"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
Praise for Voices and Silences

Kirkus Reviews

An autobiography in brief, as well as a supremely rewarding text on acting, budding actors shouldn't leave home without it. Parted from his father and mother and raised by his grandparents, Jones began to stutter as a child, then fell into a muteness that lasted until a high-school teacher had him read a poem aloud and he found that he could read fluently from a text. What's more, his awakened voice had deepened. He spent a decade playing innumerable roles Off-Broadway and in regional theater before his breakthrough with Joseph Papp's Shakespeare in the Park troupe. Long enthralled by Othello, he has played the role in many productions, each of which he analyzes here for new ideas about who the Moor is and how to play him. Best moments overall include the lessening in scope and power of The Great White Hope from Washington to Broadway to film; the difficulty of wrestling a better text out of Angus Wilson for Fences; and stone-sucking thoughts about Jones's feelings and passions in his various roles. A star is born among the classics on acting.

Publishers Weekly

Celebrated actor Jones, writing with Niven, has produced a compelling memoir. Raised by his hardworking grandfather and storytelling grandmother, six-year-old James began to stutter when the family moved from Mississippi, where he was born in 1931, to Michigan. Virtually mute for the next eight years, he recaptured speech by reciting poetry and prose. Jones reconnected with his estranged actor father during his journeyman years in Manhattan theater; in the 1950s he blossomed in the "democracy of the frontier" that was off-Broadway. He offers lively and nuanced reflections on his great and sometimes controversial parts, which include, on stage, Paul Robeson, and on film: the title role in Othello, Lennie in Of Mice and Men, Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope and Troy Maxson in Fences. While Jones concentrates more on his professional than on his personal life, he also discusses his complicated multiracial heritage and his two marriages. He ends with tender thoughts about the almost spiritual richness of life on his New York farm and the joy he takes in his young son. As his career and his memoirs verify, Jones's lifelong struggle with language has produced some lasting words.

Library Journal

At 62, James Earl Jones has earned a curious stature: a distinguished stage actor, lauded for playing Othello, Paul Robeson, and Jack Johnson, he also works frequently as a character actor in films. But his widespread fame is for his voice (as Darth Vader in the Star Wars films) and genial presence in TV commercials. Among the highlights of this readable and entertaining volume is Jones's search for his father (actor Robert Earl Jones), who left his infant son to be raised by his grandparents. Readers will be stunned by Jones's account of his stuttering problem, which rendered him mute from the age of ten to 14.