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Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family

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Condoleezza Rice has excelled as a diplomat, political scientist, and concert pianist.  Her achievements run the gamut from helping to oversee the collapse of communism in Europe and the decline of the Soviet Union, to working to protect the country in the aftermath of 9-11, to becoming only the second woman - and the first black woman ever -- to serve as Secretary of Stat Condoleezza Rice has excelled as a diplomat, political scientist, and concert pianist.  Her achievements run the gamut from helping to oversee the collapse of communism in Europe and the decline of the Soviet Union, to working to protect the country in the aftermath of 9-11, to becoming only the second woman - and the first black woman ever -- to serve as Secretary of State.   But until she was 25 she never learned to swim.   Not because she wouldn't have loved to, but because when she was a little girl in Birmingham, Alabama, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor decided he'd rather shut down the city's pools than give black citizens access.   Throughout the 1950's, Birmingham's black middle class largely succeeded in insulating their children from the most corrosive effects of racism, providing multiple support systems to ensure the next generation would live better than the last.  But by 1963, when Rice was applying herself to her fourth grader's lessons, the situation had grown intolerable.  Birmingham was an environment where blacks were expected to keep their head down and do what they were told -- or face violent consequences. That spring two bombs exploded in Rice’s neighborhood amid a series of chilling Klu Klux Klan attacks.  Months later, four young girls lost their lives in a particularly vicious bombing.   So how was Rice able to achieve what she ultimately did?   Her father, John, a minister and educator, instilled a love of sports and politics.  Her mother, a teacher, developed Condoleezza’s passion for piano and exposed her to the fine arts.  From both, Rice learned the value of faith in the face of hardship and the importance of giving back to the community.  Her parents’ fierce unwillingness to set limits propelled her to the venerable halls of Stanford University, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become the university’s second-in-command.  An expert in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs, she played a leading role in U.S. policy as the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union disintegrated.  Less than a decade later, at the apex of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, she received the exciting news – just shortly before her father’s death – that she would go on to the White House as the first female National Security Advisor.    As comfortable describing lighthearted family moments as she is recalling the poignancy of her mother’s cancer battle and the heady challenge of going toe-to-toe with Soviet leaders, Rice holds nothing back in this remarkably candid telling. This is the story of Condoleezza Rice that has never been told, not that of an ultra-accomplished world leader, but of a little girl – and a young woman -- trying to find her place in a sometimes hostile world and of two exceptional parents, and an extended family and community, that made all the difference.


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Condoleezza Rice has excelled as a diplomat, political scientist, and concert pianist.  Her achievements run the gamut from helping to oversee the collapse of communism in Europe and the decline of the Soviet Union, to working to protect the country in the aftermath of 9-11, to becoming only the second woman - and the first black woman ever -- to serve as Secretary of Stat Condoleezza Rice has excelled as a diplomat, political scientist, and concert pianist.  Her achievements run the gamut from helping to oversee the collapse of communism in Europe and the decline of the Soviet Union, to working to protect the country in the aftermath of 9-11, to becoming only the second woman - and the first black woman ever -- to serve as Secretary of State.   But until she was 25 she never learned to swim.   Not because she wouldn't have loved to, but because when she was a little girl in Birmingham, Alabama, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor decided he'd rather shut down the city's pools than give black citizens access.   Throughout the 1950's, Birmingham's black middle class largely succeeded in insulating their children from the most corrosive effects of racism, providing multiple support systems to ensure the next generation would live better than the last.  But by 1963, when Rice was applying herself to her fourth grader's lessons, the situation had grown intolerable.  Birmingham was an environment where blacks were expected to keep their head down and do what they were told -- or face violent consequences. That spring two bombs exploded in Rice’s neighborhood amid a series of chilling Klu Klux Klan attacks.  Months later, four young girls lost their lives in a particularly vicious bombing.   So how was Rice able to achieve what she ultimately did?   Her father, John, a minister and educator, instilled a love of sports and politics.  Her mother, a teacher, developed Condoleezza’s passion for piano and exposed her to the fine arts.  From both, Rice learned the value of faith in the face of hardship and the importance of giving back to the community.  Her parents’ fierce unwillingness to set limits propelled her to the venerable halls of Stanford University, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become the university’s second-in-command.  An expert in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs, she played a leading role in U.S. policy as the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union disintegrated.  Less than a decade later, at the apex of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, she received the exciting news – just shortly before her father’s death – that she would go on to the White House as the first female National Security Advisor.    As comfortable describing lighthearted family moments as she is recalling the poignancy of her mother’s cancer battle and the heady challenge of going toe-to-toe with Soviet leaders, Rice holds nothing back in this remarkably candid telling. This is the story of Condoleezza Rice that has never been told, not that of an ultra-accomplished world leader, but of a little girl – and a young woman -- trying to find her place in a sometimes hostile world and of two exceptional parents, and an extended family and community, that made all the difference.

