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The Women Who Raised Me: A Memoir Hardcover – April 10, 2007

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About the Author

At age eight, Victoria Rowell won a Ford Foundation grant to study ballet and later went on to train and dance professionally under the auspices of the American Ballet Theatre, Twyla Tharp Workshop, and the Juilliard School before becoming an actress. She is the founder of the Rowell Foster Children Positive Plan, which provides scholarships in the arts and education to foster youth, and serves as national spokesperson for the Annie E. Casey Foundation/Casey Family Services. Rowell is an award-winning actress and veteran of many acclaimed feature films and several television series, including eight seasons on Diagnosis Murder, and has starred for the past thirteen years as Drucilla Winters on CBS's #1 daytime drama The Young and the Restless.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006124659X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061246593
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #451,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Victoria Rowell

An actress, advocate, mother, a former foster child and now a New York Times Bestselling author, Victoria Rowell is currently on a national whistle-stop book tour for the release of her new memoir, "The Women Who Raised Me," published by William Morrow/An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. The memoir received The African American Literary Award and two NAACP Image Award nominations in the literary category, and she walked away with a statuette for Outstanding Literary Work/Debut Author.

"The Women Who Raised Me," is a New York Times Bestseller. It also landed on the best sellers list of the Boston Globe and Essence magazine. Also, gives "The Women Who Raised Me"  (five stars).

The memoir is a tribute not only to the amazing women who cared for Rowell when her birth mother could not, but also to the foster care system that brought them into her life. "I was never meant to be raised by one mother, but my many," says Rowell.

In conjunction with the release of her memoir, Rowell also highlights these amazing women in her new documentary, "The Mentor," which has been making its rounds in the film festival circuit. "The Mentor" was chosen as official selections in the Pan African Film Festival, the Roxbury Film Festival, the Turks and Caicos Film Festival. It can be seen in March at The Miami International Film Festival and The Miami International Women's Film Festival where Rowell is The Distinguished Guest of 2008.

A versatile actress of theatre, primetime, daytime and feature films, Rowell is known around the world for her various roles. She is an icon in daytime television as the feisty Drucilla Winters on CBS's highly-rated daytime series, "The Young and the Restless." She has been nominated twice for a Daytime Emmy and awarded 12 NAACP Image Awards. She also co-starred in the CBS hit primetime television series "Diagnosis Murder" with Dick Van Dyke for eight seasons while simultaneously continuing her role in daytime.

"FAME: I Want to Live Forever"
Born in Portland, Maine, Rowell was raised in foster care for 18 years. At the age of eight, Rowell received the Ford Foundation scholarship to the Cambridge School of Ballet under the auspices of the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. After eight years of training, she flourished as a dancer, garnering scholarships to both the School of American Ballet and the American Ballet Theater by the age of 16.

After dancing professionally with various companies - that is, the American Ballet Theater II Company, Ballet Hispanico of New York, Contemporary Ballet, Twyla Tharp Workshop and the Julliard School of Music Dance Extension Program with Anthony Tudor - Rowell accepted guest-artist teaching posts in New England.

While teaching, the opportunity presented itself for her to pursue a career in modeling. Soon, she began gracing the pages of various magazines, including Seventeen and Mademoiselle before auditioning for her first television role.

Rowell's Big Break
Rowell auditioned and landed a role on the highly-rated NBC sitcom, "The Cosby Show." In fact, Bill Cosby was so impressed by the young actress's poise and talent that he cast her as his daughter in the feature film "Leonard 6." He also gave her a recurring role on "The Cosby Show" as the character of Paula, the biological mother of Olivia Kendall, portrayed by Raven-Simone.

Once the acting bug bit her, she decided to pack up and move to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of acting. She began working with some of Hollywood's award-winning leading men, including Beau Bridges, Jim Carrey, Dick Van Dyke, Mario Van Peebles, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy and Samuel L. Jackson

Finally, fate lent a helping hand and Rowell landed the role of Drucilla Winters on CBS's highest-rated daytime drama, "The Young and the Restless." At Rowell's suggestion, Sony Television supported a foster care and adoption storyline on the number one daytime drama, which reaches an audience of millions weekly - that is, domestically and internationally. In addition, the storyline has been praised for its portrayal of the foster care system, receiving local and national honors, including congressional recognition.

