Title: The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir
Author: Jenifer Lewis
Caring for a newborn can make reading (and blogging) difficult. So when my college roommate Dawn offered to gift me a free book on Audible, I readily accepted. I also knew just what I wanted to listen to – The Mother of Black Hollywood, Jenifer Lewis’s memoir. I have known since another college friend Marcia tagged me in the following Facebook post by Jezebel of Lewis giving an excerpt from the book:
Although I have never experienced an audiobook, I knew even when I listened to the excerpt in 2018 that I needed to experience this memoir audibly. I also knew that Jenifer MothaFuckin’ Lewis (as she calls herself) needed to be narrator.
I was rewarded with such a wonderful experience. This memoir not a celebrity tell where Lewis dishes on the gossip of others. She also doesn’t attempt to put on airs. There are some memoirs that make it obvious a ghost writer or editor played a heavy role in shaping it. That is not the case with this memoir. Occasionally, I’d read along while listening to the audiobook and it was clear that the memoir was written in Lewis’s voice. In fact, there are a few passages that may not be as clear without Lewis’s personality dripping from the words.
Lewis is open and honest, not so much about others in the industry as she is about herself. Her sex life, her battles with her bipolar disorder and therapy, even her honest grappling with her childhood. “Feel the fear and tell the truth to yourself,” Lewis writes. Over the course of her life, Lewis has learned to be honest with herself and so therefore is able to be honest with us and ask us to do the same.
A natural entertainer, Lewis is able to tell the truth about even painful memories while also making you laugh. Years into her success, she called her childhood pastor to discuss something serious. Her pastor started to rave about how proud she made the community until she had to interrupt by saying, “This ain’t that kind of call, Mothafucka!” The stories of her then undiagnosed mania are often hilarious. After one of her theatre performances, Lewis went to a party with other celebrities. When she approached the group, she asked if they were talking about her and how well she’d done. When one of the celebrities (I’ll let you read the memoir to find out who) told her everything wasn’t always about her, Lewis replied, “Yes the fuck it is.” Hilarious! But, in her reflection on such incidents, Lewis tempers the humor by reminding her readers that she was out of control and needed help.
As many of us know, Lewis did eventually get help and now speaks openly about her bipolar disorder. But she also tells of the journey it took to find a therapist she could relate to, open up to her, and then actually be willing to apply what she learned in her sessions to her day-to-day life. It is a journey, one that only Lewis could tell.