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Finding Me

Finding Me By Viola Davis Summary

Finding Me is a deep reflection, a promise, and a love letter of sorts to self. My hope is that my story will inspire you to light up your own life with creative expression and rediscover who you were before the world put a label on you.

In my book, you will meet a little girl named Viola who ran from her past until she made a life-changing decision to stop running forever.

This is my story, from a crumbling apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to the stage in New York City, and beyond. This is the path I took to finding my purpose but also my voice in a world that didn’t always see me.

As I wrote Finding Me, my eyes were open to the truth of how our stories are often not given close examination. We are forced to reinvent them to fit into a crazy, competitive, judgmental world. So I wrote this for anyone running through life untethered, desperate and clawing their way through murky memories, trying to get to some form of self-love. For anyone who needs reminding that a life worth living can only be born from radical honesty and the courage to shed facades and be . . . you.

About the Author

VIOLA DAVIS is an internationally acclaimed actress and producer, known for her exceptional performances in television shows like ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ and movies like ‘Fences’ and ‘The Help.’ She is the winner of an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, and in 2021 she won a Screen Actors Guild award for her role in ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’. In both 2012 and 2017, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Davis is also the founder and CEO of JuVee Productions, an artist driven production company that develops and produces independent film, theater, television, and digital content.

Finding Me By Viola Davis Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Cocksucker motherfucker” was my favorite expression and at eight years old, I used it defiantly. I was a spunky, sassy mess and when I spewed that expression, one hand would be on my hip, my middle finger in vast display, and maybe my tongue would be sticking out. If the situation was especially sticky, as backup I would call upon my big sister Anita. She instilled fear in every boy, girl, woman, man, and dog in Central Falls, Rhode Island. She grew her nails to be a better fighter.

She was tough, stylish, talented, and well . . . angry. “I’ll get my sister Anita to beat yo’ ass,” I’d say with confidence. But her being three years older than me, she wasn’t readily available to protect me.

While Anita was the fashionista fighter who was as loved and adored as she was feared, I was none of those things. I was the ride-or-die friend, competitive but shy. When I won spelling contests, I would flaunt my gold star to everyone I saw. It was my way of reminding you of who the hell I was.

In the third grade, I challenged the fastest boy at Hunt Street School, in Central Falls, to a race at recess. It was the dead of winter and everyone showed up. I had my crew, which was mostly girls, and he had his, which was, well, everybody else. My shoes were two sizes too small and my socks were torn—the part that was supposed to cover my toes. So I took them off and gave them to my friend Rosie who said to me, “Beat his ass!”

I didn’t beat him. We tied, which was great for ole underdog me, but humiliating for him. It was bedlam after that. Every kid in the schoolyard started chanting, “Rematch! Rematch!” “C’mon, Chris; you can’t let that girl beat you!” I peeked at them in a huddle, laughing, staring at me, whispering, “You can’t let that nigga beat you!”

When the teachers heard the commotion and saw my bare feet, I had to stand in the corner. In shame. As if I had done something wrong. Why all the vitriol? I was being bullied constantly. This was one more piece of trauma I was experiencing—my clothes, my hair, my hunger, too—and my home life being the big daddy of them all. The attitude, anger, and competitiveness were my only weapons. My arsenal. And when I tell you I needed every tool of that arsenal every day, I’m not exaggerating.

At the end of each school day, we had to get in line at the back door and wait until the final bell rang. The teacher would open the door, and everyone would dash out to go home. Everyone would get excited because it was the end of the day. Everyone, except me. As much as I could, I would push and shove my classmates, almost clawing my way to the front of the line, not caring in the least if they got pissed at me, because when that bell rang, I had to start running. I had to escape.

A boy in my class who was Cape Verdean, from the Cape Verde Isles off the coast of West Africa, was Black and Portuguese and as Black as I was. But he didn’t want to be associated with African Americans, a mindset I later learned was very common among Cape Verdeans in Central Falls. More often than not, they self-identified as Portuguese. They would kill you if you called them Black.

So my “Portuguese” classmate and eight or nine white boys in my class made it their daily, end-of-school ritual to chase me like dogs hunting prey. When that end-of-school bell rang, it was off to the races, running literally to save my life. For the gang of boys, it was sadistic-fun time. Every day it was the same madness. The same trauma. Me, taking off like Wilma Rudolph or Flo-Jo, and them tight on my heels.

While chasing me down, they would pick up anything they could find on the side of the road to throw at me: rocks, bricks, tree branches, batteries, pine cones, and anything else their devious eyes spied. But running me down and throwing projectiles at me wasn’t enough for them. Their vitriolic screams were aimed at the target of their hate. They threw, “You ugly, Black nigger. You’re so fucking ugly. Fuck you!”

