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A Private Family Matter: A Memoir Paperback – Bargain Price, April 11, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Atria (April 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743487893
  • ASIN: B003A02XRU
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,493,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rivers's childhood toy, a broken GI Joe action figure, spoke only one phrase: "I've got a tough assignment." The author, an advocate against domestic violence, took on this motto early in life to help himself endure the "war zone" of his upbringing. His story starts in Cuba, where his mother's "gift of sight" didn't help her see through the seductive elegance of Tony Rivas, nephew of Batista's minister of agriculture. As Rivers tells it, his mother's natural radiance was soon beaten down by her demanding, jealous and moody husband. The family moved to Chicago to escape Castro, yet young Victor could not escape his father, who began beating him when he was only 15 months old. An imaginative child, Rivers steeled himself against brutal whippings by emulating tigers, "tensed and ready to pounce or flee at all times." By the time Rivers was 15, he fought back, throwing Rivas to the floor. But when the older man returned with a knife and, experiencing deep feelings of guilt, yelled, "Kill me!" Rivers ran away. Helped by a series of "angels"—a schoolmate's lawyer father, supportive teachers and coaches, a family that informally adopted him, and his own brothers—Rivers overcame his rage and self-loathing. He tells this inspiring story of emergence from isolation and despair into love and community with passion, optimism and tenderness. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Like Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle [BKL F 1 05], Rivers unfolds a story of a difficult childhood, but his was one of horrific physical abuse at the hands of a violent, controlling parent. Writing with an extraordinary memory for situation and detail, and even some self-deprecating humor, Rivers, now an actor and national spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, reconstructs the childhood hell that he endured until, thanks to a concerned coach, a kind teacher, and a series of informal foster parents, he escaped as a teen. The many vivid descriptions of abuse are grueling to read, but they are nicely balanced by Rivers' hard-won successes in later life (including a short stint in professional football) as he struggled to overcome his vicious temper and fear of emotional commitment, both legacies from his father. His determination to speak out to help others who have endured similar trials caps an inspiring record of a life reclaimed. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Thank you Victor for telling your story.
Christine E. Wiemelt
I hope those who struggle with breaking that chain will hear his story and know it can be done.
I truly could not put this book down once I picked it up and began reading.
Vic S

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. Adler on May 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have the utmost respect and love for Mr. Rivers and his family. It was traumatic to read this book, but I would not give back a moment shared. Sadly, many of us know the debilitating effects of both physical and verbal abuse. We spend a lifetime, with varying degrees of success, juxtaposing the violence of our youth, and the shaming of our souls by those who should unconditionally protect and love us, against the reclaiming of our lost innocence, determination and optimism. Our hearts and souls deserve so much more. To have endured such extreme abuse, and to have fought with so much heart to overcome the systemic indifference of the police, school administators and others who never asked why Victor was so reactive, to have endured long enough to let the angels over ride the evil and negligence, is a testament to Victor's courage, heart and spirit.
This book is amazing not only for it's vulnerability and pain, but also for it's willingness to reveal the depths of darkness so that others in need might have heroes and hope.
I don't think I ever cried so hard while reading a book, but I could not turn away. I was riveted to the page. Thank you to Victor, Mim and Eli for all of your courage and love. READ THIS BOOK! And while you are at it, read Mim Eichler Rivas' BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY. What a family. So much kindness, patience, talent and generosity of spirit.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on May 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A PRIVATE FAMILY MATTER takes up the story of one of Hollywood's leading actors, whom you have seen in so many TV shows and movies, and strips off the surface to reveal that behind the handsome mask he wears, a nightmare of terror and horror will forever haunt Victor Rivas, as the demons that have haunted him since childhood keep whistling through his mind like witches on broomsticks. He never has had a day without reliving the traumas of his difficult youth, particularly standing in the shadow of an abusive Dad, whose beatings he endured on a regular basis. Sometimes the father seems so wound up he's unreal, but through the eyes of a child, evil often wears a human face, and all too often, as Mr. Rivas demonstrates, that evil is in the father.

I liked all the Cuban stuff, an area I know little about. The family left Cuba when Castro came to power, because his father's family occupied important positions in the cabinet of the corrupt dictator Bautista (still fondly remembered, it seems, by many anti-Communist Cuban Americans). When you read A PRIVATE FAMILY MATTER perhaps you, like I, flashed back to the great novel by Reinaldo Arenas, BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, with its odd mixture of a longing for indigenous culture and a fleeing from its misogynist and anti-child aspects. The smells and sounds come out at you in waves of sensuous description.

Most of all, however, you feel the boy's pain. His father was truly a monster, and his mother was completely cowed by what amounts to the abuse he meted out to whoever got in the way of his anger and machismo. Beyond that, Victor reveals what it took to get him to become a productive adult. There had to be a lot of repair work done on this man. Next time you see him in the movies, think of how much his acting talent comes from the resources it took for him to find the light in a dark world of abuse. And now he helps others who have suffered some of the same syndromic abuse. Highly recommended.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R Candlewood on May 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. At first you react with shock, then disbelief, tears, and finally joy as you ride with Victor on his incredible journey. The story is unbelievably compelling - I couldn't put the book down, though some events were so difficult to read about, I wanted to. Victor's father is more than a match for any terrible fathers in past books -- THE GREAT SANTINI, for instance. But what's really amazing, and really moving, is how Victor triumphed over the odds, with the help of his "angels," to become not only a good kid but the school's valedictorian and eventually a good father.

It's also great that there this is a lot of information at the end of the book in how to get help if you need it or how to become involved in the movement if you feel so inspired - and after reading this incredibly powerful book, you will.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on June 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
We all grew up in dysfunctional families. But some might be called suicidal rather than dysfunctional. How does a child who starts being beaten when he is fifteen months old grow up to be even sane? How does a child grown up into manhood and break the only pattern he has seen while growing up?

Perhaps the answer comes when you see the photograph of the author first holding his own new born son in his arms. He says, "The moment I held Eli in my arms, I knew I could never hurt him the way that my father hurt me." The day you first hold your own new born is a kind of magic day in your life. I remember it well.

This is a story of great sadness. This is a story that happens all too often. And all too often the cycle of violence continues from one generation to another. This is also a story of great triumph as the author preports on how he managed to overcome a childhood from hell. This part of the story doesn't happen often enough, it's glorous when it does.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ann Delaware on May 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Victor Rivers displays such courage, both in escaping from the horrible violence his father inflicted on him, and in breaking the cycle with his own child. Every parent should buy this book for their sons; Victor's father is an extreme example, but any kind of emotional or physical abuse is WRONG, and our children need to be taught that being a real man means never, ever resorting to violence.
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