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Literature & Fiction

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (288 votes)

Released: 2007-01-26

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The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (Oprah's Book Club) by Sidney Poitier

Description

“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.”
—Sidney Poitier

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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Editorial Review

Sidney Poitier wrote The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography because he “felt called to write about certain values, such as integrity and commitment, faith and forgiveness, about the virtues of simplicity, about the difference between 'amusing ourselves to death' and finding meaningful pleasures–even joy.” Yet Poitier's book does not speak from on high; its tone is conversational and endearingly self-critical. He begins the first chapter by recounting an evening spent channel-surfing and wondering, as most of us do at one time or another, “What am I doing with my time?” The spiritual reflections in The Measure of a Man are nonsectarian; Poitier's faith is clearly influenced by his experience in Christian churches, but he is not, strictly, Christian. Though idiosyncratic, his faith is disciplined and rigorous, informed by leaders as diverse as Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Poitier's love–for himself, his family, and the world–infuses his recollections of his early life on Cat Island in the Bahamas and his memories of his stage and film career (including his Oscar-winning role in Lilies of the Field). Poitier has been rich and poor; he has been popular and despised; and his extremely varied experiences have made him a wise man, as he demonstrates with statements like this one: “[W]hat we do is stay within the context of what's practical, what's real, what dreams can be fashioned into reality, what values can send us to bed comfortably and make us courageous enough to face our end with character.”

Book Details

Author: Sidney Poitier Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco Binding: Paperback Language: English Pages: 272

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