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The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – January 26, 2007
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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I have no wish to play the pontificating fool, pretending that I've suddenly come up with the answers to all life's questions. Quite that contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in self-questing. In other words, I wanted to find out, as I looked back at a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns, how well I've done at measuring up to the values I myself have set."
In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career. His body of work is arguably the most morally significant in cinematic history, and the power and influence of that work are indicative of the character of the man behind the many storied roles. Sidney Poitier here explores these elements of character and personal values to take his own measure—as a man, as a husband and a father, and as an actor.
Poitier credits his parents and his childhood on tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas for equipping him with the unflinching sense of right and wrong and of self-worth that he has never surrendered and that have dramatically shaped his world. "In the kind of place where I grew up," recalls Poitier, "what's coming at you is the sound of the sea and the smell of the wind and momma's voice and the voice of your dad and the craziness of your brothers and sisters...and that's it." Without television, radio, and material distractions to obscure what matters most, he could enjoy the simple things, endure the long commitments, and find true meaning in his life.
Poitier was uncompromising as he pursued a personal and public life that would honor his upbringing and the invaluable legacy of his parents. Just a few years after his introduction to indoor plumbing and the automobile, Poitier broke racial barrier after racial barrier to launch a pioneering acting career. Committed to the notion that what one does for a living articulates to who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition.
Here is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, price and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity. What emerges is a picture of a man in the face of limits—his own and the world's. A triumph of the spirit, The Measure of a Man captures the essential Poitier.
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The book promised to be very interesting from the onset, but I felt it did not really deliver the spiritual message I was hoping for. The book is really a biography of Poitier's life, especially his early years. He moves forward and back through his life, recounting stories from his adult as well as young years, and I found this shifting back and forth between his early and adult life a bit confusing. Had he recounted his life in a linear fashion I would have absorbed the book better (but this is just a personal preference).
I really enjoyed reading about his early life, especially when his parents thought he would die when he was a baby, and his father brought a shoe box to bury him in it. The struggles he went through as a child, and his relationship with his mother, who used to beat him, were also very interesting.
I did lose interest half way throughout the book, but I continued reading. I did regain interest three quarters of the way through, but still I did not understand the spiritual message he was trying to convey.
He mentions a movie part he did not accept to play, at the surprise of all, but later explains that it was the measure of a man inside him that prevented him from taking the part. He just felt that the character he was supposed to play was too weak, and therefore did not represent the true measure of a man. Thus the title of the book.
I recommend you listen to the audiobook read by Poitier. I found the audiobook more interesting than the book. There is a certain effect on the soul when listening to the voice of the author than reading his written words (I ended up finishing the book by listening to the audiobook while walking every morning). Imagine of you can actually hear the voice of Jesus instead of reading his words!
There is a lot of acting in the author's voice in the audio version. The author does not simply read the words, but actually acts on the words. It is a different experience.
I also liked the author's conversational style, as if he is talking directly to you. For example, he says things like, "You understand? You follow?..."
I liked this book, and found Poitier's life very interesting. However, I was disappointed by his spiritual message.
I thought it was a bit slow moving. But, nonetheless an inspiring read.