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9 Inspiring Celebrity Memoirs by Black Women

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Just as I am: A Memoir about Cecily Tyson

“Just as I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named.

I am a daughter and a mother, a sister and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by his hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.” –Cicely Tyson

Finding Me by Viola Davis

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.

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.

We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union

One month before the release of the highly anticipated film The Birth of a Nation, actress Gabrielle Union shook the world with a vulnerable and impassioned editorial in which she urged our society to have compassion for victims of sexual violence. In the wake of rape allegations made against director and actor Nate Parker, Union—a forty-four-year-old actress who launched her career with roles in iconic ’90s movies—instantly became the insightful, outspoken actress that Hollywood has been desperately awaiting. With honesty and heartbreaking wisdom, she revealed her own trauma as a victim of sexual assault: “It is for you that I am speaking. This is real. We are real.”

In this moving collection of thought provoking essays infused with her unique wisdom and deep humor, Union uses that same fearlessness to tell astonishingly personal and true stories about power, color, gender, feminism, and fame. Union tackles a range of experiences, including bullying, beauty standards, and competition between women in Hollywood, growing up in white California suburbia and then spending summers with her black relatives in Nebraska, coping with crushes, puberty, and the divorce of her parents. Genuine and perceptive, Union bravely lays herself bare, uncovering a complex and courageous life of self-doubt and self-discovery with incredible poise and brutal honesty. Throughout, she compels us to be ethical and empathetic, and reminds us of the importance of confidence, self-awareness, and the power of sharing truth, laughter, and support.

You Got Anything Stronger? Stories by Gabrielle Union

So. Where were we?

Right, you and I left off in October 2017, when my first book came out. The weeks before were filled with dreams of loss. Pets dying. My husband leaving me. Babies not being born. My therapist told me it was my soul preparing for my true self to emerge after letting go of my grief. I had finally spoken openly about my fertility journey. I was having second thoughts—in fact, so many thoughts they were organizing to go on strike. But I knew I had to be honest because I didn’t want other women going through IVF to feel as alone as I did. I had suffered in isolation, having so many miscarriages that I could not give an exact number. Strangers shared their own journeys and heartbreak with me. I had led with the truth, and it opened the door to compassion.

When I released We’re Going to Need More Wine, the response was so great people asked when I would do a sequel. The New York Times even ran a headline reading “We’re Going to Need More Gabrielle Union.” Frankly, after being so open and honest in my writing, I wasn’t sure there was more of me I was ready to share. But life happens with all its plot twists. And new stories demand to be told. This time, I need to be more vulnerable—not so much for me, but anyone who feels alone in what they’re going through.

A lot has changed in four years—I became a mom and I’m raising two amazing girls. My husband retired. My career has expanded so that I have the opportunity to lift up other voices that need to be heard. But the world has also shown us that we have a lot we still have to fight for—as women, as black women, as mothers, as aging women, as human beings, as friends. In You Got Anything Stronger?, I show you how this ever-changing life presents challenges, even as it gives me moments of pure joy. I take you on a girl’s night at Chateau Marmont, and I also talk to Isis, my character from Bring It On. For the first time, I truly open up about my surrogacy journey and the birth of Kaavia James Union Wade. And I take on racist institutions and practices in the entertainment industry, asking for equality and real accountability.

You Got Anything Stronger? is me at my most vulnerable. I have recently found true strength in that vulnerability, and I want to share that power with you here, through this book. 

The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir by Jenifer Lewis

From her more than three hundred appearances for film and television, stage and cabaret, performing comedy or drama, as an unforgettable lead or a scene stealing supporting character, Jenifer Lewis has established herself as one of the most respected, admired, talented, and versatile entertainers working today.

This “Mega Diva” and costar of the hit sitcom black-ish bares her soul in this touching and poignant—and at times side-splittingly hilarious—memoir of a Midwestern girl with a dream, whose journey took her from poverty to the big screen, and along the way earned her many accolades.

With candor and warmth, Jenifer Lewis reveals the heart of a woman who lives life to the fullest. This multitalented “force of nature” landed her first Broadway role within eleven days of her graduation from college and later earned the title “Reigning Queen of High-Camp Cabaret.”

