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There should be a rule that celebrities can't write memoirs until they are at least 70 to avoid the inevitable rehashing of one's life in a second or even third memoir. Poitier wrote his first autobiography (This Life) in 1980 and is following it up now with a second. However, in addition to rehashing some of the stories from the first book, he also wants to share his wisdom and ponder the meaning of life. He wistfully remembers the simplicity of growing up on Cat Island in the Bahamas and pities privileged children who have never experienced such an unspoiled life. He regrets his early divorce and the effects it had on his children. There is almost a sense of apology as Poitier examines his actions, but at the same time there is quite a bit of self-importance. By the end, he seems to have forgiven himself and figured it all out: "We're all imperfect, and life is simply a perpetual unending struggle against those imperfections." When he talks about acting technique, the book sizzles, but otherwise it is not a necessary purchase unless book promotion efforts generate requests. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/00.]--Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Cty. Free Libs., Salinas, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
By any measure, Sidney Poitier has led a remarkably successful life. One of the legendary American actors, he has starred in more than 40 films and acted in many successful Broadway plays. His career is even more remarkable considering his background. Born dirt poor in the Bahamas, Poitier came to the U.S. penniless at age 15 in 1943. After working odd jobs and scraping by in Florida and New York City, Poitier landed, by chance, a small acting role. His performance was noticed by talent scouts, and with a combination of luck, grit, and sheer willpower, he went on to become Hollywood's first leading black actor and one of its greatest stars. In Measure, Poitier attempts to unravel for himself his own remarkable life story, looking at early life experiences, his family, and various themes that he believes have contributed to his success. Measure is not a chronological autobiography; the book emphasizes themes that have shaped his life. The author examines rural poverty, racism in "Jim Crow" Florida, morality, self-esteem, and the nature of being an "outsider" . Poitier is an excellent storyteller, and the book is anecdotally rich. Calling this autobiography--the author's second--"spiritual" may be somewhat misleading. Religion is a minor part of the story. Instead, Poitier's tale is an affirmation of the value of morality and personal integrity in leading a successful, fulfilling life. --Ted Leventhal
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Poitier's second memoir retains the soul-searching candor that marked his first (This Life, 1980), but lacks its narrative drive. After painting an idyllic portrait of his youth on Cat Island in the Bahamas ("a place of purity"), Poitier traces his path to Hollywood stardom with frustratingly broad strokes. (For the details of Poitier's journey, and his involvement in the civil rights movement, readers are left to consult his earlier work.) Poitier demonstrates the strength of his character with moving stories about his struggles with racism, and he includes anecdotes about his roles in such memorable productions as A Raisin in the Sun, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night and A Patch of Blue. But in the end, this book reads like the random thoughts of a sincere and honorable celebrity channeled through the pen of an experienced and jaded ghostwriter. As an autobiography, it is "spiritual" only in the loosest sense of the term. Poitier's relationship with God, whom he conceives in Hollywood terms as a vague cosmic consciousness, is not mentioned until one of the last chapters of the book. Throughout, he offers moralizing reflections on rage, forgiveness ("a sacred process"), marriage, parenting, prostate cancer and the burning question of whether Sidney Poitier has a dark side. "I had come to believe a little bit in my own press clippings," he notes, reflecting on his reputation as a man of unusual integrity and virtue; for better and for worse, this book contains little to complicate that belief. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved