September 2022

Finding Me: A Memoir

— Finding Me is Viola Davis's raw, poignant life story, and she packed this book with defining moments until it was brimming with that which eludes most of us: how to unapologetically be yourself. 
Finding Me: A Memoir
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If I created a fable of my life, a fantasy, I see myself finally meeting God, gushing, crying, thanking the Almighty for the accolades, a fabulous husband, beautiful daughter, my journey from nothing to Hollywood, awards, travel. I can clearly see the Lord’s face, staring at me, taking me in and saying, ‘You never thanked me for creating you as YOU.

Viola Davis is one of the most revered actresses of today. In 2021, her net worth was  determined as $25 million dollars. She has starred in countless films, television series, and plays.  She has been nominated for and won numerous awards, including an Academy Award, a  Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, making her the only Black actor so far to  achieve the Triple Crown of Acting. But what is so striking about Davis as a person is not only the quantitative wealth, acclaim, and experience she has accomplished: Her powerful magnetism  is rooted in the immeasurable and utter humanity with which she so bravely infuses her characters. People often wonder about stars like her, pondering what it is that gives them the “it”  factor so many others seem to lack. The truth is that Davis’s life—her real-life experiences, relationships, and personal discoveries, whether harrowing or blithesome—have shaped her into  the jointly empathetic and talented person she is today. Finding Me: A Memoir is her raw,  poignant life story, and she packed this book with defining moments and life lessons until it was  brimming with that which eludes most of us: how to unapologetically be yourself. 

Davis begins her book with recollections of her life at just eight years old. Raised in a predominantly white neighborhood in Central Falls, Rhode Island, Davis endured an  unimaginably difficult childhood as she attempted to survive as a young Black girl in the 1970s.  Though she found joy in her education, her close-knit group of sisters, and her creativity, she  was simultaneously afflicted by bullying, secondhand alcoholism, abuse, severe poverty, sexual  assault, racism, and a number of other tribulations; these were the products of her situation, and  she was keen on escaping it. But without the proper tools, this position would prove to be an  arduously retrogressive position as a Black, impoverished woman in America.  

There is an emotional abandonment that comes with poverty and being Black. The weight of generational trauma and having to fight for your basic needs doesn’t leave room for anything else. You just believe you’re the leftovers.

Despite every incredulous hurdle, Davis found herself through art. She became a professional  actor, wowing audiences everywhere and eventually earning international recognition. But it was  anything but easy. She worked hard, and this memoir is a comprehensive reflection not only of  her rise to success and fame, but of her critical healing process as well. 

Finding Me: A Memoir shared pivotal moments throughout Davis’s life. From her  father’s abuse to bigotry in her classrooms to rat-infested apartments to colorist colleagues, her  adolescence seemed a never-ending bout of struggle. Things that may seem a given to others— going to college, moving out of her hometown, her next meal, respect in the workplace—were a  constant challenge. Acting was a savior for Davis. The unique adversities she faced served as  sources of inspiration and drive in her art.

The process and artistry of piecing together a human being completely different from  you was the equivalent of being otherworldly. It also had the power to heal the broken.  All that was inside me that I couldn’t work out in my life—I could channel it all in my  work, and no one would be the wiser. And if I was good at it, I could make a life. It was perfect. All of it was a perfect alchemy for healing, acceptance, and worthiness.

Our favourite quote from Finding Me

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 in other people’s tucked-up perceptions than truth.

This was a turning point for Davis. Once she discovered how her brokenness would fuel her art  instead of hindering it, Davis bloomed both as an actor and as an individual. Such a revelation allowed her to embrace the empathy and forgiveness which were key to  her healing. She was able to practice these habits toward those who had wronged her; most  importantly, however, she was able to practice empathy and forgiveness toward herself. There is a reason Davis opens her memoir with angry, traumatized, tough, eight-year-old Viola. Reading  about her transformation of self as she learns how to heal the adult woman that hurt little Black  girl grew into is a beautiful experience. Davis is intimate with the details of her journey, and she  lays out her soul for all to see. Even after reading about all the nitty-gritty, both Davis and her  readers can take solace in her statement that she sees people in a way that is hyper-focused  because of her past; she has the incredible capacity for compassion that makes her such an  incredible artist because of everything that has happened to her. If you need a memoir that will  pick you up and teach you about rejecting shame and welcoming healing, I highly suggest  Finding Me: A Memoir. And if you think you don’t, I still suggest reading it.  Viola Davis currently resides in Los Angeles, California with her devoted husband,  Julius, and daughter, Genesis. Together, Viola and Julius founded JuVee Productions, a film  production company focused on inclusion and diversity in storytelling. Davis is constantly  working on new projects, and her newest film, The Woman King, was just released in theaters  this past week. Though she is successful beyond most artists’ wildest dreams, she still firmly  believes that “success pales in comparison to healing.”

Seeing what someone’s reading is like seeing the first derivative of their thinking.