30 review for Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    Last week a goodreads friend Barb posted a review of Condoleezza Rice’s memoir about her family. I had previously read her memoir No Higher Honor about her experiences working for the federal government and enjoyed learning about this multitalented woman. With a focus on nonfiction this year and my overall tendency toward biographies and memoirs, it was a no brainer for me to add Rice’s Extraordinary, Ordinary People to my women’s history month lineup. Condoleezza Rice was born on November 12, 1 Last week a goodreads friend Barb posted a review of Condoleezza Rice’s memoir about her family. I had previously read her memoir No Higher Honor about her experiences working for the federal government and enjoyed learning about this multitalented woman. With a focus on nonfiction this year and my overall tendency toward biographies and memoirs, it was a no brainer for me to add Rice’s Extraordinary, Ordinary People to my women’s history month lineup. Condoleezza Rice was born on November 12, 1954 to John W Rice, Jr and Angelena Rice of Birmingham, Alabama. Both educators as well as active in the Presbyterian community, the Rices desired the world for their daughter. John was convinced that the baby was going to be a boy so he bought a football and helmet; later he instilled in his daughter a love of football and all sports, one she still enjoys to this day. Both John and Angelena came from African American families who were determined that their children finished college no matter what the cost. At the time of Condoleeza’s birth, both her parents had attained a post bachelor level of education and were highly regarded in the African American community of Birmingham. By the time their daughter was three, the Huntley and Brinkley news hour became a nightly family event. There were family elections every year, with Condoleezza winning annually; John and Angelena came to value her opinion at a tender age. Condi excelled at piano, debate, and academics and accelerated in the classroom. Yet, in Birmingham, the most segregated city in America, few opportunities awaited a girl whose parents would do anything for. By the time Condoleezza was in high school, the family had relocated to Denver. John had accepted a job to be Dean Of Student Services at the University Of Denver, and all three family members were happy to leave the south behind despite the closeness of many family members. Even after the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act, opportunities for African Americans were limited. In Denver, there was ice skating, piano, and admittance to a prestigious girls high school; Condoleezza was thrilled to move and to this day wishes she had been more in the west. In hindsight looking back she knows that her parents sacrificed much financially so that she could achieve. Had she known this, she claims she would have worked in high school to supplement the family income in addition to her rigorous academic and social life. Yet, she doubts that her parents would have traded their humble living arrangements if it meant taking away from their only child’s academic successes. Like their parents before them, the Rices wanted their daughters to succeed in collegiate life. While Condoleezza Rice writes about her time in the first Bush administration and at Stanford, this memoir focuses on her love and appreciation for her parents and how they helped her get where she is today. John W Rice, Jr, like his father before him, majored in ministry so that he could receive a scholarship to finish college. His career trajectory lead him to mentor generations of young people, who went on to have lofty careers themselves. A pillar of every community he lived in, John Rice received multiple lifetime achievement awards for his work as both an educator and community leader. He always had time for his daughter, no matter how busy both their careers were. While he never made decisions for her, he laid the path so that she could choose wisely in all of her academic decisions. Condoleezza asked her father for advice on all major events in his life until the day he died. Whether it was what to major in- Soviet military history- or whether to live in California or Washington, Condoleezza valued her father’s opinion above all as they enjoyed a lasting father- daughter relationship. Angelena was a formidable woman in her own right. She insisted that her daughter study piano and provided opportunities for cultural events despite the limited options in Birmingham. As a high school teacher, Angelena was often assigned to low end schools yet provided cultural activities so that her students would excel both in and out of the classroom. Whether it was staging a school musical and sewing the costumes, or providing a vocational education student the opportunity to be her teaching assistant, Angelena treated all of her students as though they were high end achievers. Many students would not have finished high school if Angelena did not lay the groundwork for them to enjoy success. Outside of school, she was the pillar of the home as John was a pillar of the community. She participated in family trips to hockey and football games in solidarity with her husband and daughter, but Angelena was happiest with family and in seeing her daughter achieve great heights. Neither John or Angelena lived to see their daughter become the first African American woman to hold the position of Secretary of State or the President of Stanford although they would have undeniably been thrilled to see her live out a dream. Condoleezza has been asked if she would want to be commissioner of the NFL, but the job she would really enjoy is to coach the Cleveland Browns, her favorite team from her childhood. At some point, this football loving, piano prodigious, Russian specialist had considered running for President, but decided against it. To be in the position to even consider a run for the White House came from a strong upbringing from loving parents. Not too shabby for a girl from 1950s Birmingham. John and Angelena Rice truly were extraordinary, ordinary people. 4+ stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Condoleezza Rice Condoleezza Rice grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, which - during her childhood in the 1950's and 1960's - was one of the most segregated cities in the nation. Young Condoleezza Rice Nevertheless Condoleeza's middle-class parents, Angelena - a high school teacher and John - a sports coach, athletic director, guidance counselor and Presbyterian minister made sure their only child suffered few deprivations and exposed her to everything they thought was an educational opportunity. Condoleezza notes: "They were convi Condoleezza Rice Condoleezza Rice grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, which - during her childhood in the 1950's and 1960's - was one of the most segregated cities in the nation. Young Condoleezza Rice Nevertheless Condoleeza's middle-class parents, Angelena - a high school teacher and John - a sports coach, athletic director, guidance counselor and Presbyterian minister made sure their only child suffered few deprivations and exposed her to everything they thought was an educational opportunity. Condoleezza notes: "They were convinced education was a kind of armor that shielded me against everything, even deepest racism in Birmingham and across America." Condoleezza and her mother, Angelena Rice Condoleezza and her father, John Rice Condoleezza's family lived by the credo: "If you were twice as good (as white people) they might not like you but they had to respect you." This probably influenced the Rices' decision to provide young Condoleezza with not only 'good schooling' but also lessons in piano; ballet; gymnastics; baton twirling; typing; and French. Condoleezza's mother loved music and taught her daughter to love classical music and famous composers. Small dancer Mom also made sure her little girl watched 'Mighty Mouse' because the hero's theme song, "Here I come to save the day", was a form of opera.... in which dialog was sung. Mighty Mouse For his part, Condoleezza's dad loved football, and taught Condoleezza an appreciation for the game. The duo went to high school football games together, watched the NFL on Sundays after church, and studied football magazines purchased at the local newsstand. Vintage football magazine Condoleezza was also a Brownie and Girl Scout, though her first camping experience - with hot weather, mosquitoes, and warm Kool-Aid - turned her off outside overnighters forever. 