Griots Reads | The Mother of Black Hollywood

“Love yourself, so that love will not be a stranger when it comes.”

– Jenifer Lewis


Watching Jenifer Lewis on TV, one cannot help but think or even feel that if you’ve met her on the street, she would not be much different than what you’ve seen her portray on the big and small screens. Her current role as Ruby Johnson, the mother of Anthony Anderson’s character Dre Johnson on the hit show, “Black-ish” is the reason why DVRs were created, there are just some lines that you want to hear again and again. That is nothing new though. Her characters are often wise, witty, approachable and down to earth (and if you come at any of them wrong, capable of cussing you out). In a word, likable. In her new book, The Mother of Black Hollywood, Lewis manages to endear herself to us even more (if that is at all possible).

The Mother of Black Hollywood has captured Lewis at her most candid transparency and given the depth and detail she takes us to, this is no act. This is pure unadulterated Jenifer Lewis sharing her life’s struggles and triumphs. In the most unapologetic of voices, she discusses her choices; the good the bad and the ugly. Lewis goes on to openly discuss her challenges with mental illness which, undiagnosed, fueled a sex addiction. She even discusses her “thing” with Gregory Hines. Who knew? Lewis grew up financially challenged (poor), but through it all, she found her voice and smile and honed her sense of humor. But there is more to Ms. Lewis. She then takes us on a nostalgic journey through Black Broadway and Hollywood during her time there in the seventies and eighties and also gives the reader a clear line of sight to her long and illustrious career on stage and screen.

There are ups and downs throughout this read, but the reader is not left to their own devices. Ms. Lewis chaperones the reader through the lessons she has to share – lessons we can all benefit from. This biography is touching and thought-provoking, and in the end, Jenifer Lewis gets the last laugh. Speaking of laugh…how can one book be so deep, so real, so funny and so touching all at the same time? The answer: Jenifer Lewis has lived a life worth writing (and reading) about.

Griots Republic gives The Mother of Black Hollywood 4 out of 5 stamps

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