The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography
"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 the contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in selfquestioning. 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 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 selfworth 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 who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition.
Here, finally, is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, pride and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity, What emerges is a picture of a man seeking truth, passion, and balance 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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Sidney Poitier's life experience is worth the read. An amazing story of the tiny Island boy who went to NYC to make a new life only to become an Academy Award winning actor. How could it not be a great story?
Sidney Poitier performs magic in The Measure of a Man. Only true nobility can write the personal history and experience of a 70-something black man from the Bahamas with such power to speak profoundly to a 22-year old white girl from Grand Rapids. The same page will draw the reader to tears both from laughter and from sorrow. At 243 pages, Measure is not difficult, which makes reading from cover to cover relatively easy in one sitting.
What’s most powerful about Poitier’s “spiritual autobiography” is that he’s not trying to manipulate the reader one way or another. It’s entirely possible to be completely changed by the end and yet leave the book disagreeing with him in some areas no less than at the beginning. He doesn’t expect his readers to agree with him, he’s simply telling his story. And an interesting story it is. As a boy, Poitier lived in intense poverty, but this poverty was nothing like anyone in America would understand. He says in the first chapter, “In a word, we were poor, but poverty there was very different from the poverty in a modern place characterized by concrete. It’s not romanticizing the past to state the poverty on Cat Island didn’t preclude gorgeous beaches and a climate like heaven, cocoa plum trees and sea grapes and cassavas growing in the forest, and bananas growing wild” (3).
Through his journey from Cat Island to Florida to New York to Hollywood, Poitier never lost the sense of self given to him by his parents, especially his father. This is possibly one of the most profound themes of the book: the identity instilled by a parent to his son. This dignity guided him through the roles that he chose, or didn’t choose, as well as how he saw his success in Hollywood and even the industry of Hollywood itself. Any reader, once reading this book, will understand the privilege just experienced from Poitier opening the door, even if only slightly, to his life and the influence his father had on him and, consequently, the entire American film industry.