😊 For social activities Condoleezza attended church events as well as 'Tots and Teens' - an organization that provided black kids with the opportunity to participate in parties; field trips; debutante cotillions; volunteer projects; and so on. 'Tomboy' Condoleezza also played several sports, and loved to run around and tumble.....especially on her parents' bed. 😄 Unfortunately young Condoleezza (and other Birmingham children) didn't get the chance to learn to swim because Bull Connor, Birmingham's 'Commissioner of Public Safety', closed swimming pools and other recreational facilities rather than comply with a court order to integrate them. 😕 Thus Condoleezza didn't master swimming until she was 25 years old. In one of my favorite anecdotes in the book, Condoleezza relates that her family's favorite television show was 'The Mickey Mouse Club.' Condoleezza and her parents watched every day.....and would put on their mouse ears and sing the signature tune: "M I C - see you real soon - K E Y - why? because we like you - M O U S E." Even if they had company, the Rices excused themselves to don mouse ears and sing. LOL 😁💖 When Condoleezza got older, Mickey Mouse was replaced with the Huntley-Brinkley news hour, which the family avidly watched and discussed. Despite all her parents' efforts, Condoleezza realized that: "As hard as they tried, black parents could only partially succeed in building a fully adequate and parallel social structure. The time would always come when the (black) children of Birmingham had to face the realities of segregation." For example, black people could only eat at one restaurant in Birmingham, A.G. Gaston's; they were prohibited from using dressing rooms in clothing stores; and they faced discrimination from the department store Santa Claus - who would only put white children on his knee. Moreover, long car trips in the South had to be carefully planned because blacks had little access to roadside eateries or motels. Condoleezza's parents tried to compensate by taking her to Atlanta on occasion, where they had a choice of restaurants and could go to the movies. Black people in old Birmingham could dine out at A.G. Gaston's restaurant The time right before The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was especially violent in Birmingham. Dynamite explosions were common and the 16th Street Church bombing, which caught the attention of the entire nation, killed four little girls. The four girls killed in the bombing (clockwise from top left) Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Carol Denise McNair (11) This horrific incident hit especially close to home for 8-year-old Condoleezza, who knew one of the victims, Carol Denise McNair. Bombs were also directed at people's homes because the Night Riders and Ku Klux Klan sought to terrify black families. Condoleezza remembers: "Daddy would sit on the porch with his gun in his lap. Men in the neighborhood formed a watch and occasionally fired a gun into the air to scare off intruders." Because of these events Condoleezza is a fierce defender of the second amendment, 'The Right to Bear Arms.' Night Riders (even the horses are disguised) The Ku Klux Klan In time Condoleezza's family moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama - where her father became Dean of Students at Stillman College, and then to Denver, Colorado, where her father took graduate classes and worked at the University of Denver. In Colorado, teenage Condoleezza attended St. Mary's Academy, which had an outstanding college prep curriculum. She also became a serious ice skater, rising at 4:30 AM every morning so her father could drive her to the rink for practice. As if that wasn't enough, Condoleezza - a skilled pianist - continued taking piano lessons at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music. University of Denver Condoleezza notes that Denver was more integrated than Birmingham, but still exhibited racism, "perhaps unconscious at times, or unacknowledged." This was shown by teachers' occasional biting comments as well as housing discrimination when the Rice's were looking for an apartment. In time Condoleezza graduated from The University of Denver with a Bachelor's Degree. She then got a Master's Degree from Notre Dame University, and - later on - a Ph.D. from The University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies. Condoleezza and her parents Condoleezza specialized in political science, international politics, and Soviet Studies.....and learned to speak Russian. In fact Soviet bigwig Boris Yeltsin got a tongue lashing from Condoleezza - in Russian - when he was rude during a visit to the White House. Ha ha ha. Boris Yeltsin During and after her graduate studies, Condoleezza experienced one success after another. She was awarded various internships and fellowships; worked at the State Department; became an assistant professor at Stanford University - where she later served as provost; worked on the National Security Council during President George H.W. Bush's administration; was National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, and finally became Bush's Secretary of State. Condoleezza also published many books about her research in international politics. Condoleezza discusses some of her experiences at Stanford University and in government, and - though she was largely successful - admits that a few of her decisions garnered massive protests and criticism. For specifics you'll have to read her book(s). Sadly, Condoleezza also experienced tragedy in her life. Her beloved mother got breast cancer, and later on a deadly brain tumor. And her cherished daddy suffered from ill health for many years and - later in life - had two strokes that caused serious brain damage. It's clear that Condoleezza adored her parents and misses them every day. Many people have asked Condoleezza why she became a Republican, which seems to be an uncomfortable fit with her intense belief in affirmative action and her (more or less) pro-choice convictions. Condoleezza explains her reasons for joining the GOP.....but not really. Perhaps she wanted to follow in her father's footsteps, who became a Republican when a GOP party member let him register to vote and a Democrat party member didn't. (Shame on you vintage Democrats.....and lesson learned I hope.) Much of the book is devoted to Condoleezza's extremely close relationship with her parents - and to their interests, work, and accomplishments. Angelena and John Rice were indeed extraordinary parents and I tip my hat to them for raising a remarkable daughter. I enjoyed the book, especially the first half about Condoleezza's early years. The latter part of the book is interesting as well, but is rather dry and reads something like a curriculum vitae. I'd recommend the book to readers interested in Condoleezza Rice. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fletcher

