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Around the Way Girl

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From Academy Award nominee, Golden Globe winner, and star of the new motion picture Hidden Figures, Taraji P. Henson, comes an inspiring and funny book about family, friends, the hustle required to make it from DC to Hollywood, and the joy of living in your own truth.

With a sensibility that recalls her beloved screen characters, including NASA physicist mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, Yvette, Queenie, Shug, and the iconic Cookie from Empire, yet is all Taraji, the screen actress 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 in the 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 the pitfalls that come with being a black actress. 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. She is at heart just a girl in pursuit of her dreams.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published October 11, 2016

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About the author

Taraji P. Henson

2 books128 followers
Taraji Henson is an American film and television actress. She is best known as Cookie Lyon on the Fox drama series Empire for which she won a Critics' Choice Award, a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Emmy Award. In 2008 she received an Academy Award nomination for her role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Henson is also a singer and provided the vocals for the Three 6 Mafia track "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp". The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006.

Henson is a graduate of Howard University where she studied drama, a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and is the single mother of a grown son.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 810 reviews
Profile Image for Erin .
1,277 reviews1,200 followers
October 24, 2016
I love Taraji P. Henson!!! I loved her before she was Cookie on Empire. The movie Baby Boy is one of my favorite movies, so when I found out she was writing a memoir I knew I had to read it. Taraji is so cool I want her to be my best friend truly. She is so incredibly honest & open just like I always thought she would be. I recommend this book to people who love Taraji, Empire, or just love honest memoirs.
Profile Image for Sarah Weathersby.
Author 6 books87 followers
February 7, 2017
I don't often read celebrity memoirs. This was possibly the second one I've read. I like Taraji, maybe because she was born the same year as my older son, and attended NC A&T just as my son did. She didn't know my son, but he sure knew who Taraji Henson is. Taraji thought she wanted to be an engineer, and did try, but it didn't take long for her to realize her heart was in the theater and movies. She left A&T and went on to Howard University where she found a more substantial Theater training. My son left A&T for North Carolina Central University where he majored in Theater Education. And he always had a good word for the work that Taraji was doing.

The book covers Taraji's early life with her single mother, and a father who was always her rock, her best advisor. The love of her life was Mark. They never married, but they had a son, Marcell, together. They might have married, but Mark showed his abusive streak only one time, and Taraji would not have it. She knew he was capable of hitting her again. They raised Marcell together.

Her theater training at Howard University was just the beginning of a fruitful career. The part that raised her expectations the most was in the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," in which a baby is born as an old man and becomes younger as he "ages." Henson earned her first big movie salary from that movie, which starred Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. And she won an Oscar for
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.

A lot of the book covers Henson's relationships with other actors/actresses, and goes into the long-standing issue of equal pay for female actors. Even A-listers like Jennifer Lawrence finally had to speak out about the lack of equal pay, when many women are afraid of being black-listed. Even Tyler Perry stepped in to give Henson a substantial role with equal pay.

It's a decent book. I could tell which chapters were written by a ghost-writer.
Profile Image for Nicole.
399 reviews103 followers
December 21, 2016
Great read.Very inspirational. And her dad was a hot mess had me literally laughing out loud!
Profile Image for Naori.
161 reviews
January 25, 2022
Reasons to suspend intellectual conversation for a moment and just fangirl it out:

1. She got so into a character once that she yelled at herself and upset her dog, Uncle Willie.

2. She named her dog Uncle Willie.

3. She did a major photo shoot in just her braids.

4. She's just as confused as the rest of us by what #squadgoals means.

5. She drives a Jeep Cherokee and takes Ubers home from the bar.

6. You know if you had that same moment with her that she did with Mary J. Blige, she'd just turn around and hug you right back.

There's one story Taraji tells towards the end of the book where she is in Paris taking a tour of Coco Chanel's old apartment, and the guide shows them a set of charm boxes given to Coco by a longtime lover of hers, the Duke of Westminster. They are on the outside, of course quite attractive, but when you open them up they are coated in 24 carat gold. The real value in the boxes was the intimacy of light that only came from the inside, which could only be know when opened. I think this intimacy of light is exactly what Taraji gives us here in this memoir. Yes, there is absolute beauty on the outside but the stories within are so full of jest and wisdom and grit. The kind of grit that you get when you dive to deep in the ocean, when the sand gets between your teeth and you can crunch on it - these words are crunchy.

She also has a powerful way of gracefully dismissing sorrow by just refusing to let it move in and unpack its bags. Her dedication, not only to her craft but to her perception of life, is unwavering. She makes you believe that there are people out there like that, with light hidden on the inside; we want there to be people like her, in any field, and we want to be a person like that ourselves. Now it is not lost on me that this was probably heavily edited, no doubt told through a sieve, leaving many things left out. But to me that makes it all the more powerful. Because her story, and I believe her life, are both about belief and hope; this very much translated over to me while I was reading it, and in that way it couldn't be more authentic. On that note, I am going to imagine myself curling up on one of her couches, listening to some Nina Simone, sipping a glass of wine and reading through screenplays. :-)
Profile Image for pianogal.
2,862 reviews46 followers
December 7, 2016
I love Taraji, but I didn't love this book. It wasn't bad, but it just felt like it talked about surface topics and was flat. I wanted to know more about the rolls she went after and the audition process and to dig a little deeper.

Not bad, but just kinda blah.
Profile Image for J Beckett.
142 reviews407 followers
February 13, 2017
If you have ever wondered what makes Taraji P. Henson an extraordinary woman, actress, person or friend, you need only open her memoir, Around the Way Girl, and fall in...face first! Taraji pulls no punches, enacts no stunts and evades the 'star' temptation of glamorizing her journey to the place she now dwells. She offers no apologies, not for her childhood challenges, her teenage errors or keeping a wall of honesty between her and the rest of the world. Love her or not, Taraji embodies the place we all have been and the destiny we aspire to.

I had walked the thin line of contemplation before I opened this book. I wondered what story could come from Taraji P. Henson that would be filled with commonality -- what could she essentially tell us that we couldn't assume from her Baby Boy or Empire appearances? I was, admittedly, pleasantly surprised by the story she told. Good/Bad daddy's little girl, dreaming an impossible dream to have it deterred before she completed secondary school, academic disconnection at NC A&T, impregnated during her junior year at Howard U by a boy we all met in high school, and a triumphant renaissance. Along the journey, she remained Taraji. She writes:

"I moved Los Angeles and went on a frenzied but exhaustive search for an agent. A friend arranged my meeting with Vince, but he made it clear he wasn't looking for new clients; at the time, he already had a power roster, including Halle Berry, and taking a chance on a young, inexperienced black actress at a time when roles for actresses who looked like me were few and far between wasn't a priority. But I got to him by standing in front of that man and being regular ol' Taraji from southeast DC, with my slightly country drawl and one fingernail painted bright red.

"'What's with the fingernail?"' he asked,

I looked down at my hand absentmindedly and shrugged. "'I forgot to take the paint off,"' I said matter-of-factly.

After that, Vince launched questions at me in rapid fire succession, sand i answered each of them easily and truthfully, hiding nothing. I told him how I'd studied acting at Howard and got pregnant in my junior year -- how I came to Los Angeles with my baby and only seven hundred dollars to my name, but a passion for my craft as wide as the Pacific."

Around the Way Girl is a manifesto; a confessional, for anyone who has forgotten how to believe or dream. Taraji shouts on the page, with the same fervor as she does on stage, that failure is the option for the other person.

I enjoyed this book; enjoyed venturing into her world and making it a part of my own. There were grandiose, even preachy moments, but they were honest and real. They allowed us to relate and reflect. They made us think about who she is and why she is. They made us love her, perhaps infectiously. Simply stated... they allowed us to walk in the prints of the Lioness that is Taraji.
Profile Image for Koko  Lewis.
90 reviews7 followers
March 19, 2017
I can understand why people like this book, but it is not for me. I read it for MochaGirlsRead March book, things I read for my book clubs lol. I listened to the Audible version of this book narrated by Taraji, and her voice is THE WORST part of this book. I am not a fan of hers, but I respect her accomplishments. The phrase, "single (Black) mother" makes up seemingly 1/3 contents of the book. In her attempt to be real and display her "hustler" spirit she came off braggadocios. I learned about her, but not the character jewels that I look for in autobiographies. She is an "around the way girl" and overy dramatic, which caused me to smh and eye roll plenty of times through out this book.
Profile Image for YupIReadIt.
172 reviews97 followers
February 6, 2017
I am going to have to find a way to put into words my feelings about this book someway somehow
Profile Image for Joy Olivia.
38 reviews
February 10, 2017
I do this weird thing when I read celebrity memoirs: I judge them.

I don't care so much if they are well written. Sometimes—when the writing is *too* good—I'm actually a smidgen distracted. (E.g. Shonda Rhimes's Year of Yes was a freaking work of art. I couldn't make it through a page without stopping to underline something. So good!)

