CNN interviewed Serena Williams when she was 9. Here’s what she said to her mother, who was shocked.
“I had a friend named Tiana who had cancer, and she went through chemotherapy with her, and she told my mom, ‘Mom, I’m going to die.'”
This is a passage from The Unauthorized Autobiography of Serena Williams. When Williams was only 9, Tiana was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Williamses have a lot in common: They are both African-American. And they both play tennis. And they both have something else in common: They are both women.
When they were little, they played with each other and played with their friends. But then Serena, the world’s No. 1 tennis player, went on to become the most dominant female athlete of all-time. She won 13 Grand Slam singles events, six Grand Slam doubles events and 11 Grand Slam team events. And she is the only female athlete to be named Time magazine’s person of the year for 2016.
Even as she’s celebrating her accomplishments, Williams — who is the mother of a 6-year-old girl — is feeling a little bit like an outsider. Her life story has become a cultural touchstone, the kind that’s never written about. The book is an unauthoritative account of Serena’s upbringing as a child and her rise to fame and fortune as a teenager and a young woman.
And Williams is often the subject of questions from parents and friends. She answers them, but she’s also a mother who has spent the last 15 years raising her daughter on her own terms.
Toward the end of The Unauthorized Autobiography of Serena Williams, Williams says she was asked by her mother, Venus Williams, why she hadn’t sought help from a therapist.
“I was too ashamed,” she says. “I never came out of the closet until I was 23. But I had to come out. Because every time I saw my mom, it was in a different way. And I didn’t have to be ashamed any longer.”
Serena Williams is now the world’s No. 1 tennis player, known as one of the greatest