Thank God I was fast. I had to run my ass off down Eben Brown Lane, the route I would take because it was a shortcut to get home, an idyllic road that looked like a scene from The Brady Bunch. At times, the boys would hide behind houses on that street and I would have to duck and dodge and crisscross. I was being hunted. By the time I got home, I was a snot-dripping, crying mess . . . every day.

One day after a snowstorm the snow was piled so high in the streets anyone could hide behind the giant mounds that seemed to be everywhere. My shoes had huge holes on the bottoms, which meant I couldn’t run fast in them because they would make my feet hurt worse than they did already. Because of this, during my daily runs for my life, I would usually take my shoes off, hold them in my hands, and run in bare feet. But with mountains of snow everywhere, I couldn’t this time.

As a result, they caught me. And when they did, they held my arms back and took me to their leader, the Cape Verdean boy. I don’t mention names because, well . . . their race is way more important in telling this story.

“She’s ugly! Black fucking nigger,” he said.

My heart was beating so fast. I kept silently praying for someone to come and save me.

And the other voices sounded around me, “What should we do with her?” “Yeah!” “You’re, you’re, you’re fucking ugly!” “You’re ugly!” “You’re ugly!”

“I don’t know why you’re saying that to me,” I pleaded to the ringleader, the Portuguese boy. “You’re Black, too!”

And when I said that, everyone froze and fell deathly silent. For a split second, we were all in a movie, as all the now silent white boys looked at the Portuguese boy, eager to respond to anything he said.

“You’re Black, too.” I yelled it this time, calling him by name. The gang remained silent. So quiet.

He looked and looked and looked from one white boy to another, frightened and struggling to find a way to hide the truth of what I had just said. The kind of truth that’s rooted in a self-hate that we would rather take to our graves. Finally, he screamed in intense anger, “Don’t you ever call me fucking Black! I’m not Black! I’m Portuguese!!!” And he punched me in the arm, really hard. He looked down, ashamed at being called out. As if I exposed the ugliest, most painful truth.

“Get outta my face!” Then they threw me in the snow and kicked snow on me. My arm stiffened. It was in pain. I walked home, completely humiliated.

The next day I didn’t want to go to school. My mom was doing the laundry in one of those old washing machines where you had to pull the clothes through the wringer.

“What’s wrong with you,” she asked.

“Mama, those boys want to kill me! They chase me every day after school.” After keeping it from her for months, I finally told her about my ongoing daily trauma.

“Vahla”—the southern pronunciation of my name—“don’ you run from those bastards anymore. You hear me? Soon as that bell rings you WALK home! They mess with you, you jug ’em.”

“Jug” is country for “stab.” But if you know what a crochet needle looks like, my mom was actually being ethical. They are not sharp at all! She gave me a crochet needle and told me to keep it in my pocket. It was her shiny blue one.

“Don’t come back here crying ’bout those boys or I’ll wop yo’ ass.” She meant it. This was a woman with six kids. She didn’t have time to go to school every day and fight our battles. She absolutely needed me to know how to defend myself. Even if she had to threaten me into doing it.

The next day, it took every bone, muscle, and cell in my body to walk after that bell rang. I could hear the voices of the boys behind me. I could feel their rage. The hate. But I walked extra slow. So slow I barely moved. My fingers were wrapped around that shiny blue crochet needle in my pocket.

The voices got louder and closer. Finally, I felt one grab my arm violently, and an anger, a finality, an exhaustion came over me. I whispered, “If you don’t get your hands off me, I’ll jug you.” He looked at me terrified, searching my face to see if I meant it. I did. He let me go and the rest of them walked away laughing. The ritual of chasing the nappy-headed Black girl had suddenly lost its luster.

Years later, a conversation I had on the set of Suicide Squad with Will Smith was an “aha” moment. Will asked me, “Viola, who are you?”

“What does that mean? I know who I am,” I replied with indignant confidence.

He asked again, “No, but who are you?”

“What does that mean?” I asked again.

“Look, I’m always going to be that fifteen-year-old boy whose girlfriend broke up with him. That’s always going to be me. So, who are you?”

Who am I? I was quiet, and once again that indestructible memory hit me. Then I just blurted it out. “I’m the little girl who would run after school every day in third grade because these boys hated me because I was . . . not pretty. Because I was . . . Black.”

Will stared at me as if seeing me for the first time and just nodded. My throat got tight and I could feel the tears welling up. 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.

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For More Biography Books

Finding Me

Finding Me: A Memoir PDF

Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN0063037327, 978-0063037328
Posted onApril 26, 2022
Page Count304 pages
AuthorViola Davis

Finding Me By Viola Davis PDF Free Download - Epicpdf

Finding Me is a deep reflection, a promise, and a love letter of sorts to self. My hope is that my story will inspire you to light up your own life with creative expression and rediscover who you were before the world put a label on you.


Author: Viola Davis

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