The two factors to my judging? I rate them by how authentic they are, and I critique them on whether or not I think they would be a good friend IRL.

Are they being real? Are they cherry-picking stories that only make them look good? Or, are they keeping it superficial, the deepest revelation being random name-dropping that I surmise they think makes them look good. (Narcisistic memoir writer names withheld to protect the famous innocents.)

But, here's the thing about Around the Way Girl: After finishing Taraji P. Henson's book, you're going to be an even bigger fan.

She is genuine. She shares the good and bad. And, she does so in a way that will make you like her so much that you'll wish she was your friend. You end up thinking she's the kind of person who would tell you if you had broccoli in your teeth and if you need to dump a bad news boyfriend but who would also be happy for your successes, never be jealous, and encourage you to go further than you think you can. These traits I feel like she got from her parents. The stories about her mom and her dad were my favorite.

Needless to say, because of all this, her book scores an A+ when it comes to my silly celebrity memoir criteria. My only complaint? I wished it might have included a little more. I was bummed when it was done. Of course, I suppose she has to leave something for a follow-up book, no?

*** Bonus favorite fun fact from the book: While describing what it was like to fly to NYC to be an extra on Spike Lee's Malcolm X movie, she revealed she once starred in a ThighMaster infomercial. Don't you just love it? That's what I mean about sharing the goofy along with the awesome.

Now rush out and get the book so that you can read all the details about this and more. I don't want to share too much and spoil it for you.
Profile Image for Maya B.
501 reviews55 followers
November 3, 2016
I really enjoyed this one. Taraji is one of my favorite actresses. The book read like she was having a conversation with her readers/fans. What I liked most about this memoir was everything I read was all new to me because her personal life is not all over social media.
Profile Image for Lekeisha The Booknerd.
936 reviews107 followers
October 17, 2016
Funny and inspiring, Around the Way Girl is a pretty great memoir. Taraji holds nothing back about her success and failures, family, and an industry that is not always rainbows and sunshine. She's come a long way but has never forgotten WHERE she came from. Such a perfect title for this memoir. Full RTC!
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
826 reviews207 followers
August 1, 2018
It's so hard to rate memoirs!

This one is more linear than most of the others I've read this year, as Taraji P. Henson goes through her life from early childhood as the daughter of divorced parents (she was lucky enough to have good relationships with both of them); through her teens and into college, where she honed her character acting skills while working and being pregnant her junior year and a single mother her senior year; and into adulthood, when she and her baby moved to California to pursue her dream of becoming a working actress.

If you don't like women who appreciate their own talents and hard work, then this is not a book for you. Taraji knows her own value and is determined to make sure other people see it. She's been acting since she was in middle school; she was trained by some very fine talents; and she puts in a lot of work researching the characters she plays, developing their backstories and understanding their lives so she can completely embody them. She also spends a lot of time watching movies and studying other people's acting techniques in order to keep learning. I was struck by how similar this is to being a writer, in the need to truly understand all your characters through and through, no matter how "minor" they may seem.

Her most powerful and political chapters are the ones on raising a black boy and being a single mother. I especially appreciated the vulnerability she shows when she discusses how she and her son have a healthy relationship now because they were brave enough to go get therapy after his father died, and learn to be open and honest with each other.

She also has plenty to say about the Hollywood pay gap, both between men and women, and between white and black actors.

I found this a quick, meaty, and inspiring read. Taraji P. Henson believes in going after what she was made for, and in knowing her own worth. And she wants her reader to feel that about themself, too.

Thanks to Lola's super-short review which put this book on my radar!
Profile Image for TJ *Book Twins Reviews*.
1,074 reviews2,462 followers
November 13, 2016
In Around the Way Girl Taraji P. Henson shares details of her upbringing in a tough part of Washington D.C. From emotional details about her relationship with her father to her first experience auditioning in Los Angeles, she lets it all hang out.
It takes a lot of courage to put all your truths on display for the world to critique. As open as I am, I can't imagine sharing so much of myself with just anyone. I admire Taraji for having that courage. She actually speaks quite a bit about how her relationship with her father led to that fearlessness.
I'm certain there are a lot of "around the way girls" who share similar experiences and will grow from seeing how dedication and hard work can lead to success. Anyone can grow from even the most humble beginnings to achieve whatever dreams they aspire too.
This book is honest, engaging, raw at times, funny, and real. It's everything I imagine Taraji to be. I enjoyed it very much.
Profile Image for Seymone.
270 reviews23 followers
December 31, 2018
Why did I pick it up?