    I live in Birmingham. I grew up in the segregated south. I am impressed with anyone (white or black) that can come out of the mess of those times with such grace and forgiveness. She is an amazing woman. She sets the bar high and has little sympathy for folks who cry discrimination. She holds only herself accountable for her strengths and weaknesses. She credits her incredible parents for her work ethic and for always believing in her.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Demetria

    I love Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family, by Condoleeza Rice, because it speaks to me. My parents grew up in the South, but my family has none of the experiences that most people think of when they think of the southern living in the 50s. There are three reasons for this: 1. My grandparents were educated .My grandmother was a midwife who worked in the local community. I don’t know what my grandfather did for a living but I know he worked outside of the home.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    Condoleezza Rice (1954-) is a Stanford University professor. She was the youngest provost in Stanford history. She was the first black woman to be the National Security Advisor and the first black female Secretary of State. Rice was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She grew up during the civil rights battles in the south. Her father was a minister and educator; and her mother was a teacher and musician. Rice trained to be a concert pianist before changing her university major t Condoleezza Rice (1954-) is a Stanford University professor. She was the youngest provost in Stanford history. She was the first black woman to be the National Security Advisor and the first black female Secretary of State. Rice was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She grew up during the civil rights battles in the south. Her father was a minister and educator; and her mother was a teacher and musician. Rice trained to be a concert pianist before changing her university major to political science. Her expertise is Soviet and Eastern European Affairs. she learned the Russian and Czech languages. Her professor and mentor was Madeline Albright’s father, Josef Korbel (1907-1927), at the University of Denver. The book is focused on her early childhood in Alabama during the fight for Civil Rights. The story is mostly about her parents and the forces that shaped the generation of black middle-class families. Toward the end of the book, Rice tells of her time at RAND and her research work there and how she started at Stanford. In her first year of teaching, Rice won the highest award at Stanford for teaching. She tells of working for President George H.W. Bush and a little about working for President George W. Bush. That time is covered in another book. The book is written more in the style of a journalist rather than the academic style expected of a professor. The book is eminently readable. I enjoy Rice’s style of writing. I read this as an e-book on my Kindle app for my iPad. The book is 370 pages long and was published in 2011.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I recommend the audio version, because Dr. Rice reads it herself. I don't agree with many of her political viewpoints, but I respect and admire her immensely. She is a smart, thoughtful, educated woman who believes in hard work and determination. She also describes how she and her family would engage people who held views different from their own, and respect people with different opinions. I think we all could learn a lesson from the Rice family when it comes to being good citizens.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Natalia

    I would probably not have picked this book up on my own, but my book club selected it, and I'm so glad I had a reason to read it. As the book is focused on her parents' influence on her life, it starts with her childhood and ends with her father's death. Unfortunately, this means that the book leaves out her time serving as Secretary of State. In fact, it's probably not a huge loss, since the end of the book is a lot less candid than the beginning. It makes sense, since the people she I would probably not have picked this book up on my own, but my book club selected it, and I'm so glad I had a reason to read it. As the book is focused on her parents' influence on her life, it starts with her childhood and ends with her father's death. Unfortunately, this means that the book leaves out her time serving as Secretary of State. In fact, it's probably not a huge loss, since the end of the book is a lot less candid than the beginning. It makes sense, since the people she talks about at Stanford and in her political career are people she still interacts with and anything she talked about would still be recent. It's hard to really lay things out on the table before some time has passed and everyone gets a little distance. I really had no idea what the experience of middle class black families in the south was like during and soon after segregation. Most of the histories of the time seem to focus on lower- and working-class people, so she paints a picture that was really new to me. Dr Rice herself has had an extraordinary life. She is very accomplished and I enjoyed reading about it. She's very inspirational. On top of all the historical context, I simply enjoyed reading about an ambitious and successful woman.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Abdul

    What a fascinating woman and journey. Too bad that she used her talents and skills to support a war we had no business engaging in. It was a good well thought out page turner.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Scott Taylor

    During the Bush years, I was always impressed at how level-headed Condi seemed. This book confirms that it was more than an act, she actually appears to be very similar in her real personality. Steady, stable, good background, avoided many of the pitfalls people fall into during their youth. She was a practiced and accomplished pianist, figure skater, and diplomacy nut. Her family provided her with a framework that really allowed her to accomplish anything she set her mind to doing. T During the Bush years, I was always impressed at how level-headed Condi seemed. This book confirms that it was more than an act, she actually appears to be very similar in her real personality. Steady, stable, good background, avoided many of the pitfalls people fall into during their youth. She was a practiced and accomplished pianist, figure skater, and diplomacy nut. Her family provided her with a framework that really allowed her to accomplish anything she set her mind to doing. That being said, I didn't learn a whole lot else from this book. She was nice, her family was nice, despite having some troublesome times in Alabama growing up she lived a fairly sheltered existence. The moments where she discusses her politics and beliefs, and how these came about, were the most interesting. Her father became a Republican simply because they allowed him to vote whereas the Democrats in the south at the time did not. She also differs from many of the GOP in some of her thinking. Just goes to show that people are individuals in spite of their affiliations. The version I read was the audio book read by Condi herself. Well done and added that unique touch of extra meaning that can only be had from the actual writer. Thanks for reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I had the opportunity to see Ms. Rice speak during the author's breakfast at last year's Book Expo America (May 2010) in New York City. She gave a compelling speech that even led Jon Stewart, host of the breakfast, and political adversary - if you will - to state, "Don't.Make.Me.Like.You...." I think hers was a story worth telling, for sure. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1960's in the middle of the civil rights movement. Yet, her parents didn't allow the discrimination, inherent I had the opportunity to see Ms. Rice speak during the author's breakfast at last year's Book Expo America (May 2010) in New York City. She gave a compelling speech that even led Jon Stewart, host of the breakfast, and political adversary - if you will - to state, "Don't.Make.Me.Like.You...." I think hers was a story worth telling, for sure. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1960's in the middle of the civil rights movement. Yet, her parents didn't allow the discrimination, inherent at the time, to stop them from achieving success. Much of this book seemed a tribute to Ms. Rice's parents. She wrote about her childhood and the wonderful influence of her parents. Parents who insisted she achieved an education, they provided her with all their love and made her believe through their encouragement and nurturing that, despite the racial tensions and, despite any and all possible barriers, that she could be whatever she wanted. There's a picture of Condoleezza standing in front of the White House when she was about 8-years-old; though she doesn't remember it, Condoleezza stated her parents reported her saying she would work there one day. And as we all know, she was right! "Condi's" story is also, then, a testament to the power of education. One of the aspects of this book that I really enjoyed was getting to know her parents. For me, personally, it was inspiring to see an example of really good parenting and how well the child turned out. Considering I teach parenting and work fully in the field of child welfare, where people believe that a child can't be raised well without beating into submission, or feel that there are just too many barriers to even dream of any success, or feel that criticizing or ignoring their children is better than encouraging and supporting, this story was a breath of fresh air. I think that almost no one can compare themselves to Condi growing up during that time in the United States and excelling to where she is now, and abjectly state that there's just too much to overcome. But that being said, there were moments when I felt Condoleezza chronicled her childhood a little too thoroughly. Then, contrastingly, the second half of the book jumped through the rest of her years to where she is now. I had invested so much time into her grade school years that to fly through her twenties, thirties, and forties was a little disconcerting. In the second half of the book, she talks more about her education in soviet policies and her political work at the White House. I did find this part interesting, to a degree, but felt it didn't flow well with the nature of the first part of the book. She could easily have made this book into two. So, while I felt these aforementioned things, I still would definitely recommend this book for those interested in Condoleezza's background or for those looking for a good memoir about how she overcame obstacles to find the success she has today. There is also apparently a young adult version of this book, Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me, that may be a good way to reach those younger readers (though it should be noted I haven't read any of that version). Taken from www.takemawayreading.com

