Viola Davis

Worth quoting:
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a different past.”

Why I chose it:
I heard people talking about it so I purchased the audio book (I do love a celebrity memoir read by the author). Then she won the Grammy for the performance of it so I decided it was time to start it.

What it left me feeling:
Happy (for the author)

Before this book I didn’t know much about Viola Davis. I’ve seen some of her work – Doubt, The Help, How to Get Away With Murder – but I didn’t know how she chose this career, or what her life was like.

This is a memoir that feels deeply honest, written by someone who has done the work to sort through experiences that hopefully most readers can only imagine. Living in poverty, having an abusive parent, facing racism, sexism. And managing to find a way to be successful and happy working in an industry that is notoriously racist and sexist.

Davis’s childhood was rough. Like, rough in a way that I can’t quite fully comprehend. The fact that society just … allows living conditions like the one her family experienced. And that’s not a commentary on her parents – that’s a commentary on social support and safety nets. If food stamps only last half the month, that’s better than nothing but it’s also not nearly enough. No adults, let along children, should be fending off rats. The fact that she not only survived that childhood but is a functional, thriving adult? I mean, damn.

Another area that I wasn’t really expecting was Davis’s experience at Julliard and the how the gatekeepers of talent perpetuate the systems of oppression. People associate Julliard with training some of the most talented people in the arts, but Davis shared how that training promoted and perpetuated white ideals of what talent and art are. I’m not surprised to learn this, but I am disappointed.

I appreciated Davis’s transparency around being a working actor, and the ideas about ‘integrity’ and what types of roles people take. She breaks down how few people are able to make enough money to get the good health care in SAG – I think it’s 4%? – and the threshold for that is earning $20,000 a year. Imagine. 4% of all actors on TV and in film making that much. She is clearly someone who desperately loves her art and her craft, and takes it very seriously, but also seems to recognize that work is work, and very few people can afford to be choosy.

After listening to the audio book, I can see why she won the Grammy (completing the EGOT, and for performances only for the first time in many years). I’d recommend if you’re thinking of reading this to choose the audio version.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Recommend to a Friend.

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