Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography

(Oprah's Book Club)
By Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier,The Oscar-winning actor and humanitarian offers an intimate look at his journey from a childhood of poverty to cinematic success.This autobiography explores his rich and inspiring life, the lessons he’s learned and his commitment to maintaining personal ethics and artistic integrity in the face of racism.Sidney Poitier is known worldwide for sensitive and powerful portrayals in socially charged films. In his magnificently crafted life story, you can't help but feel moved by his narrative. It is joy to read Poitier's candid tale. Sydney Poitier looks back at his pioneering life and career, without any sense of superiority. Using his genuine humility, he shares the lessons learned along the way.
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, Sidney Poitier broke racial barrier after racial barrier in the United States 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 Sidney Poitier.
In this book Sidney Poitier freely admits his faults and owns up to his strengths, which extend from his upbringing.
"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
Sidney Poitier was the first African American actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his outstanding performance in Lilies of the Field in 1963.He has starred in over forty films, directed nine, and written four. His landmark films include The Defiant Ones , A Patch of Blue , Guess Who's Coming to Dinner , In the Heat of the Night and To Sir, With Love. Among his many accolades, he has recently been selected as the thirty-sixth recipient of the Screen Actors Guild's highest honor, the Life Achievement Award for an outstanding career and humanitarian accomplishment.
Born in the Bahamas in 1927, young Sidney Poitier encountered few white people and never "learned" to feel inferior. When his tomato-farmer parents lost their livelihood due to a Florida embargo, Poitier's family moved to the United States of America, staying first in Miami, and eventually moving to Harlem, where his father sold cigars and his mother broke rocks into gravel. His parents' hard-working ethic and his own sense of self-worth, mixed with anger at the prevalent racism and segregation of the period, made Poitier determined to succeed despite the forces arrayed against him. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, he continually broke down racial barriers, and fought to depict African American men in interesting roles with pride, dignity, and charm. The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography, his second volume of autobiography, an Oprah's Book Club selection in 2007, powerfully describes all the challenges Poitier faced, and how the teaching of his parents and his spiritual faith helped him overcome and thrive.

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