Finding Me by Viola Davis

Finding Me

Finding Me by Viola Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Viola Davis’ book is more than just her life. Although this book talks about her childhood and her struggles with poverty, food insecurity, and dealing with abuse and trauma throughout her childhood, she shares her journey to finding her purpose in life, and herself. Her upbringing, as horrible as she has described it, was for a purpose. God doesn’t waste anything. Although it was a harrowing experience going through, God has placed her strategically in life to do magnificent things. She knows this now, but going through life, she didn’t have the insight to see how her struggles and experiences were going to mold and shape her into a star; a success. I don’t think any of us truly understand that the bad experiences we suffer in life is actually for a greater purpose; to show God’s glory. If anything, Viola Davis shows us how good God has been to her, and presents her story in such a way that God’s glory cannot be denied.

I am deeply humbled and sympathetic to Viola’s story. Her story is heartbreaking, a personal interpersonal reckoning, and a survival story. However, all these experiences, have allowed her to bring forth characters in her career that has made us all see the gift and talent that have not been diminished by her upbringing. If anything, her struggles shaped, molded, and built her in order for her to reach back and use these experiences for future success.

Reading this book made me realize how privileged I was a youth. I wasn’t raised in a rich family by any means, but my modest upbringing and lack of financial resources were not as poor as I thought. I went to school with kids like Viola, but I personally was not affected by poverty like her. Though we lived in a redlined Black neighborhood, I wasn’t food insecure, nor did we have to move to various houses throughout my childhood. Now I understand that God prepares us and builds us up for each of our unique situations.

Viola talks about systemic racism, colorism, sexism, misogynoir, domestic abuse, poverty, and how white systems try to erase our blackness just to digest us in a more tolerable way. It is also worthy to note that representation is absolutely necessary in our world. Shonda Rhimes was able to get Viola Davis into a part that allowed her to heal from many of her traumas she experienced as a young woman. Only a Black woman could do that, could see her, and ensure this happened for her. It was empowering to read, and I was so touched by everything Viola shared in her memoir.

Reading this book stirred a ton of emotion inside of me. Putting up with bullying throughout my childhood was difficult, going to a PWI was shocking and demoralizing, navigating the white man’s military was rough, but I made it. Her book really made me reminisce on all the things I’ve experienced, and how those unfortunate experiences shaped and molded me into the woman I am today, and allowed me to use those experiences to become a better person.

“There is absolutely no way whatsoever to get through this life without scars. No way!!”

“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.”

Viola is not only telling her story, but she gives hope to those who can’t see their way out of their situations. She talked in detail about how therapy saved her, and its something the Black community has not talked about openly until recently. Therapy was always something white people did in my mind. My parents and friends of my parents would either joke or talk around the topic of therapy, like its something people with money did… and Black people never had money to spend on therapy. However, I’m glad Viola was able to find a therapist that helped her heal. That there were people in her life helping her move forward a little bit at a time. I also am thankful that she spoke of the acting world in realistic experiences because we as regular people don’t know what goes on behind the acting/celebrity world. It reminds us all how human we all are.

I am more in awe of Viola Davis after this memoir than I was before I read her book. Though I knew some of her upbringing in poverty, I didn’t know the extent of her poverty and all that went with it. We all face difficulties in this world, but we don’t know the level and severity of those experiences and how they can show up later in our lives, behaviors, and mentality. God did protect her throughout her life. Definitely not the way in which she thought he would, and not at the times she wanted, but he has clearly came through and used everything she went through for good. To God be the GLORY! Viola Davis is an amazing woman, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity to read her memoir.

This book is a top read this year, hands down. 5 stars.

**Thank you to HarperOne for the gift of this book.

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Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

Calling for a Blanket Dance

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

People who are native and indigenous to the land are excellent storytellers. This goes for African griots and Native Americans who have been here in the Americas long before colonizers decided to get lost, but I digress. Oscar Hokeah has a gift of storytelling, and he’s going on my auto buy list from now on.

