Actress Cicely Tyson, 1976. Photo: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images.
Cicely Tyson’s ‘Just As I Am’ Tops Bestseller Lists as Family Sets Public Viewing in New York
/ BY Cynthia Ross Cravit / February 8th, 2021
Just two days after publishing her memoir Just As I Am, screen and stage legend Cicely Tyson passed away on Jan. 28 at age 96. Since then her memoir has shot to the top of the bestseller lists, with physical copies of the book even selling out on Amazon. (As of writing, the 432-page hardcover book is still out of stock, but is available in e-book or audiobook formats.)
Just As I Am, which is Tyson’s literary debut, was co-written with Michelle Burford, a founding editor of O, The Oprah Magazine. The striking image of Tyson on the cover was captured by none other than famed photographer — and ex-husband of Princess Margaret — Antony Armstrong-Jones around the time of the release of the actress’s 1972 film Sounder for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.
The audiobook is narrated in part by the award-winning actress herself, along with Robin Miles and her How to Get Away With Murder co-star and close friend Viola Davis.
Tyson, who made history in 2018 as the first African-American woman to receive an honorary Academy Award, has received accolades from Hollywood greats to President Barack Obama — who awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. The memoir reveals her long and legendary career in her own words.
“Just As I Am is my truth,” she writes in the book. “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 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 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.”
Zoomer magazine contributor Ashante Infantry interviewed Cicely Tyson over Zoom on Dec. 21, 2020 — two days after the trailblazing actress celebrated her 96th birthday in New York — for the February/March issue, on newsstands Feb. 8. In the wake of Tyson’s passing, we have published the cover story here in its entirety, along with two portraits taken by photographer Gabor Jurina exclusively for Zoomer at a socially distant photo shoot at the atelier of her close friend and designer, B Michael. And for more, Infantry takes a closer look at how acting became Tyson’s activism.
The memoir was dedicated to her daughter, who Tyson refers to simply as Joan in an effort to protect her privacy, saying she is “the one who has paid the greatest price for this gift to all.”
“Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life,” Tyson’s manager of more than 40 years, Larry Thompson, said in a statement. “Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree.”
Her family has since announced an official public viewing for the late actress and activist on Monday, Feb. 15 at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York, saying she’ll be laying in repose from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.