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cheeky Cher

    4 stars - It was great. I loved it. This was the most interesting memoir I have ever read, though to be fair the memoir genre is not one I frequently visit. Condoleezza Rice has led a fascinating life, and I view her as a highly intelligent, independent, sophisticated, well-rounded, graceful, courageous, self-sufficient, determined woman that is leading a very fulfilling life, which includes choosing a childfree path for herself. You could say I'm a fan. I was impressed reading about 4 stars - It was great. I loved it. This was the most interesting memoir I have ever read, though to be fair the memoir genre is not one I frequently visit. Condoleezza Rice has led a fascinating life, and I view her as a highly intelligent, independent, sophisticated, well-rounded, graceful, courageous, self-sufficient, determined woman that is leading a very fulfilling life, which includes choosing a childfree path for herself. You could say I'm a fan. I was impressed reading about her experience at Stanford University and her quick achievement of turning the university profitable and maintaining that status during her time of managing the university budget. When difficult decisions had to be made, she was able to accomplish what those before her could not. Why haven't we placed her at the head of the US government budget? Of course we haven't even had a budget for the last several years, but I digress... Her memoir is surprisingly light on government politics, though there is a lot of discussion regarding university politics. I do not agree with all of her political beliefs, and nor do you need to in order to enjoy this book (I'm a Libertarian so I don't agree with 99% of current or recent politicians). If you have little interest in general in politics, I would say that less than 15% of the book was directly related to federal politics, so please don't let that keep you away from this inspiring read. ------------------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: Because my father never made reason and faith enemies of each other, my religious conviction was strengthened. First Sentence: John and Angelena Rice were extraordinary, ordinary people.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    The title of this book definitely fits the bill; all of the Rice's were just that, absolutely extraordinary. I listened to this book, and loved that Condoleezza Rice was the narrator. Not only did I learn immensely about the author, but I also grew to appreciate her and admire her myriad of accomplishments. It interested me to discover that she had ties to Colorado, having graduated from DU, and having lived in Denver for several years. I liked how she said that she feels a great connection and The title of this book definitely fits the bill; all of the Rice's were just that, absolutely extraordinary. I listened to this book, and loved that Condoleezza Rice was the narrator. Not only did I learn immensely about the author, but I also grew to appreciate her and admire her myriad of accomplishments. It interested me to discover that she had ties to Colorado, having graduated from DU, and having lived in Denver for several years. I liked how she said that she feels a great connection and love when in the Rocky Mountains, and that it was while in Denver that she pursued figure skating. She offers fascinating insight on affirmative action, racism, academia, education, the plights of those living in poverty, the benefits of a strong family unit, national security, U.S. and Russian relations, and weaves this plus more into an entertaining narrative. She is definitely the beneficiary of a strong family; and it was endearing to hear about the sacrifices her parents made to help her succeed in all of her many pursuits. Her parents were equally captivating individuals, who believed firmly that good education, religion and family were necessary for success. It was also interesting to notice how many prominent political figures she had the pleasure to meet when she was younger (her family lived next to the Netanyahus, her mentor at DU was Madeleine Albright's father, to name a couple) which notoriety served her well as her academic and political career advanced. All throughout, Rice is extremely modest, truthful and sincere as she reflects on from where she has come. A truly exemplary character!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Darrell

    Superb. Condoleezza Rice's book chronicles her family history and carries us through the decades before she serves in the country as Bush's Secretary of State. As a little girl, she became a first-hand witness to the racial drama occurring in Birmingham during the turbulent 1960's. But the most memorable thing in this book is the story of the sacrifices that her loving parents made so that she can shoot as high as she can and become the Condoleezza Rice that we have seen in the public eye. Rice Superb. Condoleezza Rice's book chronicles her family history and carries us through the decades before she serves in the country as Bush's Secretary of State. As a little girl, she became a first-hand witness to the racial drama occurring in Birmingham during the turbulent 1960's. But the most memorable thing in this book is the story of the sacrifices that her loving parents made so that she can shoot as high as she can and become the Condoleezza Rice that we have seen in the public eye. Rice spins a wonderful book here. Check it out for yourself.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Nickerson

    Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama as a black American during the Civil Rights era and remaining completely unscathed would undoubtedly be impossible. Though throughout much her of childhood, Condoleezza Rice’s parents were able to insulate her from the most obscene of Birmingham’s racism. However, by the early 1960s it grew impossible to shield her from such heinous crimes as the church bombings and neighborhood shootings that were becoming ever more common. But as her memoir Extraordinary, Ordi Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama as a black American during the Civil Rights era and remaining completely unscathed would undoubtedly be impossible. Though throughout much her of childhood, Condoleezza Rice’s parents were able to insulate her from the most obscene of Birmingham’s racism. However, by the early 1960s it grew impossible to shield her from such heinous crimes as the church bombings and neighborhood shootings that were becoming ever more common. But as her memoir Extraordinary, Ordinary People shows, Condoleezza managed to get through it with a surprising amount of forgiveness and her dignity intact, holding only herself, not any seemingly-restrictive circumstances, responsible for her successes and failures. Her extraordinary parents made an immense effort to provide her with an ordinary life by making considerable sacrifices to better her chances of success. One quote in particular stood out: “We love you and will give you everything we can to help you succeed. But there are no excuses and there is no place for victims.” Condoleezza followed in her parents footsteps, becoming an extraordinary person of her own unwilling to accept her disadvantageous situation as an excuse for failure. Yes indeed, the title is fitting. Condoleezza Rice candidly shares all the moments, joyful and heavyhearted, that shaped her in this engaging and insightful book on race and family. She is both assertive and empowering in style, but still satisfyingly simple. There is no attempt at elegance in her writing, the simple insight into her life is enough to provoke meaningful thought. Simple does not equate to poor or boring writing; I was consistently engaged by both these thinking points and the abundance of vividly personal historical detail and knowledge that only a first hand account could contain. For a story that could have easily been emotionally charged and heart-wrenching, Condoleezza manages to keep her own emotions at bay. She does not play upon the reader’s emotions either--the story in its simplicity is enough to make it moving. And while she is quite a brilliant mind and an accomplished person, she remains understated throughout. I would think someone who was in college at age 15 and played piano with Yo Yo Ma and for the queen would want to toot their own horn, so to speak, but Condoleezza remains steadfastly humble. Condoleezza shares some powerful messages in her story that an array of audiences will be able to appreciate. Though, I think that any minority, not just racial, and youth will find some of her words of wisdom particularly inspiring. One idea that pervades the story is disallowing yourself to “play the victim.” Condoleezza was at a disadvantage from the outset, but she did not allow her circumstances and background to stop her from achieving great things. I realize after reading this book that it doesn’t matter where you are from, it only matters where you are going.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Wegner

    I have always admired Condolezza Rice from afar. She seems poised, put-together, confident, yet humble. Reading her memoir was truly a delight. I was interested in her life, but ended up fascinated by it. The thing that drew me in to her story was the relationship she had with her parents. She never claimed her parents did everything right, or were perfect, but what they did do right was stellar in my opinion. They were raising a leader intentionally from birth, and we have tried to I have always admired Condolezza Rice from afar. She seems poised, put-together, confident, yet humble. Reading her memoir was truly a delight. I was interested in her life, but ended up fascinated by it. The thing that drew me in to her story was the relationship she had with her parents. She never claimed her parents did everything right, or were perfect, but what they did do right was stellar in my opinion. They were raising a leader intentionally from birth, and we have tried to raise our 3 girls in the same way. It was encouraging to read a story about someone who had every odd stacked against them and their family, yet persevere and do what was right and expected. Condolezza and her family lived through radical segregation in Burmingham Alabama. People they knew died because they were black. Children they knew were killed because they got in the way. Like every young American, I have seen movies and read books about the deep south and how difficult it was (and in some cases still is) to survive, let alone come out with a passion for leadership and love for people. Reading the stories from her perspective as a child growing up there sounded more like living in the middle of a war zone than "segregation."This backdrop of segregation provided a unique perspective for Condolezza as she went on to have an extraordinarily successful career. I really enjoyed the stories she told from her political life that could never be on the news. Her brief meeting with Boris Yeltsin was especially funny and again, showed her remarkable leadership skills. I really hope to meet her someday just to chat. That would be awesome.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    While not elegantly written, Ms. Rice's memoir is compelling, direct, and almost charming. It is also exceedingly well titled. John and Angelena Rice were indeed a fairly ordinary couple of citizens (their relative prosperity and comfort in 1960s Birmingham notwithstanding), but their devotion to their daughter's education was certainly a bit extreme, and her subsequent success was (and is) without a doubt extraordinary. I wasn't necessarily surprised that Ms. Rice started college at While not elegantly written, Ms. Rice's memoir is compelling, direct, and almost charming. It is also exceedingly well titled. John and Angelena Rice were indeed a fairly ordinary couple of citizens (their relative prosperity and comfort in 1960s Birmingham notwithstanding), but their devotion to their daughter's education was certainly a bit extreme, and her subsequent success was (and is) without a doubt extraordinary. I wasn't necessarily surprised that Ms. Rice started college at 15 or that she seemed to meet with success at every turn, but I stopped reading in order to exclaim aloud, "did you know she dated professional football players?" And somehow the details of her competitive figure skating years were lost on me during the Bush administration. As the title indicates, the book is not about politics or government. But there are plenty of political moments. Because her focus was family, the narrative leaves off when her father died, just after George W. Bush was "elected" (quotation marks mine). Therefore, the reader gets a fascinating glimpse into the fall of Communism and the Baltic conflicts of the H.W. Bush administration, but almost nothing of our current century. Her forthcoming book, No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington, will likely fill that hole.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. Rice is such an amazing and accomplished woman, I do think extraordinary is the best adjective. The one phrase I will always remember from this book is how she described slavery as "America's birth defect".

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Trlak-Donahue

    Although I do not agree with her politically, I have a ton of respect for Dr. Rice. Her story is really interesting and her parents seem great.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christina DeVane

    The only thing I don’t like about this book is the title! It’s a tongue twister!😆 I didn’t know much about Condoleezza’s life before this book- besides her being in government somehow. The fact that she grew up in Birmingham in the early 60’s is fascinating, and to go on to accomplish as much as she has is truly inspiring! Her parents were very sacrificial, but they taught her to work hard no matter what- not blame others and no victim mentality- which is lacking today! She honors her The only thing I don’t like about this book is the title! It’s a tongue twister!😆 I didn’t know much about Condoleezza’s life before this book- besides her being in government somehow. The fact that she grew up in Birmingham in the early 60’s is fascinating, and to go on to accomplish as much as she has is truly inspiring! Her parents were very sacrificial, but they taught her to work hard no matter what- not blame others and no victim mentality- which is lacking today! She honors her parents in a special way with this memoir, and it was a very enjoyable read!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I expected to like this book a lot, but it just rubbed me wrong. Almost every page repeated how difficult it was to grow up black in the South (which I'm sure was true) and that she is faced every day with the fact she is a black woman. Did someone react to her in a certain way because she is black? Did she get noticed and rewarded because she was black? She did benefit from affirmative action and discusses this several times. The book is an homage to her parents who were educated themselves and I expected to like this book a lot, but it just rubbed me wrong. Almost every page repeated how difficult it was to grow up black in the South (which I'm sure was true) and that she is faced every day with the fact she is a black woman. Did someone react to her in a certain way because she is black? Did she get noticed and rewarded because she was black? She did benefit from affirmative action and discusses this several times. The book is an homage to her parents who were educated themselves and provided their daughter with every educational and cultural experience possible. She is extremely bright but was also in the right place at the right time to benefit from affirmative action. I guess I have never thought of myself as a 'white woman' and what being white meant positively or negatively. I don't think of myself as different from anyone else. There have been restrictions as well as benefits to being female, but it had nothing to do with color. It is time to get over the racial thing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tabatha

    Regardless of your political views, Condoleezza Rice's story illustrates the american dream. Raised during a time of horrible racial tension, through education and being raised with a strong sense of self, she became a powerful presence in american politics and culture. Prior to reading this book, I knew very little about her, aside of the fact that she is a very polarizing individual. After reading this book, I must admit that I am now a bit smitten with Condi. She is a powerful women with the Regardless of your political views, Condoleezza Rice's story illustrates the american dream. Raised during a time of horrible racial tension, through education and being raised with a strong sense of self, she became a powerful presence in american politics and culture. Prior to reading this book, I knew very little about her, aside of the fact that she is a very polarizing individual. After reading this book, I must admit that I am now a bit smitten with Condi. She is a powerful women with the courage to stand by her beliefs. I may not agree with all of her views, but I respect her immensely. The sacrifices her parents were willing to make for her seem limitless. The fact that she admits not being as appreciative as she should have been and to being a procrastinator endeared her to me. In my mind, she is much more approachable and she is truly an extraordinary, ordinary person.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    I loved this book. Condoleezza’s straightforward attitudes worked perfectly for the story she was trying to tell. It showed how great (and over the top at some times) parenting can make a black girl from “Bombingham” into an extremely successful adult. I also liked how she didn’t dwell on race, only in circumstances when other people did. Refreshing and telling of the times. This memoir was told in perspective of how her life was because of her parents. Very sweet. I was disappointed I loved this book. Condoleezza’s straightforward attitudes worked perfectly for the story she was trying to tell. It showed how great (and over the top at some times) parenting can make a black girl from “Bombingham” into an extremely successful adult. I also liked how she didn’t dwell on race, only in circumstances when other people did. Refreshing and telling of the times. This memoir was told in perspective of how her life was because of her parents. Very sweet. I was disappointed that it didn’t follow into her George W. Bush days, but it ended very appropriately with the loss of her second parent. I was constantly drawn back to this book, even if I didn’t always agree with the ‘main characters’. I downloaded it from the library at a whim on audiobook. It was read by Condoleezza Rice herself which helped bring it all together.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laurie DelaCruz

    Wow!!! What an amazing woman! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and learning more about how she became the woman she is today. Truly a must-read for anyone interested in politics, academia, parenting, race issues, segregation, Soviet Union, and the list goes on. Highly recommend this book!

  24. 5 out of 5

    marcus miller

    An interesting book which shares about the life of Condoleezza Rice and her parents. I found the first part of the book to be the most interesting. This is where Rice described growing up in segregated Birmingham, Mississippi. Rice seems to have led a relatively sheltered life and rarely ran into white folks. Her descriptions of the divisions in the black community, based on economic class and skin color were also helpful. A lot of Americans would benefit from reading this part of her story as I An interesting book which shares about the life of Condoleezza Rice and her parents. I found the first part of the book to be the most interesting. This is where Rice described growing up in segregated Birmingham, Mississippi. Rice seems to have led a relatively sheltered life and rarely ran into white folks. Her descriptions of the divisions in the black community, based on economic class and skin color were also helpful. A lot of Americans would benefit from reading this part of her story as I think many people prefer to gloss over this nasty time period in U.S. history. From this point on I found the book to be less interesting. At this point the focus moves from her parents to herself, as Rise describes her success in school, her switch of college majors, and her meteoric rise up the ranks to be the provost at Stanford, and eventually to head the NSC and the State Department. While this is a classic, feel good "rise to the top" story, it seemed to me that as a book it was missing something. I've wondered if it would help for Rice to spend a year or two with a therapist and then to rewrite this. Rice is obviously smart, driven, and filled with ambition, but she doesn't come across as the most reflective person. This lack of reflection is evident as well when she describes her work as the head of the NSC and later the State Department. While her earlier descriptions of dealing with the collapse of the Soviet Union were more revealing, she says little of significance about her role in the events leading up to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe these will come in her next book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Derrick

    I really enjoyed this book. Condoleeza's parents were a very loving couple to their child and are excellent models for raising quality children. This totally shows it was worth the investment in their daughter to get her to where she help many positions of power and influence many important policies. I was a little disappointed and surprised that in ended with the Bush victory in 2000. It was more of a story about her parents than it was about her, which was an interesting approach for a "b I really enjoyed this book. Condoleeza's parents were a very loving couple to their child and are excellent models for raising quality children. This totally shows it was worth the investment in their daughter to get her to where she help many positions of power and influence many important policies. I was a little disappointed and surprised that in ended with the Bush victory in 2000. It was more of a story about her parents than it was about her, which was an interesting approach for a "biography" but it worked none-the-less. It wasn't quite a Forrest Gumpian swing, but it touched on so many historically significant events. Ending with the election of the 43rd President, but also including the end of the Cold War and Fall of the Berlin Wall, gaffes made by the 41st President, the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan (I still haven't forgiving Carter for that), the Birmingham challenges with integration. The whole lot. One odd thing while describing racism, she referred to police vans used to arrest large amounts of people as "paddy wagons." While this isn't generally considered an offensive term now, in that context I think you would want to be sensitive to all disadvantaged minorities, especially the Irish of the early history of this country. Overall it was a great listen, and I have a great deal of respect for Condoleeza and her parents after enjoying this audiobook.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chivon

