"I want my epitaph to testify that I have been a loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend; and I have taught, written, and lived with joy."
— Penelope Niven

As this book explores the upbringing of James Earl Jones so does it discover his beginnings as an actor. As Jones delves deeply into his memory, so we venture deep into the rural south of his origins and early life, deep into his turbulent family history, and deep into the roles he's played both on the stage and on screens large and small. In the new epilogue that concludes the latest edition, Jones remembers the personal and professional events of the decade since the book's original publication.

Penelope on Voices and Silences:

I wanted to see James Earl's homeplace. I, too, am a Southerner. ("Can a black Southern man and a white Southern woman really work together?" someone from elsewhere in the country wanted to know.) We grew out of the same time and place and history. Our grandmothers taught us the same hymns, cooked the same greens with fatback, the same fluffy biscuits, the same red-eye gravy. James Earl and I know the same landscapes, the music Southern voices can make, the heavy burden of our shared history.

As I traveled through Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas to interview his relatives, I discovered that while he is the most famous member of his vibrant family, James Earl is by no means the only remarkable one....


  • Praise for Voices and Silences
  • See James Earl Jones on tour with Angela Lansbury in Driving Miss Daisy
  • James Earl Jones discusses Darth Vader: Part One and Part Two
  • James Earl Jones discusses playing Mufasa in The Lion King.
  • James Earl Jones reads Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"