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Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family Hardcover – October 12, 2010
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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.”
“Pays tribute to the people who truly shaped her [and] sets the record straight on aspects of her life that often flirt with myth.”
“An origins story…teeming with fascinating detail.”
—New York Times
“A thrilling, inspiring life of achievement.”
“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.”
"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."
Top customer reviews
What is unique about this book is both its humility, and the way Rice tells her story as a story of family love and family triumph. Telling her story through the lens of a black family in the throws of the civil rights movement, and in the context of a family propelled forward through initiative, education, and a few lucky breaks, she gives her reader a glimpse into how she was formed as a person, and why she grew up to be the person she became.
A fun read, and inspirational in that it reminds us what opportunities are available to those of us here in America.
There are many parallels to the Laura Ingalls stories of growing up on the frontier after the Civil War. Laura's books can be read as the story of her parents trying to make a life outside of civilization, and then surviving the brutal North Dakota winters as civilization creeps toward them and over them. Condoleezza's book can be read on one level as the story of her parents in Birmingham, Denver and Palo Alto after the Civil Rights Act changed their world. In Laura's book it is heartbreaking when Pa gives his "little half pint" in marriage, knowing he will seldom see her again. In Condoleezza's book it is sad when her mother died -- but I blubbered like a baby when "Daddy" died, possibly releasing his then-tenuous grip on life to make it more convenient for her to move to DC to become National Security Advisor.
Her writing is disarmingly conversational. Listening to the book feels like you have the three members of the Rice family as house guests, and you can't wait to get back home after work, to hang out with them some more. Count me charmed.
It's pretty clear that this is intended solely as a book about her early life and her wonderful parents. Just enough details of her political life are included to allow us to see her career through their proud eyes. She talks about being single and her feelings about elective office. But she clearly reserves to another day a book about her professional life as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State.
Condoleezza Rice is a very special person and this is a wonderful book, whatever your race or political persuasion.