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The Women Who Raised Me: A Memoir

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Victoria Rowell

The story of a remarkable woman's rise out of the foster-care system to attain the American dream—and of the unlikely series of women who lifted her up in marvelous and distinctive ways Born as a ward of the state of Maine—the child of … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Victoria Rowell
Publisher: William Morrow
1 review about The Women Who Raised Me: A Memoir

Abandonment + Mentorshop + Talent = Success

  • Jul 15, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+3
Victoria Rowell, film and television actress, chronicles her life as a foster child in her memoir, The Women Who Raised Me: A Memoir. Rowell was the product of a blue-vein, old money Caucasian mother, whose family were Mayflower descendants, and an unknown black man. Her mother, Dorothy Collins, suffered from mental illness exhibiting schizophrenia. There were six children, three boys and three girls, all from different fathers. When Rowell was three months-old she was taken in as a foster child by Bertha Taylor, who wanted to adopt her but was not allowed to because of the state of Maine's statutes regarding interracial adoption. Little Vicki was only two years-old when she was taken away from her and placed in the home of a black woman, Agatha Wooten Armistead. Her two older sisters, also, both biracial, were taken in by Agatha.

Under Agatha's care, Rowell thrived in a loving, extended family in rural Maine. Bertha came from a family of formidable women with austere backgrounds. Agatha encouraged Rowell's love of dance and purchased a how-to book so that when she had her first audition at eight years-old, though she was self-taught, her natural talent netted a scholarship to a prestigious dance program. At age 17, she received a scholarship to ABT, American Ballet Theater, thus starting an illustrious career that would lead her into modeling, commercials and eventually television, most notably an actress on The Young and the Restless and Diagnosis: Murder.

Along the way, Rowell had an on again, off again relationship with her mother, Dorothy, who finally died in 1983. She also had other temporary and foster mothers of various backgrounds before she became an emancipated minor. Each of these women left something precious with her that she treasures to this day. Rowell married in her mid-twenties and had a daughter and later had a son with Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis's mother also became a role model and mentor as well as Latonya Jackson, wife of Samuel L. Jackson, as did other women who came into her life. But it was a turning point in 2002, that caused Rowell to retreat and reassess her life. That is when she also began to research her background which was the beginning of her life story.

Part family history, memoir and inspirational guide, Rowell gave a credible account of the racial and social history of Maine, the story of her childhood navigating the foster care system, of the women who were so vital in her growing years, learning to love and accept herself and the monumental act of forgiveness--of herself and others. I met Rowell last fall when she was promoting her book in Oakland and she struck me as a warm, down-to-earth woman who is fiercely dedicated to her cause, foster care rights and her love of the arts. Though the middle of the book moved a little slow, I recommend to those who enjoy memoirs and stories of perseverance.

Dera R. Williams
APOOO BookClub

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