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4.2 out of 5 stars
The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (Oprah's Book Club)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
In my spare time I don't read a lot of biography books but because it's Sidney Poitier I had to have it. After reading this up I found it to be pretty good but a bit dry in certain areas nevertheless informative along the way. This book does give us incredible journey of his life and he doesn't take credit for who he is, but gives credit to his Creator, his parents and who gave him a hand-up along the way.

In this autobiography you learn what Sidney was thinking and feeling through the span of his life. From growing up on Cat Island and not having any of our modern day conveniences to Nassau, to Miami, and New York. He shares with us his thoughts and feelings and reasons why he made the decisions he did. Personally, I would love to sit, talk, and debate with him for hours. He has always seemed to know who he was and never let anyone tell him otherwise. Sidney found a way to make himself as he knew himself fit into the world instead of changing himself to fit into the world. Sidney shows his thoughtful side by sharing a lot of his personal thoughts with us without dwelling on the bad things in life. He comments on today's youth and the negative benefits of our world where they are used to so many physical things.

"The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography" also provides strength and family value. Sidney Poitier is a noble man and his six daughters are lucky to have a father like him which makes this book worth having.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2007
Normally one to read strictly fiction such as "The Time Traveler's Wife" or "Life of Pi," I instead chose this excellent book by Mr. Poitier. Glad I did. I'm always hesitant to read this type of thing, thinking that either it won't be well written or that some ghost writer will have eeked out all the good stuff and edited out the "real" things. Not so, this book. Mr. Poitier is all over it and his honest and pulls-no-punches book is just the thing for those interested in not only Hollywood and its workings but more so of the man himself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2007
When all is said and done, all we really have to define us is how we presented ourselves while on this earth. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. Along with this, find The Convention by Jeff Travis. Very spiritual book about extreme bravery. Excellent read as well.
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Having admired Poitier's work, I have never had the chance to read anything written by him. In actuality, I had no idea he had even written a book, let alone two. I know for a fact that the grace and poise he shows on screen will come forth in this book.

I'm not usually one for biographies; I find them boring and tideous. But I know I'm in for a treat with this one.

Growing up, my father tried to raise me as a racist. I knew that this was wrong, but in my family it was normal to look down on others who weren't white, who weren't like everyone else.

Thankfully, when I was around twelve or thirteen years old, I saw a movie that changed my life and how I viewed it: Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

The idea that a white woman could date a black man was so amazing to me, sheltered as I was in white suburbia. There was only one black family in my entire neighbourhood and I had little to no exposure to anything that was considered different.

Sidney Poitier's role in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? (as well as that of the woman and man who played his parents) showed me that though different, we were all the same.

I ran out to get The Measure of a Man on Saturday and I'm already more than half way through it. It's been a long time since I have read a book that is life changing and I'm thankful, beyond words, to be reading Poitier's words.

So in the end, all I can say is thank you: Thank you, Sidney, for opening my eyes, thank you for showing me that, despite our differences, we are all human; thank you for being an example for many and thank you for your words.

Thanks you Sidney and thank you Oprah. You have both changed my life for the better and I can never thank you enough.
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A brilliant Book club pick. Telling our stories is important and telling the truth even more so.

Nothing prepared me for the breathtaking prose, divine insight, salty interjections, and brutally honest reflections in Mr. Poitier’s spiritual memoir. Having read hundreds of autobiographies (even writing one myself), Angela’s Ashes had been the benchmark by which I measured all others. The Measure of A Man takes that peak to an all new level.

I couldn’t put it down. I’d call my friends, quoting lines: ”Black and white in the face of real issues are mere cosmetics” (149); “You don’t have to become something you’re not to be better than you were.“ (188). I teared up too. When his mother stands up in the theatre and shouts at her son up on the screen; when young Sidney’s life was at stake and he had to walk scores of blocks and not look back (as intense as my mother’s first telling of Lot’s wife’s two choices in Sodom & Gomorrah), and, yes, even when his adult sister experienced the tamarind switch.

I read with such focus that on the brilliant page 128, after lines like, “The powerful have to forgive themselves for their behaviour. That should be a sacred process,” I even noticed two sentences immediately repeated in different words within the last 2 paragraphs. You’re so captivated, you do hang onto each word.

Throughout, I saw my life flash before me. Thankful I had at least one teacher like Mark Thackeray in To Sir With Love (he at the East End, mine at my East Elgin); recalling proudly how I had “slapped” one of my persecutors as Mr. Tibbs did in The Heat of the Night; and backpacking in Europe with my own ‘Sidney’ in Europe in ’92. I was my friend’s “Charly Blackwell” – but, oh how I wished I had the presence of mind to have taped our long talks on matters worldly and spiritual.

Sidney Poitier acknowledges the icons of his generation. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela. Men who had “no hatred for [those] who had spent a commensurate part of their lives trying to destroy [them]. [They] resented or disliked or hated what they represented.” (pg 125).

