Thursday, February 28, 2019

"Life Beyond Measure" by Sidney Poitier

I've been a fan of Sidney Poitier for many years, beginning with the first time I saw the movie Blackboard Jungle (1955).  I've seen him in so many amazing movies since then -- In the Heat of the Night (1967), To Sir, With Love (1967), Buck and the Preacher (1972), and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), to name a few.  But I had no idea until a couple weeks ago that he'd written any books!  I saw this on a display of books for Black History Month at my local library and immediately snatched it up.  Sidney Poitier reminiscing about his life in letters written for his great-granddaughter?  I'm so there.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book immensely.  There were a few parts I skimmed, mostly ones where he did a lot of speculating about the history of the universe and whether or not there is a God.  But the rest of the book fascinated me, as Poitier unspooled the story of his life in a relatable, readable way.

Born into an impoverished familyin the Bahamas, Poitier spent the first decade of his life living without electricity or running water.  At 15, he was sent to live with his older brother in Miami, but had difficulty dealing with the rampant racism there or in staying out of trouble, so made his way alone to New York City, where he lived hand-to-mouth for a year.  He joined the army, then returned to existing on the edge of homelessness until he discovered acting.

I never knew anything at all about Poitier's life, and so my favorite parts of this book were definitely his looking back at how the events of his life shaped him.  He's written two memoirs, The Measure of a Man and This Life, and they're on my TBR list now.


Particularly Good Bits:

Though I was a fantastic, formidable daydreamer, the possibility that I could envisage one day traveling far from there was severely limited by lack of exposure to other places (p. 4).

Heroes and role models are important, especially because when you think of them they have the ability to buoy your spirits and ignite your energies to move you onward (p. 181).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG.  Very little bad language, no uncomfortable scenes.  Does discuss things like alcoholism, gambling addiction, petty theft, minor violence, and dealing with racism.

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