I picked up this book because I really like Taraji Henson and the various characters that she has played. I wanted to get a grasp of who she is as a person and who had a hand in making her that person. I wanted to understand her drive and what makes her want to hustle so hard. Also, I believe you can learn a lot about life through the lives of others.

Describe the book in 5 words

Raw, Interesting, Passionate, Engaging, and Funny

Who would LOVE Around the Way Girl

Anyone who loves, Taraji P Henson would love this book. I would also say minorities that are now entering the industry and wants an inside look as to what one could face.

Are there illustrations?

I do not think so. I listened via Audibles.

Overall thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to Taraji narrate this book. Side note, she speaks really fast and I had to slow the speed of the narration. However, it was usual Taraji style, raw and honest. You get a glimpse into the Taraji we all know and love. I would recommend.
Profile Image for Nikki.
477 reviews3 followers
February 1, 2019
I feel like I've been stewing and avoiding a review on this one. I don't understand how NONE of the reviews I've read have mentioned that Taraji's father physically and emotionally abuses and threatens to kill her mother multiple times but TPH still seems to worship the ground he walked on. He's a "good" man, he was her "rock" at some point, I think. I feel like she casually mentions all this trauma at the beginning and then sings his praises for the rest of the book. She speaks more highly of her father than of the mother who sacrificed for and raised her. That really tainted the whole thing for me.
Profile Image for Christina.
221 reviews87 followers
October 22, 2016
I liked this book for many reasons....none of which are for the writing style. Having said that...let's talk about what I liked. For more on this book review and to see an interview of Taraji on Good Morning America click here
Profile Image for Sarah Robinson.
Author 48 books2,224 followers
August 20, 2017
This was such a fantastic audiobook! I feel that I learned a lot about Hollywood, and what life as an actress is like, while also being thoroughly entertained by the funny stories. This was a surprisingly emotional listen as well.
Profile Image for Zubs Malik.
236 reviews98 followers
February 17, 2021

Taraji P. Henson’s memoire totally shattered any illusion that I had. Her book, her own words told exactly as it was, was a reality check for me and I have totally changed my entire perspective of her and of anyone who has made it big in Hollywood.

I absolutely adore Taraji. I love her tenacity and her will power. She had a goal and no matter what circumstances she was placed in, she always bounced back. She had flaws just like us real life folk and her honesty was just phenomenal and it made me appreciate her even more.

I loved that she shared her own personal narrative and took back ownership of how the public views her and how the world of film perceived her too. She speaks candidly of breaking down racial stereotypes that were assigned to her when auditioning for roles for example did you know that she was first offered the role of the single Black mother in ‘Think Like A Man” first? Until she said NO, I want to play the role of Lauren, the successful businesswoman. That role in her words was going to be offered to a White actress and Taraji stood her ground. She asked them how they could give the ‘successful woman’ role to a white actress in a predominantly Black cast movie.
This was one of the reasons why she was initially hesitant to accept the role of ‘Cookie Lyon’ in the hit series Empire, she wanted to break away from the stereotype. But she did agree and aren’t we glad that she did because she took home a Golden Globe Award for her performance. In the words of Dolly Parton ‘get you a woman who can do it all’ and Taraji, my friends is a jack of all trades.

I loved that the entire novel was told from her own perspective and experiences. I loved the fact that we could see snippets from own reality and life through her trials and tribulations. I loved that she touches upon sacrifices, love, lost, honesty, race and in the end finally accepting what really matters in life. To be happy within your own skin. To take ownership of yourself. Put yourself first.

When I listened to her audiobook it felt like I was watching her on stage speak about herself. How she raised her son as a single mother. It broke me when I read the part of her teaching her young son about race and colour after he was subjected to racial abuse when he was just a small child. I laughed out loud listening to her recount the moment her father (who she loves so so much) publicly call her out on not washing her hair for a few weeks. This is what her book does. It pulls every emotion from you, equal parts pain and laughter.

We all know her for her iconic roles. This wonderful memoire, a totally candid account in her own words puts everything on the table. This is your chance to get to know Taraji P Henson and what life experiences shaped her into the woman that she is today.

I walked away with a new profound respect for this woman and I know that you will too.
Profile Image for Valerie.
88 reviews49 followers
February 9, 2017
As someone who always knew about Taraji the actress, this book was an interesting invitation to go a bit deeper into Taraji the woman. Learning about her family life, the relationships that shaped her, and seeing the way that all fit into the woman we see on screen today was enlightening. The moments where she reflected on her role as a woman of color in the industry, the friendships she has, and the dedication she puts into each of her characters were probably my favorites. Seeing her take pieces of Taraji and use that to bring a script to life was especially rewarding. It made me want to revisit some of the pieces I've seen her in with this new perspective in mind.

