Oprah’s Book Club Conversation between Oprah and Viola Davis, whose remarkable memoir, Finding Me, shot to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale, premiered on Monday.

In Finding Me, which is the 95th Oprah’s Book Club selection, the Tony-, Oscar-, and Emmy-winning actress recalls her family’s early struggles with poverty, domestic violence, and racism, and how she finally came to terms with all she suffered, and triumphed. But as becomes clear in the upcoming interview, that triumph didn’t come easily. Keep reading for highlights.

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preview for Oprah’s Book Club with Viola Davis

What kept her going even in the darkest times? Davis calls it “warrior fuel”—something inside her that kept her from giving in to defeat, a power she hopes her 11-year-old daughter, Genesis, will inherit. “There’s something about being an older parent,” Davis tells Oprah and guests, that focuses you on legacy, on “what you are leaving behind. It’s like running a relay race," she says. "Your job is to run a leg of the race and pass the baton to the next great runner with as much strength and force as possible.” For Davis, her daughter is that “next great runner.”

Among the reasons Davis chose to write the book, and not to hold anything back, is that, “I don’t want to be a secret to [Genesis]. The people who are on the weakest foundation are those who spend a huge amount of time covering up their stories. Then anyone can come over and topple you over by revealing them.” In writing the book, Davis takes ownership of her own story.

A central element of that story is colorism: “When you are a dark-skinned girl,” she writes, “no one simply adores you.” She had to grapple with feeling ugly and unseen, and later to acknowledge “the role it played in my pain.” Ultimately, she concludes that “beauty is not a value.” As she says to one Oprah Daily Insider: “I have not read on anyone’s tombstone, ‘50 million found me to be very beautiful.’”

Davis shares her belief in the “power of no” as a means of establishing and maintaining “clear-cut boundaries” in her professional and personal lives, so that she can “create a sacred space for myself.” When Oprah asks her if that means she’s had to leave certain friendships behind, she admits that, yes, there were people who used “telling the truth even when it hurts” as an excuse to “be mean.”

And yet, Davis also exhibits her light side. She notes that she and her husband, Julius, “go to bed laughing and wake up laughing,” and that Genesis is her “great joy.” At 56 years old, the first Black artist to earn the so-called Triple Crown (Tony, Oscar, Emmy) has embraced the 8-year-old Viola, who, she realizes, “was pretty tough. She survived.”

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Leigh Haber

Leigh Haber is Vice President, Books, Oprah Daily and O Quarterly. She is also Director of Oprah's Book Club.