Books & Applause
Ms. Cicely L. Tyson passed away on January 28, 2021, two days following the publication of her memoir Just As I Am. Rest in peace, Ms. Tyson, as the world celebrates your extraordinary life and legacy.
Oscar, Tony, and three-time Emmy Award-winning actress Cicely Tyson shares her remarkable story in a memoir The Oprah Magazine calls an “essential, passionate, raw, revelatory account of a woman who refused to allow any obstacle to thwart her quest for excellence—racism, misogyny, poverty, single motherhood—and today stands as one of the greatest actresses of all time.”
• The New York Times Book Review, November 2020, by critic Lisa Schwarzbaum: It is a fine and bracing thing to finish this roundup with Just As I Am (HarperCollins, 416 pp., $28.99), a memoir completed recently enough to include references to Covid-19 and Breonna Taylor. (It will be published in January 2021.) The stories are those of the esteemed actor, activist and former model Cicely Tyson, who, just two years ago, became the first African-American woman to receive an honorary Academy Award, and who has received multiple Emmy nominations for her ongoing work on “How to Get Away With Murder.” Of course, what with Tyson turning 96 years old this year, no illusions are spoiled in explaining that the firm, warm, proud, reflective voice on the page, in full keeping with the star’s onscreen image, is the creation of Michelle Burford, a gifted “collaborator and story architect,” as she calls herself, whose previous celebrity collaborations include books with Alicia Keys, Toni Braxton and Simone Biles.
I linger on this “with” credit, because I like to think that Tyson herself must admire the enterprise with which Burford has turned her specialized skills into such success. The Harlem-born Tyson was “a deep chestnut brown in a nation that considers the darker sister the less attractive one.” Her parents were immigrants from Nevis in the West Indies; her father’s womanizing resulted in her mother leaving, taking little Cicely, her older brother and younger sister. Tyson’s mother could be harsh, belittling. Pregnant as a senior in high school, young Cicely married the baby’s father, but the marriage was brief; the daughter she sent away (to boarding school, to the care of others) for such long stretches while she hustled to establish her own life appears over and over in these pages, an old mother’s regret for what she felt she could not give her baby girl.
Certain stories serve as narrative anchors: Tyson’s artistic education through the tutelage of the lauded director Lloyd Richards; the revolutionary gesture of cutting her hair short and natural in 1962; and, especially, her long, complicated romantic relationship with the damaged, drug-ravaged, genius jazz musician Miles Davis, a connection of great glamour and great strain. This she reflects on at length, with a clear-eyed attention to painful details that, no matter how great the writing assistance, begins with the integrity of the woman ready to do the telling.
A throng of admirers has been eager to hear whatever she wants to tell. Burford, a sensitive listener, has organized 96 years’ worth of stories with grace.Right about now, the autobiography of Miss Cicely Tyson is a balm for the afflicted.
•The Washington Post, January 2021, by Tre’vell Anderson: Just As I Am is a 400-page chronicle of a history as American as apple pie, as Black as the dead of night, as rich, surely, as Tyson’s favorite meals, oxtails and okra, cooked up by her late ex-husband Miles Davis. While undoubtedly personal—or “plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside,” as Tyson writes in the book’s introduction via her skilled collaborator Michelle Burford—it’s a universal accounting of just how far we’ve come in Tyson’s near-century of life, and how far we still must go.
But what shines most from the memoir is how Tyson’s story, while frankly written and supremely eye-opening, isn’t just her own. It’s also the story of Black women in America, of generations past, present and yet to come, whose wills to survive are divinely gifted and ancestrally guided. Perhaps that’s why, in the last pages of the book, she speaks directly to her proverbial sisters and daughters, nieces and grandchildren, revealing what she hopes her legacy will be, whenever God calls her home.
• The Oprah Magazine: “Just As I Am is an essential, passionate, raw, revelatory account of a woman who refused to allow any obstacle to thwart her quest for excellence—racism, misogyny, poverty, single motherhood—and today stands as one of the greatest actresses of all time.”
• Publishers Weekly: “Tyson provides an intimate glimpse into her stormy marriage with jazz maestro Miles Davis, which ended in divorce. ‘I felt no need to drape words on the hanger of inevitability,’ she writes. ‘The marriage had long since been over.’ It’s in these poignant moments that the memoir becomes a resonant meditation on the link between an actress’s life and her art. This show-stopping tale hits the mark.”
• Best Memoirs and Biographies: Amazon Editors’ Pick, March 2021Buy Now
More Myself is an intimate look at one artist’s journey from self-censorship to full expression. As one of the most celebrated musicians in the world, 15-time Grammy Award-winning artist Alicia Keys has enraptured the globe with her heartfelt lyrics, extraordinary vocal range, and soul-stirring piano compositions. Yet away from the spotlight, Alicia has grappled with private heartache―over the people-pleasing nature that characterized her early career, the loss of privacy surrounding her romantic relationships, and the oppressive expectations of female perfection.
