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Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming the Woman I Pretended to Be

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"When you get dealt a tough hand, you might choose to fold or you might decide to hold. If you're Valerie Graves, you reshuffle the whole damn deck...Graves's can't-stop-won't-stop energy offers a jump start toward meeting objectives and renews hope. Pressure Makes Diamonds is about more than overcoming."
-- Essence Magazine "This is the unflinching memoir of a Black woman’s journey from the projects of Motown-era Michigan to the skyscrapers of Madison Avenue and beyond."
-- New York Beacon "A gem of a book . . . Valerie Graves has spun an appealing narrative with a protagonist who reads like an African-American female counterpart of Horatio Alger. Her journey from Mud Lake, Pontiac, an exurb of Detroit, to a corner office on Madison Avenue is exhilarating, marking her rise to the upper echelons of advertising and providing readers with an exposé of her creative life and the world ruled by 'Mad Men.'"
-- New York Amsterdam News "Graves paints the picture of how she was a determined woman who faked it till she made it--and made it big. [An] inspirational memoir."
-- Black Enterprise Library Journal "Graves established herself as a fierce force in the advertising field and a greatly admired role model for black professionals establishing themselves in American business. In a moving book steeped in perseverance and empowering determination, the author fully embodies the challenges of her culture and those of being a motivated businesswoman . . . Optimistic and galvanizing, Graves' message of hope and hard work is timely and applicable."
-- Kirkus Reviews "Barrier-breaking, highly celebrated creative director and advertising executive Graves is about more than glittery and impressive national advertising campaigns and her association with international celebrities and various Fortune 500 companies . . . No one was looking for her, but she showed up, spoke directly to the public, and captured the world's attention. Graves' well-told tale, set against a detailed social and cultural backdrop, of courage and success both personally (including a happy marriage) and professionally is moving and inspiring."
-- Booklist "A story about an accomplished woman who is the epitome of grit . . . Whether recalling the guilt she felt as a working, absentee parent, or how she came to adopt new age thinking, the author's storytelling skills and use of humor, imagery, and figurative language is noteworthy. At an early age, Valerie decided she would fake it until she made it. Now a success by most standards, she no longer has to pretend. Anyone who enjoys reading about those who travel difficult paths in life will find Pressure Makes Diamonds to be inspirational."
-- Foreword Reviews This is the unflinching memoir of a female African American advertising executive's unprecedented and unlikely success, which began in the Mad Men era. It follows her journey from the projects of Motown-era Michigan to the skyscrapers of Madison Avenue and beyond. With marches, riots, and demonstrations as the backdrop, and rock 'n' roll as a soundtrack, this book accompanies Graves as she traverses the seismically shifting terrain of 1960s and '70s America on her quest to "be somebody." In the '80s and '90s, as Graves makes her ascent to the East Coast heights of the white male–dominated advertising world, she turns familiarity with harsh realities like racism and sexism into robust insights that deeply connect with African American consumers. During the golden era of black advertising, she becomes an undisputed "somebody." Soon, though, she learns that money, success, a good marriage, and connections that reach all the way to the White House cannot entirely insulate her against the social ills that threaten to crush black Americans.

296 pages, Paperback

Published November 1, 2016

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Valerie Graves

7 books2 followers

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Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews
Profile Image for Adrienna.
Author 17 books231 followers
November 3, 2016
Valerie Graves touched on a very important topic in her memoir: "Black working poor remain invisible...they are just trying to find a way to be black without selling out or being taken advantage of. (page 95)"

I also liked how she spoke about abandon dreams; pursued a career to fend after her and her son such as nursing but later tapped into her dream and soared in advertising. I am so glad she did not settle. She expounded on how advertising lacks diversity.

When conquering her dream job she almost didn't get it but she was able to gain this position without finishing her college degree or having a degree. She was working with those who had had Harvard degrees, etc. but it did not stop her from doing what she loved and working with such entertainers in the process. She did mention that 'getting a foot in the door like getting an education' which it is best to get that opportunity as much as it is to obtain the education. Some of us are lucky for being college drop-outs like Kanye and become celebrities overnight than struggling and owing that college debt back--just to work a dead-end job or barely making ends meet.

I also enjoyed reading about how she struggled with her husband, because they were both independent beings, headstrong, and had me curious how this worked out since I have met someone who is also an intellectual and headstrong like myself. She also loved him regardless of his riches (which she says he didn't have any $) but was rich in potential.

I won a complimentary copy from LibraryThing contest to provide a honest review.

Leisure read 2016
Profile Image for Mike Paul.
3 reviews3 followers
August 17, 2016
A terrific memoir from author and creative advertising guru Valerie Graves with twists and turns in growing up, managing life as a young adult and later reaching great success as a chief creative officer at 2 successful advertising firms, as well as work as an executive at a leading record label and a multicultural branding consultant for a successful presidential campaign. Valerie does not hold back her opinion, her intelligence nor her ability to educate us all. Look for Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming The Woman I Pretended To Be to be a bestseller. This book is great for all men, women, people of color, advertising and marketing professionals, young and older women in business and also all those currently fighting the good fight regarding gender, diversity and inclusion. I definitely give it 2 thumbs up.
Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews

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