Taraji P. Henson, “Around the Way Girl” autobiography and my takeaways post 1 of 2
The Taraji P. Henson audio book of “Around the Way Girl” is awesome. Recently, I started reading several books for women and young girls because every other month or so, I get a speaking engagement to speak to a group of teen ladies mostly but sometimes college students. What I appreciate about this audio book is the fact Taraji narrated her own story and the realness of who she is and her upbringing comes out. I am a fan of actual books and audio books. This is by far one of my favorite audio books and it’s not so much that the book is perfect; it is one of the few books that I have ever listened to where the author is trained well in her craft as an actress and the author tells her own life story with raw emotions.
(Let’s start off by highlighting takeaways from her father) There are 3 more moments I am going to share about Taraji’s father that makes me look up to him in a special way and I have no connection with him other than this book.
Moment #1: Taraji called her dad to tell him that she was pregnant while still in college and she was terrified of his upcoming response, but his response was noteworthy: “What’s up, Dad. I’m pregnant,” I said, quiet and slow. “What?” he asked. “I’m pregnant,” I said again, this time more clearly. Dad was silent (But only for a beat), no doubt letting the news sink in. “Praise God,” he yelled into the receiver. “Praise God! That’s a blessing, baby!”… “Let me tell you something,” he said… “Hold your head up high. A baby is a blessing. This is going to be your strength right here. It ain’t gonna stop you.”
Moment #2: Taraji then boyfriend and father of her son hit her one day and she called her dad to come take care of him. She said “I expected my father to rip Mark from limb to limb. Daddy later told me that despite his newly Christian ways, he’d had a sixth sense that Mark had hit me and had actually plotted a way to kill Mark in the moments it took him to get to my place. “I literally was going to walk in, snap his neck, throw him over the balcony, and call the cops,” he said, a sinister look darkening his eyes. “I’d planned on telling the police, ‘It was self-defense. Look at my daughter’s mouth.’ But I prayed to God all the way over here; my grandson was in this room and I couldn’t take his father.” Instead, Daddy faced off against the man who’d bloodied his daughter by talking rationally. “I understand it’s hard out here for a man,” Daddy told Mark. “But you’re better than that. This is my daughter you hit. She’s a woman. Real men don’t do that.” Mark stood there and cried while my father gave him a heart-to-heart speech about how he’d done the same thing to my mother, and how it had ruined his relationship with her and had obliterated his chances of being a full-time father to the love of his life, me.
Moment #3 After Taraji experienced failure in high school, Taraji decided to give up acting and focus on pursuing Electrical Engineering. Taraji went to NC A&T and after failing one of her classes, she called her dad and once again he gave her the best response. Her dad dimply said “Good.” “What do you mean, ‘good’?” I snapped. “I can’t afford these failing grades.” My father was uncharacteristically quiet; he was thinking up just the right combination of words to make it plain. “You had to fall on your face to see that’s not what you were supposed to be doing,” he said finally. “Now get your ass back up to DC and enroll in Howard’s drama department. Do what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Her connection with her dad is probably the best connection I’ve seen in this book even though she did not grow up with him in the house as she was raised primarily by her mother. The lessons she learned from him regardless of how the world treated him, or the mistakes he made, or the loud unfiltered personality he had are lessons young girls, young women, and fathers of any age can take with them throughout life.
There are so many other takeaways in this book and several more with her father. Over the next 2 days I am going to share 2 more post about a few other key takeaways Taraji’s Around the Way Girl autobiography.
Additional quotes I took away from the lessons Taraji learned from her father:
“No matter his circumstances, no matter what kind of fresh hell he was dealing with or dishing out, he was there, even if he had to insist upon being a part of my life” [father’s everywhere have to insist on being apart of the life of their, regardless of obstacles]
“he showed me that we’re human—that nobody is perfect and there most certainly isn’t a rulebook for living a perfect life”
“my father… ended up cleaning toilets at the football stadium—the only job he could find. He didn’t apologize for that or make excuses; he just took himself to work, collected his check, saved up for a new place so he could move out of his green van, and made the best of his situation, turning all the ugliness that came with his homelessness into something beautiful just for me.”
“I learned to never, ever apologize for who I am—to never apologize for my journey.”
“That is the superman power my father employed when, after losing his home and living out on the streets, he got himself together, found himself a job, and slowly rebuilt his life, finding God, a wife, and second daughter, a new home”
“My father played an important role… after the big fight that ended with Mark hitting me, my dad took my son’s father under his wing and schooled him on the value of controlling his emotions. He did that because he wanted Mark to be in his son’s life, and he knew that the only way that could happen was if my ex grew himself up a bit and learned how to express himself without the anger. In Mark, my father saw himself”
“You can’t spend your whole life walking around mad at the world,” my father recalled telling Mark repeatedly. “You have to be a positive example for your son, so he can be better than both of us. That’s what a good father wants for his child.”
(Part 2 of my review will cover highlights from her book regarding her experiences as a single mother, as a Black actress, favorite quotes, etc…)
Post written by Brian K. Rice, www.briankrice.com
Mentor, College Speaker, Young Adult Speaker, Teen Speaker, Workforce Development Consultant