Primetime and the Big Screen Calls
On the big screen, Rowell has worked with some of Hollywood's award-winning leading men, including Beau Bridges, Jim Carrey, Dick Van Dyke, Mario Van Peoples, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy and Samuel L. Jackson.

Rowell burst onto the silver screen, appearing in feature films such as THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMEN with Eddie Murphy, DUMB AND DUMBER with Jim Carrey and EVE'S BAYOU, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Diahann Carroll.

Recently, she returned to the big screen, opposite Samuel L. Jackson and rapper 50 Cent in the war drama, HOME OF THE BRAVE. The film is directed by Academy-award ® winning producer Irwin Winkler (ROCKY BALBOA, DE-LOVELY, THE SHIPPING NEWS, and the ROCKY series). Because of her strong performance, MGM, submitted Rowell for Oscar, Golden Globes, and SAG consideration.

Rowell landed a part in OF BOYS & MEN, directed by Carl Seaton (COLUMBIA COLLEGE and ONE WEEK), co-starring writer/director/actor Robert Townsend and Oscar-nominee Angela Bassett. The film is produced by Pemon Rami. Rowell portrays the sister, comforting her brother who's wife is killed in a senseless auto accident. The film had its world premiere at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival this February.

On the small screen, Rowell portrayed matriarch Josette Metoyer, opposite Forest Whitaker in Showtime's acclaimed mini-series, "Feast of All Saints." The series is based on the novel by author Anne Rice. Directed by the incomparable Peter Medak, "Feast of All Saints" featured an all-star cast and allowed Rowell to explore the depths of her acting ability as an elderly Haitian plantation owner.

In her role as pathologist and county medical examiner Dr. Amanda Bentley on the Viacom/CBS series "Diagnosis Murder," Rowell co-starred with the legendary Dick Van Dyke for eight seasons while simultaneously continuing her role on the "Young and the Restless." She was also invited to write for the series, and was recognized by the Los Angeles Times for her literary contribution to the show. Also, while on "Diagnosis Murder," Rowell opened the doors for Los Angeles foster youth to be employed by Viacom as production assistants.

Giving Back
Having spent eighteen years in foster care, Rowell became a passionate voice for children like herself. In 1990, she founded the Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan (RFCPP), which enriches foster children through artistic and athletic expression. In addition to facilitating job opportunities with Viacom television productions, she assisted youths in getting jobs with other companies, including BMG and Oxygen. For more information about her charity, visit

RFCPP partners with many other philanthropists, charities, foundations and businesses, including Sony, CBS Television, the "Dr. Phil Show," the Magic Johnson Foundation, the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Cedric The Entertainer, Lorna Kyles, Sharon Stone, Camp to Belong, the California Endowment, and many others.

Rowell is an active contributor and or supporter of Americans for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, American Ballet Theater, School of American Ballet, the Urban League, the NAACP, the Administration of Children's Services, NYC, New Yorkers for Children, the Alliance for Children's Rights, the Children's Defense Fund, Hope WorldWide and the Department of Children and Family Services in various states.

For years, Rowell has been the national spokesperson for Casey Family Services -- an arm of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In part, United Parcel Service visionary, Jim Casey, founded the foundation.

Rowell has been recognized for her contributions in educating and supporting foster children. She has received the Harvard Mentoring Project Certificate from the Center for Health/Harvard School of Public Health, the first National Arts Award from the National Association of Counties and the United Nations Association Award for her continuous efforts with foster care and adoption as well as her work on human rights and world peace. Recently, Rowell received honorary doctorate's degrees from the University of Southern Maine and Wheelock College in Boston. In addition, Rowell has been honored as a National Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

She uses her celebrity status to bring a heightened awareness and understanding about foster care to a national audience. She has been featured on various news programs and talk television shows, including CNN, CBN and BET as well as guest appearances on "The View," the "Today Show," the "CBS Morning Show," the "Dr. Phil Show" and the "Montel Williams Show" for her work on foster care. She has also shared her story with millions of readers of People, Glamour, Essence, Jet, and Black Enterprise magazines - just to name a few.