More Myself is part autobiography, part narrative documentary. Alicia’s journey is revealed not only through her own candid recounting, but also through vivid recollections from those who have walked alongside her. The result is a 360-degree perspective on Alicia’s path―from her girlhood in Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem, to the process of self-discovery she’s still navigating.
The book features narrative and audio contributions by Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Jay-Z, Bono, Swizz Beatz, Clive Davis and America Ferrera.
• Oprah Winfrey: “Alicia has navigated the spotlight and pressures of fame while retaining a humble and beautiful spirit. I am honored she chose to share her personal story through my imprint.”
• First Lady Michelle Obama: “For years, I’ve been turning to my friend Alicia for love and support, and I’m so excited for her to share her wisdom and her journey with all of you in her new book, More Myself.”
• Dr. Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly and Rising Strong: “Alicia’s book, More Myself, is a master class in authenticity and vulnerability.”
• Amazon’s “Best Biographies and Memoirs of April” Review: “More Myself is thoughtful, informative, revelatory, questioning and celebrates what it truly means to live a creative life.”Buy Now
Clint Harp, the maverick carpenter on Chip and Joanna Gaines’s smash hit Fixer Upper (HGTV) and the star of Wood Work on the DIY Network, shares the inspiring story of his rise from novice craftsman and reluctant cliff jumper to internationally renowned furniture artisan. Spanning Clint’s remarkable life—including a childhood learning carpentry and hard work at his grandfather’s knee, the struggle to balance pursuing his lifelong passion with supporting his family, and the many adventures and misadventures of filming Fixer Upper in Waco, Texas—Handcrafted is part memoir and part manual for dreamers. Clint provides unvarnished, thoughtful reflections on a path that is possible for anyone bold enough to attempt it.
• President Jimmy Carter: “A fellow craftsman from Georgia, Clint shows how to live life as an adventure. From the floor of his first shop to the foundations of Habitat for Humanity houses, to building furniture for the world to see, Clint Harp is living a handcrafted life.”
• Chip Gaines: “I’m proud of Clint. I’m proud of the husband and father he is, and I’m proud that he’s my friend. He’s the kind of guy who just bears down and gets stuff done. I’m glad he took the time to put his life story together, and I’m honored to have played a small part. Don’t be dumb…read this book!”Buy Now
During a protest in Dallas on July 7, 2016, a gunman went on a shooting spree and murdered five police officers. Chief Brown, a 33-year veteran of the force, made the historic call to take down the assailant using a C-4 bomb transported by a robot.
In this powerful memoir, the chief takes us behind the scenes of his high-octane career in law enforcement, including his rise from crime scene investigator to SWAT team leader and head of a department that has been hailed as a model for community policing.
Chief Brown also shares his deeply personal tragedies: His first partner was killed in the line of duty; his younger brother was murdered by drug dealers; and a few weeks after he was sworn in as chief, his mentally ill son took two lives and was then killed by a cop.
Following his service in Dallas, Chief Brown became a correspondent for ABC News. Amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, he was appointed as the chief of the Chicago Police Department.
• Whoopi Goldberg, The View: “[Chief Brown] is the real deal: a real Christian, a real man, a real leader.”
• Texas Monthly: “In the turbulent days after a gunman murdered five officers, the Dallas police chief was the voice of compassion and unity that the city and country needed.”
• TheCrimeReport.org: “[Chief Brown] draws on his 33-year-career in law enforcement to develop a vision for the next generation of policing.”Buy Now
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles—hailed as one of the greatest athletes of all time after her breathtaking performance at the 2016 Rio Games—shares her inspiring journey from a foster-care home in Ohio to her place in history as the most decorated American gymnast to ever compete.
• Ranked #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list, Young Adult Hardcover Nonfiction
• Indie Best Seller list, Young Adult Hardcover Nonfiction
• Mary Lou Retton, 1984 Olympic champion: “Just when we thought we were at the physical limit of the sport, here comes Simone Biles. She’s the best I’ve ever seen. She’s in a class by herself.”
• Nastia Liukin, five-time Olympic medalist: “Courage to Soar is a truly remarkable story about an amazing athlete and person. I continuously felt inspired through each chapter.”Buy Now
Orange Is the New Black actress Diane Guerrero was just 14 on the day she arrived home to a heartbreaking discovery: Her mom and dad, Colombian immigrants, had been detained and deported. Diane, a U.S. citizen, was left completely on her own; no immigration official or child services worker ever contacted her. For the first time, Diane shares the full story of her struggle to remain in the United States, her agonizing separation from her loved ones, her determination to build a successful acting career—and her hope that her family will one day reunite in America. Read an excerpt.
• Publishers Weekly: “Guerrero was left on her own with no government oversight whatsoever, a harrowing situation she recounts with honesty, pathos, and bravery.”
