I have always liked Taraji P. Henson. I really have. Since I saw her in Baby Boy (“I hatechu Jody! Or my favorite, “Fuck you AND these neighbors!”). There was something so powerful about her being on screen. I couldn’t place it then. But, now, I know what it is.
This fierceness, this unapologetic insistence of belief in opportunities in self. A wise woman told me that it was called ‘the eye of the tiger.’ In other circles, it could be found in the Book of Isaiah. The fiftieth chapter and seventh verse. The translation in the King James Version reads ‘set your face like flint.’
In reading her book, I found myself laughing out loud, having, feeling more in common with her than anyone else Black, woman and famous.
There was no punches pulled. With her D.C. accent front and center–as much as I love Gabrielle Union’s book (click here for that review)–this book here? This is what I needed as a Black girl, and woman now, that decided what she wants is bigger than what people think you should have.
In speaking about her childhood with frank recollection, to the loss of her first love, Mark, and the loss of her Daddy, and how she even had to hustle landlords in getting apartments! This memoir here? This is one of the books I want to give to every artistic child in my circle. I want to give it to my adult girlfriends that gave up on dreams. I want to give a copy to the cemetery that houses my father—the man that couldn’t even believe in the daughter who, too, was a dreamer and writer.
Set your face like flint. SET YOUR FACE LIKE FLINT.
There is a honesty in her retelling, especially at the loss of her father, that all I could say is, “Me too, sis. Me too.” When her father told her, continued to encourage her about her creative nature? Even when it involved her moving across the country with her baby and less than $1000? I cheered. I lived it with vicariously and with utter joy.
Of course she talks about the typecasting; the power of playing Queenie; the raucous fight she had with her agent before she could even agree to read the script for Empire.
Now, I’ve never been to D.C. I’m a Southern-Midwest/Midwest-Southern hybrid. I grew up in a city that is now known for violence, poverty, lies and leaving Black men on streets like rotting strange fruit.
I, too, understand what is like to be brilliant, different, creative, and Black—in a failing public school. I know what it’s like to have a dream, this fire, and not enough people to speak to it. Until that speaking, that fire becomes ashes.
I get it, Taraji!
As I went through this book, this meal in written form, wishing I had a box of rice and a Vess soda and talk to Taraji. Trading Daddy stories, taking notes on creative writing (oh, Taraji wrote monologues too!), and being utterly dramatic.
This book was like finding an oldest cousin, a big sister, who made it–but who had to leave everything (and everybody) to do it! There is an energy in the book that unless you have lost something, you will keep underestimating her. You will only see her as an edgy, Black girl.
You gotta understand something, Torches. I am the descendant of conjure women, farmers, and those whom where illiterate. My parents are some of the first to go to college. I went to public school K-12. Nothing as it related to academics was ever handed to me. I remember when crack hit FOR REAL in St. Louis, MO. I remember the first time I got pulled over by the police. With and without my father. I remember when I told my father I wanted to be a writer and how he looked at me as if I had grown something out of my face.
I remember teachers telling me that I couldn’t be a writer. That I couldn’t be good at this.
What I couldn’t…what I couldn’t…what I wouldn’t…
There were pieces in this book that made me tear up. That made me mad! That made me remember, recall being that little girl that wanted to just write books. The little girl that dreamt of winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Bruh. I get it…I get it.
Around The Way Girl, reminds me to dust myself off. It reminds me to keep going. It reminds me to push, and keep going. The grind is monumental, insistent and bigger than we can ever imagine. But, I have no choice but to keep going.
“I am happy when Black women win.” -Taraji P. Henson
Me too, sis. Oh my goodness, me too. This book is beyond a win. It is a Torch. From that, Taraji is a flame over here.
Thank you, sis. Thank you.