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"Around the Way Girl" by Taraji P. Henson and Denene Millner


PUBLISHED DATE: October 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1501125997

PAGES: 256

I liked this book for many reasons....none of which are for the writing style. Having said that...let's talk about what I liked.

I listened to this book on audio. It's narrated by Taraji herself, which I liked. It was over-the-top, but so is Taraji, so I enjoyed it. I liked that this book is inspirational. Taraji speaks candidly about her rise from the rough neighborhoods of Washington DC with big hearted rough neck who beat her mother, and a poor struggling single mother who tried to make life beautiful for her despite their rough surroundings and Taraji's troubled father. I loved how Taraji spoke about her mother. Taraji spoke of how her mother instilled confidence in her, and how her family supported her dreams of becoming an actress. She notes that many children who come up in rough neighborhoods don't have much positive support and people who support them in the arts - particularly acting. I loved Taraji describing her relationship with her son and trying to raise a young black man while balancing a grueling and demanding career. I also liked Taraji describing her experience as a drama major at Howard University and her struggles as a black actress in Hollywood. I loved the way she describes the friendships she's made with other black actress, and I really loved her spilling the tea on the pay disparities of black women in Hollywood. I had read a snippet about Taraji having to pay for her own accommodations on Madame Noire, and that sold me on the book.

Now...I am not a fan of the characters Taraji plays. I don't watch Empire. I don't like Cookie, the character she plays on Empire. I didn't like the Hustle & Flow, and I didn't like the character she played in that movie. I liked Yvette, the character she played on Baby Boy...but I wasn't a fan of Baby Boy when I initially saw it - the themes and the characters were so stereotypical...I was in high school when I watched it in the theater and I cringed all the way through it. I really appreciated that Taraji addressed some of the stereotypical characters she has played throughout her career, and how she has routinely been typecast - yet somehow managed to do what many actors regardless of race have been unable to do - break out of a box and play a wider range of characters. She spoke of her process of breaking down each character and adding a backstory and context that attempts to push stereotypical characters into a more layered and human lens. She's now played a detective, a successful businesswoman, and I am looking forward to seeing her portray a NASA mathematician in the highly anticipated film, Hidden Figures. I may not like all of the roles Taraji has played, but I am now a fan of Ms. Henson. I am both street and suburban, and I know how it feels to be misunderstood in the world, and to not have people be able to figure me out, or ascribe to me a place that doesn't fit me. I thought her story did an amazing job of giving voice to that experience.

Recommendation: The story is great...The writing style is ambitious, but it gets the job done.

Audience: Millennials and Beyond - though a lot of teens who watch Empire and some of Ms. Henson's other roles will enjoy the book.

*I purchased this audiobook on Audible.

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