• Kirkus Reviews: “A moving, humanizing portrait of the collateral damage caused by America’s immigration policy.”
• School Library Journal: “This touching memoir will resonate with those who want to know more about the lives of immigrants and refugees, or have experienced a situation similar to Guerrero’s.”
• Winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Award, for best adult books that appeal to teen readers
• Book Riot’s “Best Books of 2016” list | Chicago Public Library’s “Best Books of 2016” listBuy Now
Amy Purdy, the double-amputee snowboarder and TED speaker who inspired a nation on Dancing with the Stars, reveals the intimate details of her dramatic comeback from the brink of death to her historic victory at the 2014 Paralympic games in Sochi. Amy’s glimpse of the afterlife—coupled with the loss of her legs to bacterial meningitis—compelled her toward a new spiritual path. Read an excerpt.
• The New York Times Best Seller monthly list (Sports)
• Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love: “Amy’s honest and sharply written memoir leaves me feeling as uplifted as I do when I spend time in her presence. She brings the same courage and open-heartedness to these pages that she brings to each day she navigates the world—one carbon-fiber foot at a time.”
• Deepak Chopra: “What a remarkable young woman—and what a gem of a book.”Buy Now
Michelle Knight was a young single mom in 2002 when Ariel Castro lured her into his Cleveland home and imprisoned her. Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were later forced into captivity. For the first time since the girls’ triumphant escape, Michelle reveals the daily torment she endured, her longing to reunite with her son, and her courageous journey from heartache to healing. Read an excerpt.
• Ranked #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list, Combined Print and E-Book Nonfiction
• Ranked #1 on The Wall Street Journal Best Seller list
• Amazon’s “The Best Books of 2014” listBuy Now
Toni Braxton has earned six Grammy Awards and sold more than 60 million albums worldwide—yet success hasn’t shielded the singer and reality show star from some of life’s greatest hardships. In this revealing memoir, Toni opens up about her pair of humiliating bankruptcies, her heartrending divorce, her son’s autism—and the painful health condition that once threatened her life. Read an excerpt.
• Ranked #1 Amazon Best Seller in Popular Music Books, May 2014
• Michelle appeared as Toni’s co-author in the hit reality show Braxton Family Values
• Lifetime Original movie Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart (2016) is based on the memoirBuy Now
At the 2012 Olympics, Gabby Douglas leapt into the hearts of millions as she claimed a double victory and became the first African-American to win an all-around gold. In these pages, she shares the story of her rise from poverty to the top of an Olympic podium. Read an excerpt.
• The New York Times Best Seller list
• The Guardian: “Douglas’s co-author, Michelle Burford, is a founding editor of O…so the book’s tone is heartwarming, tear-jerking, and highly readable.”
• Publishers Weekly: “An effervescent first-person account of Douglas’s life from birth to the Olympics, this book will capture the attention of sports enthusiasts and Douglas’s admirers…Overall, the book delivers.”
• Grace, Gold and Glory is on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and CultureBuy Now
How do you create a #1-rated talk show for 25 seasons? In this 148-page, full-color bookazine, Oprah gives you a personal backstage tour of one of America’s best-loved programs. She shares stories of the show’s early days (“We’d go downstairs on State Street and beg people to be in our audience in exchange for heat!”) and what led her to shift the show in the ’90s (“I wanted to use this platform as a force for good”). The keepsake includes O’s all-time best memories—the celebrity interviews, aha moments, makeovers and huge surprises. Read an excerpt.
“Michelle is simply the best: She tells every story with great flair, she’s on time, and she delivers quality work, all with no behind-the-scenes drama.”
former VP/Publisher at Crown
“Michelle, thank you for your hours of listening and deep understanding. I’ve had some of my greatest aha moments during our writing process.”
Grammy Award-winning artist
“Michelle had a strong vision for shaping my story into a New York Times best seller. When you partner with her, you’re in the best hands.”
and snowboard champion
“Michelle did a great job as my co-author. She’s smart, funny and easy to work with—and above all else, she’s a
Grammy Award-winning artist
“I’ve worked with Michelle on many projects. She’s creative, positive, reliable—a brilliant ideas person who sees things through to completion.”
Pulitzer Prize-nominated author
“Michelle, thank you for lending me the poetry of your pen and the openness of your heart. The Spirit led me well in prompting me to choose you.”
Oscar-winning screen legend
“Michelle always creates a poignant and well-told story. I appreciate her imagination, warmth and ability to handle difficult assignments.”
Award-winning writer and editor
“Michelle, thank you for transforming my endless number of crazy stories into a beautiful inspiration for both kids and adults.”
world’s most decorated gymnast
“You can trust Michelle: Tight deadlines are met, book manuscripts come in clean. I strongly recommend her for high-profile projects.”
Senior Editor, Zondervan