In the audaciously honest voice that her fans adore, Jenifer describes her transition to Hollywood, with guest roles on hits like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Friends. Her movie Jackie’s Back! became a cult favorite, and as the “Mama” to characters portrayed by Whitney Houston, Tupac Shakur, Taraji P. Henson, and many more, Jenifer cemented her status as the “Mother of Black Hollywood.”         

When an undiagnosed mental illness stymies Jenifer’s career, culminating in a breakdown while filming The Temptations, her quest for wholeness becomes a harrowing and inspiring tale, including revelations of bipolar disorder and sex addiction.

Written with no-holds-barred honesty and illustrated with more than forty color photographs, this gripping memoir is filled with insights gained through a unique life that offers a universal message: “Love yourself so that love will not be a stranger when it comes.”

Walking in My Joy: In These Streets by Jenifer Lewis

Walking in My Joy is a collection of electric stories by the one and only, super hilarious Jenifer Lewis. Her commentary on what’s happening in the world today, told through her outrageous real-life adventures, will have you laughing out loud, while her insightful messages touch your soul.

A self-described “traveling fool and nature freak,” Jenifer takes readers with her all over the world, from Cape Town to Bali; Washington, DC, to the Serengeti; Mongolia to St. Petersburg; and Argentina to Antarctica to demonstrate how she walks in her joy by seeking pleasure in everyday encounters. Every step of the way you’ll be doubled over with laughter as she faints at the Obamas’ holiday party; awakens to a swollen face and has to go to the hospital during the height of the Covid pandemic; an alien visitation; a successful takedown of a conman; as well as meeting a handsome Maasai warrior and being chased by a Cape buffalo.

An actress, activist, and mental health advocate, Jenifer Lewis imparts ways to love yourself that will allow you to deflect negative energy and keep people who may come to take your joy in check. She stresses the importance of fully living to your greatest ambitions and taking the time to admire the world’s natural gifts. She also encourages embracing each other’s uniqueness as a way of finding societal healing. Walking in My Joy is a riveting and enthralling journey.

Around the Way Girl: A Memoir by Taraji P. Henson

With a sensibility that recalls her beloved screen characters, including Katherine, the NASA mathematician, Yvette, Queenie, Shug, and the iconic Cookie from Empire, Taraji P. Henson writes of her family, the one she was born into and the one she created. She shares stories of her father, a Vietnam vet who was bowed but never broken by life’s challenges, and of her mother who survived violence both at home and on DC’s volatile streets. Here, too, she opens up about her experiences as a single mother, a journey some saw as a burden but which she saw as a gift.

Around the Way Girl is also a classic actor’s memoir in which Taraji reflects on the world-class instruction she received at Howard University and how she chipped away, with one small role after another, at Hollywood’s resistance to give women, particularly women of color, meaty significant roles. With laugh-out-loud humor and candor, she shares the challenges and disappointments of the actor’s journey and shows us that behind the red carpet moments, she is ever authentic. 

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

Growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles, Tiffany learned to survive by making people laugh. If she could do that, then her classmates would let her copy their homework, the other foster kids she lived with wouldn’t beat her up, and she might even get a boyfriend. Or at least she could make enough money—as the paid school mascot and in-demand Bar Mitzvah hype woman—to get her hair and nails done, so then she might get a boyfriend.

None of that worked (and she’s still single), but it allowed Tiffany to imagine a place for herself where she could do something she loved for a living: comedy.

Tiffany can’t avoid being funny—it’s just who she is, whether she’s plotting shocking, jaw-dropping revenge on an ex-boyfriend or learning how to handle her newfound fame despite still having a broke person’s mind-set. Finally poised to become a household name, she recounts with heart and humor how she came from nothing and nowhere to achieve her dreams by owning, sharing, and using her pain to heal others.

By turns hilarious, filthy, and brutally honest, The Last Black Unicorn shows the world who Tiffany Haddish really is—humble, grateful, down-to-earth, and funny as hell. And now, she’s ready to inspire others through the power of laughter.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

I’m awkward—and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right. Where do I start?
Being an introvert (as well as “funny,” according to the Los Angeles Times) in a world that glorifies cool isn’t easy. But when Issa Rae, the creator of the Shorty Award-winning hit series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, is that introvert—whether she’s navigating love, the workplace, friendships, or “rapping”—it sure is entertaining.

Now, in this New York Times bestselling debut collection written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself—natural hair and all.


The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a book no one—awkward or cool, black, white, or other—will want to miss.


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