Finding Me Book Summary - Finding Me Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Finding Me summary

Viola Davis

A Memoir

4.6 (267 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

Finding Me by Viola Davis is an inspiring memoir that explores her childhood in poverty, her journey to Hollywood, and the importance of embracing one's true self. She offers a glimpse into the experiences that shaped her as a woman and an artist, and shares the lessons she learned along the way.

Table of Contents

    Finding Me
    Summary of 3 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 3

    Viola’s childhood traumas continued to shape her as an adult.

    In 2015, on the set of Suicide Squad, Will Smith asked Viola Davis a simple question: “Who are you?” Smith explained that even though he was successful and wealthy, even though he’d starred in mega hits like Men in Black and Independence Day, in some ways he would always be the 15-year-old boy whose girlfriend had just dumped him. And now he wanted to know who Viola was.

    Viola could have answered in any number of ways, could have told him any number of pivotal stories.  

    For example, she could have told Smith about one night when she was fourteen years old and her mom and dad – MaMama and MaDada, as she and her five siblings called them – were fighting. Again. 

    MaDada, or Dan Davis, worked as a horse groomer. It was taxing work. Still, it didn’t pay well enough to keep food on the table or cover the electricity bill. And it certainly didn’t pay enough to quench MaDada’s insatiable thirst for alcohol. Viola’s MaMama – Mary Alice Davis – was the oldest of 18 children born to South Carolina sharecroppers. She’d had her first child at 15, her last child at 34, and Viola in between. MaMama did her best to shield her six children from MaDada’s drunken rages, even if it meant she was the primary target for his blows. But the series of apartments the Davis family lived in, first in South Carolina and later in Rhode Island, were tiny. Privacy was a hypothetical concept, and MaMama couldn’t shield her children from everything. Viola vividly remembers the night that her father staggered home from the bar, bleeding from a fresh stab wound in the side of his stomach, begging his wife not to call the ambulance. And the time when MaMama and MaDada were screaming at each other in the yard and MaDada yelled that his wife should tell him if he should stay or leave. Her children willed her to answer, Leave! But she sobbed for him to stay.  

    On this particular night, when Viola was 14, the fight was more violent than usual. MaDada wielded a glass, threatening to break it over MaMama’s head. Until now, none of the Davis children had ever intervened in their parents’ fights, for fear they would make things worse. But on this night, Viola snapped. She inserted herself between her parents and yelled for her father to stop. He didn’t. He brought the glass down on his wife’s face. Viola remembers the screams, the blood. She remembers shaking as she refused to stand down. “Give me the glass!” she screamed at her father. “Give it to me!” 

    And, after what seemed an agonizingly long time, MaDada gave her the glass and walked away. In that moment, Viola realized not only that her life would be a fight – she’d known that for a long time – but that she had what it would take to stand up and fight back. [pause]

    She could have told Smith another story. Like the time Dianne, Viola’s sister who’d stayed in South Carolina with her maternal grandparents, appeared like a vision in the Davises’ apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Viola remembers that day well. Not only had her long-lost sister arrived; it was one of the few days the hot water was turned on. But Dianne, who, unlike her siblings, was wearing  properly warm winter clothes and smelled of soap, was unimpressed by the unheated, rat-infested Central Falls apartment. 

    She whispered to the then five-year-old Viola, “You don’t want to live like this when you’re older, do you?” Viola shook her head no. Dianne told Viola that she needed to work out what she wanted to do and who she wanted to be – and fast. And that she had to work and work and work, until she was who she wanted to be, doing what she wanted to do. There was no other way to get out. Viola decided then and there that she would become somebody. The question that tugged at her insides – Am I somebody now? – would become a repeated refrain throughout her life. Am I somebody now?, she thought after graduating college, after getting accepted into Juilliard, even after winning a Tony, an Oscar, and an Emmy. It was Dianne’s advice that day that spurred Viola on; everything Viola did from then on was to satisfy that five year old, the little girl who knew she wanted something better. 

    But, answering Smith’s question, there was one memory in particular that leaped out at Viola. She was in the third grade. While the rest of her classmates were walking home from school, she was running. She ran because, every day, a gang of male classmates had made it their habit to chase her, calling Viola ugly, hurling the worst kinds of racial abuse at her. Usually, she made it home, out of breath, snot dripping from her nose, scared. But on this day there’d been a snowstorm. The streets were too slippery for Viola to outrun her pursuers. They caught her, threw her to the ground and beat her. 

    Even though she had proven herself, over and over again, even though she was starring in movies with Will Smith and had Oprah’s number in her mobile phone, at heart Viola was still that terrified, taunted eight-year-old girl. What Viola didn’t know? That little girl still had something to teach her . . . but we’ll come back to that later. 

    Want to see all full key ideas from Finding Me?

    Key ideas in Finding Me

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Finding Me about?

    Finding Me (2022) is the highly anticipated memoir from Oscar-, Tony-, and Emmy-award winning actress Viola Davis. Davis is unafraid to share the rawest, most intimate details of her life story, from the brutal hardship of her childhood on Rhode Island, through her tenacious years as a Broadway stage actor, to her arrival into the upper echelons of Hollywood celebrity. 

    Finding Me Review

    Finding Me (2022) is an inspiring memoir by Viola Davis that explores her journey from poverty to Hollywood success. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • With vivid storytelling and raw honesty, it offers a window into Viola Davis' remarkable life and the obstacles she overcame.
    • Through her experiences, Davis highlights the importance of self-discovery and embracing one's true identity, making it a powerful read for anyone on a personal journey.
    • This memoir is much more than a celebrity tell-all; it delves deep into societal issues such as race, gender, and class, prompting readers to reflect on their own biases and perspectives.

    Who should read Finding Me?

    • Film fans who loved Davis in Doubt, Fences, The Help, and more
    • Theater aficionados interested in a backstage perspective on Broadway
    • Anyone who can’t resist an inspiring true story of success against all odds

    About the Author

    Viola Davis is the only Black actor to have achieved the “triple crown” of acting, winning an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony for her work in film, television, and the theater. The New York Times named Davis one of the ten greatest actors of the twenty-first century. In addition to her acting work, she is an acclaimed producer and philanthropist. 

    Categories with Finding Me

    Book summaries like Finding Me

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Finding Me FAQs 

    What is the main message of Finding Me?

    The main message of Finding Me is about self-discovery and overcoming adversity.

    How long does it take to read Finding Me?

    The reading time for Finding Me varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Finding Me a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Finding Me is a compelling read that offers valuable insights and inspiration. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Finding Me?

    The author of Finding Me is Viola Davis.

    What to read after Finding Me?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Finding Me, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
    • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
    • Elizabeth Taylor by Kate Andersen Brower
    • The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man by Paul Newman
    • The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
    • Move by Move by Maurice Ashley
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
    • Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
    • Pitch Like Hollywood by Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis