Viola Davis discusses dumpster diving, wearing soiled clothes in new memoir ‘Finding Me’

"All of those things happened to me, but I own it. And it's a part of who I am," said Davis.

In her new memoir to be released later this month, Viola Davis opens up about her childhood trauma, growing up in poverty, and enduring sexual abuse along with her oldest sisters. 

“I count it all as joy. I do,” Davis, 56, tells PEOPLE. “All of those things happened to me, but I own it. And it’s a part of who I am.”

In Finding Me, the Tony, Oscar, and Emmy-winner will offer readers insight into her family’s struggle to make ends meet. The book also details how Davis grew up in a dilapidated, rat-infested building and had to dumpster-dive for food. The actress also unpacks how she was bullied by boys at school for being dark-skinned, and the physical and emotional abuse she, her sisters and mother experienced at the hands of her alcoholic father.

Viola Davis
Viola Davis (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

“You know when you look at pictures down memory lane, and you see it differently? I’m looking at little Viola, and I see how strong she was and how she was just a spitfire,” Davis said.

“I think that’s why I wrote the book. That if I somehow explored it, unpacked those memories, resolving them, that somehow I could find my peace.”

As reported previously by theGrio, Finding Me will be released in partnership with Ebony Magazine Publishing via HarperOne, a HarperCollins Publishers imprint.

“Viola Davis is a powerful truth-teller — through her work on stage and screen, as well as in her life,” Judith Curr, HarperOne president and publisher, said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to working with her on a book that powerfully reveals the risk and danger for a Black woman living in the fullness of her talents and gifts — and the reward and freedom that comes with it.”

Finding Me will drop on April 26. Days prior to the release, the actress will sit down with Oprah Winfrey for a Netflix exclusive previewing the memoir. 

Oprah + Viola: A Netflix Special Event will premiere April 22 on the streamer, according to Black Film.  

“Everything I’ve experienced is what connects me to the world. It’s given me an extraordinary sense of compassion,” Davis shared with PEOPLE. “It’s reconciling that young girl in me and healing from the past — and finding a home.

Meanwhile, catch Davis as former first lady Michelle Obama in the Showtime anthology series The First Lady, airing this weekend.

Showtime describes the 10-episode series as follows:In the East Wing of the White House, many of history’s most impactful and world-changing decisions have been hidden from view, made by America’s charismatic, complex and dynamic first ladies. This series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of these enigmatic women, with season one focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, and Michelle Obama.”

Along with Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer plays Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson is Eleanor Roosevelt in the limited series.  

Davis and her husband, JuVee Productions head Julius Tennon, serve as executive producers with series creator and author Aaron Cooley from Four Seats: A Thriller of the Supreme Court, Variety reports. 

The First Lady premieres Sunday, April 17 on Showtime.

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