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Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family Hardcover – October 12, 2010

158 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Having served under two Bush presidencies—as national security advisor and secretary of state—Rice is well known for her icy demeanor and steely disposition. This memoir presents a young woman deeply attached to her devoted parents, who encouraged her at every step of her life to overcome racism, sexism, and her own personal doubts. Her roots are deep in the South, with a family that pridefully skirted racism—never using the “colored” facilities or riding in the back of the bus. Her mother, Angelena, was a cultured teacher who taught her piano, while her father, John, was a Presbyterian minister and later a college administrator who, despite his Republican politics, strongly admired black radicals, developing a friendship with Stokely Carmichael. He declined to march with Martin Luther King in nonviolent protests and was more inclined to sit on the front porch with a loaded shotgun to ward off white night riders. The Rice family personally knew the young girls who were killed in the church bombing, one of the more violent episodes the family endured before they eventually left the South. Rice presents a frank, poignant, and loving portrait of a family that maintained its closeness through cancer, death, career ups and downs, and turbulent changes in American society. --Vanessa Bush


"[Features] prose so spare it lays bare a child’s pain…full of raw vignettes, episodes that should jolt our post-racial sensibilities…[The book shows that] the key to Rice’s composure in office – which was a mix of womanly grace and analytical rigor – lies in the manner in which she was raised. In this, America owes a debt to John and Angelena Rice, parents extraordinarily pushy, parents extraordinarily brave."
Wall Street Journal

Surprisingly engrossing…One senses a romantic softness at the core of the steely woman Americans met during her years of public service.  Rice’s reverence of her parents is touching, as is her abiding love for the Titusville of her youth.”
Daily Beast
“Pays tribute to the people who truly shaped her [and] sets the record straight on aspects of her life that often flirt with myth.”
USA Today
“An origins story…teeming with fascinating detail.”
New York Times
“A thrilling, inspiring life of achievement.”
—Publishers Weekly
“A frank, poignant and loving portrait of a family that maintained its closeness through cancer, death, career ups and downs, and turbulent change in American society.”
“Vivid and heartfelt writing…Rice’s graceful memoir is a personal, multigenerational look into her own, and our country’s, past…Highly recommended.”
—Library Journal

"In this remarkably clear-eyed and candid autobiography, Rice focuses instead on her fascinating coming-of-age during the stormy civil rights years in Birmingham, Alabama."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; 1st edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307587878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307587879
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Dr. David Frisbie on October 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
How do you raise someone to not only succeed against daunting odds, but to do so with grace and poise? How do you raise a person of character, someone who combines authority and confidence with a winsome personal humility?

Condoleezza Rice has penned a candid, revealing look at the origins of her personal journey. Here is a woman of great accomplishment who is also relaxed and open about her frailties, her struggles and her doubts. The story itself is remarkable, yet what shines in these pages is the author's ease and capacity in telling it. This is a well-crafted work, written by someone who clearly loves to read.

One need not be Republican, or female, or a Stanford alum in order to value this impressive new book. One need only be a citizen of the world in this 21st century --- a world illuminated by policies and strategies shaped in part by this remarkable Secretary of State (among her other high-ranking offices).

An inspiring story, beautifully told!

Dr. David Frisbie
The Center for Marriage & Family Studies
Del Mar, California
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70 of 80 people found the following review helpful By GeneralistNY on October 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Very well written, insightful and deeply personal. She has the megaphone to tell the story that I wish I could tell about my parents and family. Core attributes that today's society desperately needs... parenting, support, and unconditional love. Thank you Secretary Rice for sharing with us the moving story of your life and your extraordinary, ordinary parents!

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Brenda G. Hatfield on November 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I started reading this book with a negative political and personal bias, but soon became absorbed with this extraordinary family story written by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice sheds a great deal of personal information about herself,her family and her experiences with race in the Deep South during the height of segregation and the Civil Rights movement. She consistently maintains her focus on family and her own self actualization, and does not get too caught up with President Bush and Republican politics.

Rice's autobiography is dramatically compelling and helps the reader understand her as an individual as well as providing insight about her political beliefs. Her story will be insightful to all readers regardless their of race or ethnicity. Nonetheless, as an African American female of her generation, I personally related to her Black middle class upbringing by extraordinary parents in the Deep South whose sacrifices developed many of us into the successful women that we have become today.

While my political biases did not change as a result of this reading, I am left with a deeper understanding and appreciation for Dr. Rice and her very extraordinary, ordinary family.
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51 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Voracious Reader on October 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Condoleezza Rice's memoir is warm and open and full of her love for her remarkable parents. What a beautifully told life, and what an inspiration to follow your passion.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Crenshaw on October 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've read three biographies on Dr. Rice, and for the first time, I feel like the real Condi has broken out. Dr. Rice's autobiography is warm, heartfelt, and genuine. I can say this because I knew her well during her senior year at the University of Denver.

It is clear from the first to final chapter that Condi is speaking from the heart. Her style makes the reader feel as though she is sitting in the room and chatting from a rocking chair by the fire. There are no pretentions, no name-dropping, no false humility. The story is laid out skillfully, incorporating the climate and social injustices of the era she grew up in. Birmingham comes alive through her bittersweet memories, her struggles and successes, her social and personal life.

This is a story of community and family told in Condi's voice, and it is full of beauty, grace, and dignity. It's a story of hope, hard work, tears, and laughter. The book is a tribute to her parents, the sacrifices they made,the example they set, not only for their daughter, but for numerous others.

It is ultimately about the unwavering love between parent and child, a love so strong it catapulted a bright, young, black woman to the top of the mountain.

Nancy Crenshaw
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Craig Rowland on December 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have long admired Condoleezza Rice. I first saw her on the "Donahue" show, where she made several appearances as a leading expert on the Soviet Union. Since I myself am fascinated by the Soviet system and the old Eastern Bloc, I clung to every word she said. When she later became part of the George W. Bush administration, I knew exactly who she was. However I may not have been able to recall who she was if it wasn't for her distinctive first name, or if Phil Donahue had not made such a big deal about her having read War and Peace in the original Russian. Since I myself am a student of European literature, I don't think it's out of the ordinary to read texts in their original language, especially so for a PhD as Dr. Rice. Back when Rice made these and other early TV appearances, she was always introduced as having read Tolstoy's mammoth work in its original Russian. At that time, I thought that there was some understated prejudice at work, and from Phil Donahue no less. Would he have been less impressed if a white male had been his Soviet expert? Would he have even introduced a man this way? Perhaps I am looking for discrimination when there isn't any, as I am sure all of us have used War and Peace as a metaphor for an extremely long piece of literature. And if one happened to tackle that colossal novel in another language, one that doesn't even use the Roman alphabet, it does seem impressive. In Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family, Condoleezza Rice tells the story of her family, up until the death of her father, right before she joins the Bush administration as National Security Advisor. Rice has appeared on various talk shows promoting this book, and has said that she will tell about her eight years in the Bush administration in a separate work.Read more ›
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