I believe Mr. Poitier should be added to that list.

If the true measure of a man is how he provides for his children, what a legacy Sidney Poitier has left all of us.

Self-respect. Thoughtful use of (and the importance of) language. Patience and humility. Dignity and grace above all else.
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on February 17, 2002
Sidney Poitier fans are not hard to come by and would thoroughly enjoy this book, seeing as how the tone of the book is exemplary of Poitier's signature calm and confident demeanor.
_The Measure of a Man_ is organized into eleven sections that take the reader sequentially through the main lessons of Poitier's life with insights by the author looking back. Each section contains several stories from Poitier's life, each flowing seamlessly into the next. For example, under the chapter title, 'Life in Black and White' Poitier recalls the Harlem, New York that he loved. He opens with the politics of the area, including the fact that blacks were expected to go into New York City to work, but once the day was over, they were expected to stay far away from downtown, which segways into Poitier recalling the great nightlife of Harlem which in turn leads to a story of a specific man who was able to stay in Harlem as a hot item for one week annually. The man saved his money all year to spend on himself and others in the city in seven days before returning to Poitier's home place, Cat Island. These examples, along with many others support the overall lesson of this section; that the author was faced with discrimination many times, but he did not accept it into his beliefs and was happier with himself and his lifestyle.
The highlight of the book for me was understanding how Poitier's beginnings and upbringing support the life of an actor so well. Poitier never comes out and states, "this is what happened when I was a kid and at this moment on stage I drew from it," rather it is left to the reader to make the connections which I rather enjoyed. Any aspiring actor or speaker can take note from Poitier's examples and apply them to their own situation.
Anyone faced with adversity can respect and draw strength from Poitier's firm beliefs that had to be proven over and over again. His upbringing comes in to play in this aspect because he was raised in the 1940s but was unaware of racial segregation for the majority of his childhood. Being raised on an island where everyone was black with the exception of two people was helpful for Poitier because he developed his sense of self without the concept of prejudice. When this was introduced to him in his early teens, Poitier was already developed enough to feel confident enough to reject bigotry.
I have read other reviews that found tones of "black anger" in Poitier's story and I have found none. I believe he tells his story from his point of view and it is a viewpoint of equality for all men and a view of high self-respect, containing no notable tones of "black anger."
Some less enjoyable moments of _The Measure of a Man_ are the times Poitier drops names like a novice at a networking luncheon. Anyone who writes an autobiography thinks enough of himself or his story that he expects others to be interested. Poitier, for the most part does this unpretentiously and without excessiveness. Unfortunately, that makes the few times he does preach all the more noticeable. When recalling a filming, an integral meeting, or a high stakes encounter, Poitier drops a lot of names. Reading through the lists five or six lines long full of names becomes a bit tedious.
Another aspect to be aware of is that where as this is a great book for anyone looking to know more about Poitier's career, but anyone questioning about his family or personal life will be disappointed.
Sidney Poitier's _The Measure of a Man_, published by Harper SanFransisco is the literary addition to Poitier's life, and is not to be missed by those who respect his work.
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on February 15, 2002
The measure of a man is a story of integrity and character,anyone who would like to know something about the true man Poitier is should read this selection, but not just who Poitier is but also anyone who's looking for questions about themselves. Questions of life discipline, integrity. I also recommend it to a person who is open to a broad band of religion and isn't set on one particular religion, but open to a broad christianity. Sidney tells us of religion, but he never tells us of a particular one or group he belongs to, instead he takes things from many religions and kind of lumps all of their values and aspects into one form of his own particular standards and beliefs, he takes us on a journey through time, the trials and tribulations of his own life. The book also tackles the very controversial issue of race and segregation, and breaking through the race barrier, through pure determination.
The book starts of with Sidney watching T.V. and not being able to find anything on the television. He's frustrated with the fact that there are 97 channels on the television, but nothing to watch on them. He says he starts to think of "...images of a time in my life when things were so much simpler, when my options for entertainment couldn't be counted on a scale from 1 to 97." From this point the rest of the book is a continual flashback, structured into main points of the authors life from growing up on Cat Island to making movies, and to dealing with international stardom, a journey through time if you will. Its written in a very conversational style of writing, making you believe that your sitting right in front of Poitier himself, watching him tell his story and interacting with him with either disbelief, joy, or laughter. The book is well written from front to back, and because of this and his conversational style of writing, the events he describes, his actions, his feelings and his thoughts, are greatly illustrated. After reading a measure, you don't just feel as if you meet a man, you feel as if you lived with a man, through his struggles and through his success.