Final Notes
Very few actors embody the talent, determination and perseverance it takes to flourish in the entertainment world while understanding the importance of sharing it with the world. Victoria Rowell is that special persona. A true Renaissance woman.

Rowell's sizzling novel "Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva" to be released by Simon & Schuster/Atria, May 4, 2010

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By RBSProds TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Five MOVING Stars!! Notable TV actress ("Diagnosis Murder" and "The Young and The Restless") Victoria Rowell has written a moving memoir of her life, which stands as a testament to the power of love above all else. But mainly it is an appreciation of the woman who gave birth to her and those women who raised her. Many fans will be shocked to learn she was a ward of the state of Maine for years. Her father, whom she never met, was black and her white mother, whom she only met a few times, was descended from the Mayflower group, which makes Victoria a member of the 13th generation of that notable original group. She spends considerable time in the Prologue going over her lineage on her mother's side of the family, and she and her daughter take a trip back in time, examining their family roots in Maine. The trip with her daughter to the gravesite and her solo trip to Augusta are very emotional. The book primarily covers "the many surrogate mothers, grandmothers, aunts, fosterers, mentors, grande dames, and sisters who were as much in my blood as was my own blood-the women who raised me." These were some truly amazing and caring women who opened their hearts and homes to her.

This book clearly shows us that, besides the bad things we often hear, good things can come from foster parenting and adoption. In her case, it did 'take a village' to raise her. In that regard, Victoria's life is a sterling example of both individual determination and unselfish support from others. And, not content to walk away with her fame, she has made adoption a cause in her life through the "Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan". Beyond that, I really like her writing style.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Allen on May 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While some readers and/or reviewers may take great pains to dissect Rowell's descriptions of her biological mother--and various foster mothers and mentors--I will avoid the unnecessary recounting of every detail of these remarkable women. Needless to say, the venerable and undaunted Black farm owner Agatha Armstead, Rowell's long-term foster mother, receives considerable and much deserved attention in this book. (The "Agatha" Award is named for Armstead and given annually by Rowell's nonprofit organization The Rowell Foster Children Positive Plan.) Yet there may be some readers who may have difficulty understanding the author's obvious need to elevate and illuminate her biological schizophrenic White mother, Dorothy Rowell.

With no contradictions, the author's real and literary attempt at exposing, explaining, and claiming her biological mother is stunningly African-American; less than a handful of us Black folks can claim any kind of racial purity due to our slave past--a past shaped as much by sexual exploitation and the occasional breaking of social and legal codes that proscribed interracial relations, as by the exploitation of labor. Both old and new Black American literature, like Black American life, is filled to the brim with accounts of unknown and unnamed ancestors, many of whom did not arrive from Africa; most of whom were not anxious to claim their darker relatives. This memoir is a 20th and 21st century story as old as Black America itself.

For persons who are visibly and culturally Black, yet who have a White parent, shaping an identity can be visceral and defiantly individual.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Sir Angus on April 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Victoria Rowell is a gorgeous woman and brilliant actress (having had starring roles in both Diagnosis Murder and The Young and the Restless). Her book shows how hard she had to work to earn her success, how deeply she appreciates everyone who helped her along the way, and how dedicated she is to helping others ... clearly, as beautiful inside as outside.

Ms. Rowell's mother was a lily white Mayflower descendent and schizophrenic, and her father an unknown Black man. Ms. Rowell was a foster child from infancy until adulthood -- but never stopped loving her mother or appreciating each of her foster parents, and everyone else who tried to help her. She has been through MUCH more than most of us can even imagine, yet remains upbeat and grateful for every shred of kindness, and determined to help other foster children (for whom she founded a charitable foundation).

Victoria Rowell is truly remarkable, and her book is awesome. In addition to learning about this wonderful celebrity, reading it should give hope to foster children, inspiration to foster parents, and an awakening to everyone else, apprising us of the problems encountered by foster children (e.g., being dumped on the street at age 18, which seems unconscionable since many have not even graduated from high school yet), and what we can do to help.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dera R Williams VINE VOICE on July 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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.
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