Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family

Friday, January 14, 2011

Title: Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family
Author: Condoleezza Rice
Pages: 325
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Crown (Random House)
Release Date: October 12, 2010


I had the opportunity to see Ms. Rice speak during the author's breakfast at last year's Book Expo America (May 2010) in New York City. She gave a compelling speech that even led Jon Stewart, host of the breakfast, and political adversary - if you will - to state, "Don't.Make.Me.Like.You...." I think hers was a story worth telling, for sure. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1960's in the middle of the civil rights movement. Yet, her parents didn't allow the discrimination, inherent at the time, to stop them from achieving success.

Much of this book seemed a tribute to Ms. Rice's parents. She wrote about her childhood and the wonderful influence of her parents. Parents who insisted she achieved an education, they provided her with all their love and made her believe through their encouragement and nurturing that, despite the racial tensions and, despite any and all possible barriers, that she could be whatever she wanted. There's a picture of Condoleezza standing in front of the White House when she was about 8-years-old; though she doesn't remember it, Condoleezza stated her parents reported her saying she would work there one day. And as we all know, she was right! "Condi's" story is also, then, a testament to the power of education.

One of the aspects of this book that I really enjoyed was getting to know her parents. For me, personally, it was inspiring to see an example of really good parenting and how well the child turned out. Considering I teach parenting and work fully in the field of child welfare, where people believe that a child can't be raised well without beating into submission, or feel that there are just too many barriers to even dream of any success, or feel that criticizing or ignoring their children is better than encouraging and supporting, this story was a breath of fresh air. I think that almost no one can compare themselves to Condi growing up during that time in the United States and excelling to where she is now, and abjectly state that there's just too much to overcome.

But that being said, there were moments when I felt Condoleezza chronicled her childhood a little too thoroughly. Then, contrastingly, the second half of the book jumped through the rest of her years to where she is now. I had invested so much time into her grade school years that to fly through her twenties, thirties, and forties was a little disconcerting. In the second half of the book, she talks more about her education in soviet policies and her political work at the White House. I did find this part interesting, to a degree, but felt it didn't flow well with the nature of the first part of the book. She could easily have made this book into two.

So, while I felt these aforementioned things, I still would definitely recommend this book for those interested in Condoleezza's background or for those looking for a good memoir about how she overcame obstacles to find the success she has today. There is also apparently a young adult version of this book, Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me, that may be a good way to reach those younger readers (though it should be noted I haven't read any of that version).

4 comments:

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I love stories of inspiring lives like this. I think you mention the key with Condoleeza Rice, she had parents who expected the best from her and they told her that she could do anything. I really believe that people will live to your expectations- whatever those are.

Zibilee said...

I am not sure this would be the book for me, but it sounds like you enjoyed it a lot. I also would have been perplexed with all the gaps in the story, and wonder why she chose to write it that way?

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I've always been fascinated with her, regardless of my own political affiliations. She always struck me as someone who was educated, qualified and raised to be the best she could be. THough I don't see myself reading this one, I am glad you enjoyed it for the most part. Thanks for this lovely review. Very thoughtfully written.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Wow. This sounds like another really good one.

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