    I really enjoyed reading this book by Condoleeza Rice because it put a human feel to a very public figure. I didn't have a favorable opinion of Condoleeza Rice until I read this book. There was so much negativity associated with George W.Bush at the end of his presidency and I always just associated her with George Bush. After reading this biography I learned that there was so much more to this person and that she was very down to earth and had a strong connection with her parents. This was a bi I really enjoyed reading this book by Condoleeza Rice because it put a human feel to a very public figure. I didn't have a favorable opinion of Condoleeza Rice until I read this book. There was so much negativity associated with George W.Bush at the end of his presidency and I always just associated her with George Bush. After reading this biography I learned that there was so much more to this person and that she was very down to earth and had a strong connection with her parents. This was a biography, however Condoleeza Rice lifts up and honors her parents in this book. The woman has had so many wonderful experiences and has held the most interesting jobs in the world, yet she concentrated on her parents and how the things that they taught her led her to be the person that she had become. I thought it very selfless of her to hold her parents in such high regard and to spend the time in the pages of a book to show the type of people her parents were instead of solely talking about her life. It was truly a testament to how family shapes our lives and it was a blessing to read how close she was with her parents and what an impact they had on her life. I really enjoyed reading this book. Especially if your a person who was not sure if you liked Condoleeza Rice or not. I also recommend it for young African Americans because it discusses segregation in Alabama during the 50's and 60's. A very interesting piece of our heritage and culture.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    I almost gave this a five star rating, but the writing style is a little too correct, too stilted, too formal. What does come across, though, is what marvelous parents Condoleezza Rice had, what tremendous support they provided her, and what opportunities they provided (often with much sacrifice), so it seems appropriate that the book ends with her father's death rather than with her years in the State Department. Although the book centers around her, as her parents' lives did, her life really t I almost gave this a five star rating, but the writing style is a little too correct, too stilted, too formal. What does come across, though, is what marvelous parents Condoleezza Rice had, what tremendous support they provided her, and what opportunities they provided (often with much sacrifice), so it seems appropriate that the book ends with her father's death rather than with her years in the State Department. Although the book centers around her, as her parents' lives did, her life really testifies to their dedication to her. Even their little family council meetings when she was a child must have nurtured her leadership, diplomatic, and decision making abilities. Probably because I grew up in the same era and same state, I can appreciate the varied opportunities they provided for her, such as music with the grand piano, summers spend on college campuses, major sporting events, even ice skating lessons, etc., despite segregation. Perhaps the best things they provided were themselves as responsible role models in seeking excellence, education, and achievement. They really were ordinary people but definitely extraordinary.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nfreynolds

    I listen to the audio book and liked that the author wss the reader. It is a very personal book about her family and herself. Her parents were both exceptional in that they made her (an only child) their highest priority. She had a lot of natural talents and her parents gave her every advantage they could. I found it especially interesting to hear about middle- and upper-middle class black families (so much is written about poor black families) in the South during Segregation. Her parents were b I listen to the audio book and liked that the author wss the reader. It is a very personal book about her family and herself. Her parents were both exceptional in that they made her (an only child) their highest priority. She had a lot of natural talents and her parents gave her every advantage they could. I found it especially interesting to hear about middle- and upper-middle class black families (so much is written about poor black families) in the South during Segregation. Her parents were both college graduates and educators. Upbringing for black children in their socio-economic group emphasized family, school and church. The children never had time to do nothing. I so admire families like hers, and it is no doubt that this was a very stable background to come from. She is an extraordinary person, from childhood, but I have to say, towards the end (Provost at Stanford and positions under GW Bush in White House), even in her own modest way, sound a little too self-serving.

  29. 4 out of 5

    JC

    If you know much about politics then you more than likely know who Condoleezza Rice is or have at least heard of her. I honestly had no idea who she was before picking this book up but I was totally captivated by the story of how she went from living in the segregated suppressed south to becoming the first black female Secretary of State. This book is a memoir of her early life through to her selection by the second President Bush to become his National Security Advisor. Condoleezza focuses a lo If you know much about politics then you more than likely know who Condoleezza Rice is or have at least heard of her. I honestly had no idea who she was before picking this book up but I was totally captivated by the story of how she went from living in the segregated suppressed south to becoming the first black female Secretary of State. This book is a memoir of her early life through to her selection by the second President Bush to become his National Security Advisor. Condoleezza focuses a lot on the simple things that her parents gave up in order to give her unexpected gifts. She was able to take piano lessons and learn to ice skate thanks to the willingness of her parents to believe in her. This book is a pretty easy read and moves along at an excellent pace. It really made me think back about some of the things that my parents sacrificed for me as I was growing up. I highly recommend this book to everyone. There is only one rant about beliefs/politics that I thought could have been left out, but overall an interesting read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert Melnyk

    Very interesting story about the life of Condoleezza Rice. She is an amazing woman, extremely bright, talented, and driven. But what impressed me most were her parents. Truly incredible people and parents. They took a deep interest in their daughter's life, and were always there to support and encourage her. One statement that particularly impressed me was when she was talking about her parents, and her extended family while growing up in Jim Crow Birmingham, Alabama, "Whatever feelings of insec Very interesting story about the life of Condoleezza Rice. She is an amazing woman, extremely bright, talented, and driven. But what impressed me most were her parents. Truly incredible people and parents. They took a deep interest in their daughter's life, and were always there to support and encourage her. One statement that particularly impressed me was when she was talking about her parents, and her extended family while growing up in Jim Crow Birmingham, Alabama, "Whatever feelings of insecurity or inadequacy black adults felt in the appalling and depressing circumstances of Jim Crow Alabama, they did not transfer it to us. For the children of our little enclave, Titusville, the message was crystal clear: We love you and will give you everything we can to help you succeed. But there are no excuses and there is no place for victims." We need more of that attitude today in our society.

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