Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming The Woman I Pretended To Be
Valerie Graves, Akashic Books, 2016, Memoir/Biography/Autobiography
Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming The Woman I Pretended To Be, by Valerie Graves, is a memoir about Valerie “pretending” to be smart and talented, only to learn she wasn’t pretending: she was leveraging. It is the story of lingering insecurities coupled with shrewd maneuvers, using history and music as a backdrop.
A witty and earnest remembering of angels who dotted her path, Valerie dishes the wisdom learned on the murky shores surrounding “Mud Lake” Michigan. Her experiences within this context enrich her creativity and, eventually, her bank account, thanks to people like former coworker Laverne, who was married to a “junkie” but grateful that he wasn’t a “cheater.”
Readers are also treated to a behind-the-scene look at the world of advertising and her relentless commitment to “put some respect” on ads that carry black narratives.
Her most compelling chapters detail her earlier struggles with black culture. Growing up on Motown, Valerie felt liberated by The Rolling Stones, a by-product of being caught between “two white worlds” – an ad agency during the day and club scene at night.
Other notable moments of vulnerability include the time she fought back “ugly thoughts about dealing with a black business” when an ad agency rescinded its job offer, not to mention the frustration of black agencies being given smaller budgets, yet still being expected to deliver high-quality work.
I highly recommend this book as proof that a strong work ethic will create a seat at the table that no “ism” can deny.
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