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Like many a biography, things start off slow, so slow you almost question why are you reading this? Yet, after reading a few memoirs, I already things don’t get good until the origin story ends and the personal struggles begin.
Chapter Summaries (with Commentary)
Chapter 1: Fearless
As the book title alludes to, Taraji P. Henson isn’t like Shonda Rhimes. If anything, her upbringing is more like Diane Guerrero but rather than worrying about immigration she was worried about her father being homeless or going to jail and her mother being assaulted. You see, Taraji is from D.C. but not the places where CNN and the news networks focus on when congress is meeting. She is from the hood of D.C.
On top of that, yeah she is essentially from a single parent home but don’t call her dad a bum, though. She is very much a daddy’s girl and her daddy loved his baby. Often to the point of driving the mother crazy for he wanted to see his child and would kick and scream toward a door to be with her. Heck, he even kidnapped her once. But what matters most about her dad, despite the flaws she isn’t afraid to mention, is he taught her to be fearless. He taught her to face her fears head on and pushed her to get courage when she didn’t have any.
As for her mom? She taught her drive, making a way out of no way, and to even remained poised as adversity builds and knocks you down. The combination of being taught to be fearless and doing the work to survive, and maybe thrive a bit, that is what got her here today. That is what got her an agent, named Vince, who had Halle Berry as a client and wasn’t necessarily looking for another Black girl to take on. Especially in the 90s. Yet, even with her son living with her, who was still young enough for a babysitter, she took herself to LA, grind as her mother did, and the rest is history.
[…] fear is a liar [and] I make a point of calling its bluff.
— “Chapter 1: Fearless” Around The Way Girl – Page 23
On The Fence
Your Usual Wood Burning Oven
I know already now to expect much from the first chapter of damn near anything but especially memoirs. Almost all books want to ease you into things, introduce the parents or major influences before you get to really know the end result of those people’s efforts. An origin story which you recognized is required but, like with the Marvel films, you do feel like you heard everything before.
It Sort of Lacks Personality
Those familiar with Taraji through her films, TV shows, or interviews know she got the type of voice and persona which brings life to the situation. Which I feel the book doesn’t have. I mean, you can hear her as you read this, but unlike RuPaul’s book there isn’t this excitement, unlike Shonda Rhimes’ there isn’t this hesitation to let you in, and there isn’t even that Wendy Williams’ raw, I didn’t write this for my haters – I wrote this for my fans, type of vibe. For while she is letting us in, the first 25 pages felt really formal. Not to the point it is devoid of the Taraji many have come to know and love, for her personality is in there, but even with her talking about her dad, her mom being assaulted before her, and things of that nature, it is like this whole chapter was written like she was talking to someone interviewing her vs. a fan, her son, a friend, or anything which would make the one seem less like just another means of marketing the brand.