It's been a while since I've read a memoir so I did feel a bit of longing for the structure of fiction. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable read, filled with tidbits I hadn't gotten from interviews and appearances over time. I look forward to seeing more of her in the future, especially now that I can appreciate the journey she took to get to her place in the industry.
172 reviews
February 1, 2019
I checked this book out from my local library, and as a fan of Taraji was excited to read it. However, I feel like it's important to acknowledge that the author *begins* her book with a glamorized view of her father - an abuser.

In the first chapter it's revealed that Taraji's father not only emotionally and physically abused her mother (not to mention threatening to kill her multiple times), but that he also attempted to kidnap Taraji when she was about four years old after her mother went into hiding after facing another death threat. Despite ALL OF THIS, the author portrays her father as this good guy who maybe just happened to have some demons. He was "magical" to her.

Talking with another person that read this book, I learned that this continues to be a theme when the author talks about her father. I had to stop reading. I don't have time for people who prop up a culture of toxic masculinity and abuse. Serial abusers are not "good men" in any way, shape, or form. Their charm when they are not abusing does NOT absolve them of the terror they inflict.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,216 reviews114 followers
December 26, 2016
Taraji P Henson has always been resilient and fearless to me. Taking on roles like Baby Boy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Empire, all of her roles was apart of herself. I had no idea that she wrote a memoir, so needless to say I was excited to read this. Going back to her childhood, she described in explicit detail how she was raised in an abusive home. Learning how to hustle came easy to her, yet her dreams of being a star was birthed in her as a young age. I liked how she talked about racism in Hollywood, stereotypes that people and how to be relevant in a hectic business.

Fearless and bold, this was an amazing memoir about learning to overcome obstacles. Humorous at times but nevertheless it was a candid expression of a talented actress. Glad that I read this amazing memoir, highly recommended for fans of the actress or not.
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,422 reviews2,550 followers
October 23, 2016
Taraji P. Henson IS queen. I cannot get over how great this memoir was. Taraji writes the most insightful, raw, real and down to earth memoir. I found myself laughing out loud, crying, getting happy, and cheering Taraji on.
I knew of Taraji but I haven't really focused on her career until she started her role in Empire. She slays as Cookie and the show keeps me laughing all the time. I enjoyed this memoir because she shows the struggle of making it Hollywood, how hard it is being a single Mom and what exactly it is like raising a black young man in America.
I loved everything about this book and it made me like Taraji even more! A must read for me.
Profile Image for Manar.
110 reviews63 followers
January 17, 2017
Although it is an audiobook, it was very very boring and, surprisingly, even her performance felt insincere and she was trying too hard which made her story even less relatable.
Profile Image for Melissa.
236 reviews
February 6, 2017
I rate this a 3.5. I think it is best to listen to the audiobook which I give a 4. I don't think I would have liked reading it as much without the authors voice.
Profile Image for Tender&Delicate.
22 reviews5 followers
June 5, 2017
What a captivating audiobook. Taraji does an excellent job reading her own memoir and making the words come to life. She has made a lover of audiobooks.
Profile Image for Lindsay Nixon.
Author 22 books718 followers
August 5, 2019
DNF @ 40%.

On the one hand, Henson is so, so honest and transparent. There were several chapters that made me want to bow down to the woman she is---the way she sees and forgives people who have harmed her, the way she has stayed unapologetically herself, embracing both fear and rejection (inspiring me to stop people-pleasing and/or being "polite" and instead be more rigurously honest) and for giving my her truth so I can have more compassion and understanding---take a new perspective. I will never know what it is like to grow up in the projects or be a single black mother at 21, and am thankful Henson shared her experiences with me.

On the other hand, this memoir felt untethered and more like a collection of essays or a collection of short stories on events that happened to her. For me, memoirs should have a theme and give the reader more than a gab. They should offer teachings a la "here's the situation I was in, here's what I did, here's how it worked out for me." After a while, I felt like Henson was just recounting stories without purpose and I got bored. I felt trapped at a family reunion hearing an aunt go on and on about herself. This doesn't make for a good memoir, imho.

If the stories in a memoir can't be engaging or life lessons or shared wisdom, I want them to be entertaining... despite Henson being very comical in her roles on TV/film, this book wasn't funny.

I think she is an incredible actress and a fascinating woman, but her memoir wasn't great for me.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 810 reviews

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