His magnificent story is told through the POVs of many family members who are apart of Cherokee, Kiowa, and Mexican lineage. Each chapter is from a different POV, but at the same time interrelated to all aspects of the same story. This book reminded me of There, There by Tommy Orange, but in a different sense. Similar only because of multiple POVs and several characters and how each person has something related to someone/something else in the ongoing story, and from an indigenous culture. However, that’s where the similarities end.

Hokeah is telling the origin story of Ever Geismausaddle through several members of his family on both his paternal and maternal side. The book also speaks to the Cherokee nation, Kiowa nation, and Mexican culture. Although there are several voices in this book, each voice adds to the story instead of muddling the story into a mess. Each person’s addition gives further clarity and power to the overarching story, which is a story of determination, resilience, power, culture, family, strength, community, and bravery.

We as a people rely on each other to get through this thing called life, and this book is the epitome of how family, friends, loved ones, etc., come together to help us all get through life. When we meet Ever Geismausaddle, he’s a baby, and by the end of the story he’s a grown man who shares his own story of how he has led his family through some of the toughest tragedies to get to a place of stability. Culture is very important to Native Americans, as their culture has been decimated, stolen, appropriated, and disgraced, and this book shows you how important it is to keep your culture thriving. Colonizers have been on a genocidal rampage to erase tribes, nations, and people who lived here before they got lost here, and it’s so important to have stories like Hokeah’s to be seen, read, shared, taught, and alive. Native Americans have been treated as castoffs, burdens to the government, or what have you, but I’m telling you, they have a place here. We are on stolen land, and their voices need to be heard and put on a platform to be shared everywhere.

This book shows a small peek into the strength and power that is still there, but it also shines a light on how little the government has done to protect them after all the US government has done to the people who are indigenous here. The treatment they have endured is impossible to reconcile, more needs to be done. This book shows that more needs to be done.

Every POV is powerful in its own right, but it all comes together at the end where history, culture, life, and future meet. This book was amazingly beautiful and I can’t stop thinking about it. I took my time to read this book, and whenever I read it, I was just blown away from every person’s story that shared a piece of Ever’s life. This book showcases collective family involvement, and community support. The growth that is seen here is phenomenal, from every person, everyone grows, and it is real life. We are more the same than we think we are different. Calling For a Blanket Dance was breathtaking. I seriously got emotional throughout the whole book, watching this family survive through tragedy, struggles, obstacles, success, disappointments, and hope. We are all apart of the past, present, and future and we need each other. It is important to gather strength from our ancestors, to gather strength from the present, and to use that strength for our future. Hokeah has written an impeccable book that should not go unnoticed.

Sidenote: Per the back cover of his bio, this story make me think this fictional work is really about Oscar Hokeah… but I could be wrong. This book is just too perfect.

Highly recommend this book to everyone. 5 stars.

Thank you to Algonquin and the author Oscar Hokeah for this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.

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Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An epic fantasy novel that portrays a female protagonist who is on a mission, appearing to be focused solely on revenge, but we get to see an epic mission from the beginning, and it’s something that will keep you riveted beyond belief when you read this. I listened to this book, and it was so epic that I felt I had to be missing something, so I immediately followed up the audio with reading the physical copy of the book.

We see this story layered in so many ways, that this book is telling several stories at the same time. I am overwhelmed by N.K.’s brilliance, I am gobsmacked.

So here are some things I pulled from this book that hit home for me.

I feel like this book is telling the story of the entire diaspora of Black people. There is so many nods to the Black plight that it can’t be ignored. You also get msygnoir, womanism, socio-economic standings/classism, prejudice, exclusion, macro/micro-aggression, systemic racism, tokenism, enslavement, global warming/climate change, oppression, etc. I mean if you peel back many of the layers of the story, you can see all of this unfold right in front of your eyes.

I also feel this book is a retelling of the creation story in a way, as there is so much symbolism here.

However, this story starts with a woman who has come home to find her youngest son killed. She then realizes her husband is a murderer and has taken their oldest, their daughter, as he flees before the woman comes home. Her world is destroyed, literally and figuratively, as she is coming to find out. The epic journey ensues as you see an origin story that sets the tone for the rest of the book, and you just can’t peel your eyes away.

I really can’t speak much about this book because it will spoil things, but I promise you that you need to read this book.

TW: child death, murder.

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