I enjoyed the book thouroghly, he says in his introduction he didn't want to write a book about his life, instead he "wanted to write a book about life. Just life itself." I think he accomplishes this throughout his book. He doesn't make the focus on his particular life, instead he uses his life as an example to others. He doesn't make it a standard he makes it a lesson, for all to read and all to learn from. It's an intriguing tail of a man who came from nowhere and wasn't given anything or any special treatment, but fought his way to the top, all by himself. It is an inspiring tail of self determination and tells a story everyone can learn from.
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on November 23, 2001
When I began reading this book (audio), I didn't truly know what to expect but to learn a bit more about this man who has appeared in so many fine motion pictures. In the eight hours of listening, I came to see Poitier as a man of character and integrity, something missing in so many men and women in the theatre today. It was fascinating to learn of his background in Jamaica, a background that most would view as one of poverty but one which was rich in building character. In his own words Poitier describes his journey from poor kid to a man of honor in the entertainment business. The audio book conveys the slight voicings of words which can not be done with simply the printed page; these add color to the presentation. Someone wishing to know a bit more of the background of his movies will find this book a welcome addition. In my opinion he might have spent a bit more time explaining his educational experience. Hearing his voice and knowing the words are his, makes a person wonder how this all came to be.
The latter moments of this work includes pages of Poitier trying to explain his worldview, his religion. It is, my opinion, a confused view, combining elements of Roman Catholicism (not the same as Christianity), spiritualism (from his days in Jamaica), the atheism/naturalism of Carl Sagan (a friend), idealism, and an acceptance of evolutionism. That he would go to this area of his experience was not unexpected, given the book's subtitle. To be fair, understanding this realm of his thinking will contribute to anyone's appreciation of Poitier as an actor as well as a man.
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on August 28, 2001
When I chose to read THE MEASURE OF A MAN: A SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Sidney Poitier this year, it had nothing to do with the fact that he is an American icon who is recognized and respected by many throughout the world. If truth were told, I've only seen 4 of his 40+ films, which clearly establishes the fact that I am no Sidney Poitier movie buff. I simply chose to add this book to my reading list this year because I was drawn to its title.
For me, the title meant that this charismatic and successful man would look back over his long complex life to share some insights to the kind of scale he used to measure and/or weigh the true meaning of his life. Just as a scale is arranged in graded series, so are the significant events in Poitier's life. Even though this book does not tell his life in chronological order, it does present events in his life as themes, which were shaped by the times and circumstances that surrounded him.
Clearly at the base of his scale are the strong core values/morals he learned from his parents while growing up on the tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas. It will be those core values that sustain him upon his arrival in America at age 15 in 1943 and throughout his life as a husband, father and ultimately, an actor. As Poitier begins to carve out a successful acting career during the '50s & '60s, he is mindful that his personal and public life must be reflective of the kind of legacy that the Poitier elders left behind. Therefore, he did not let the backlash he received from some in the black community during the '60's for making films that depicted "exemplary human beings" deter him. Instead of being angry and confrontational about the social injustices of the times, he chose to channel those emotions into something positive. That positive energy is what kept him seeking and demanding quality roles as a black actor.
Sidney Poitier is an excellent storyteller and this book as some say is, "anecdotally rich." Even though I enjoyed much of what he talks about, I felt that some of his writings rambled on, and at times were out of place with regards to the book's chapter. So continuity of content was definitely not a strong issue during the editing stages of this book. The fact that he refers to this as, "a spiritual autobiography" is a bit ambiguous too. Neither religion nor any other spiritual philosophies are apart of what he explains is the measure of his success as a man.
So when one thinks about the saying, "The true measure of a man is not what he accomplishes, or in the wealth he may acquires. It's found in the lives he touches," does Mr. Poitier's life measure up? Read his book and you'll know the answer!
Reviewed by Marlive
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I first became interested in Sydney Poitier when he starred in one of my all time favourite movies, "To Sir with Love." After that, I avidly followed his career, but as the years passed, less and less was written about him. I was elated when this book appeared and was not disappointed upon it's conclusion. Everything about this book only confirmed what a beautiful and spiritually enlightened person Mr. Poitier truly is.
In spite of his lucrative movie career and fame, Mr. Poitier has clearly never lost sight of where he came from or what is important in life. He did not abandon his personal values, beliefs and integrity in search of fame and fortune. His love for humanity and family, and the happiness, peace and contentment he has found within himself, is evident on almost each and every page of his extremely well-written book. He is the ultimate example of refinement, culture and class. Mr. Poitier is the type of man one would love to sit down with under a shady tree, over a cup of tea, and share his joys, tribulations and deep spiritual philosophies on life. He is an astoundingly charismatic gentleman as one will discover through his autobiography.
If you only read one autobiography in a lifetime, let it be this one - the reader will definitely not be disappointed. If simplicity, faith, integrity, humbleness and inner peace are the "measure of a man", then Mr. Poitier's shoes would be very difficult to fill. The book is deserving of an entire universe of stars.
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