Summary and book reviews of The Measure of A Man by Sidney Poitier

The Measure of A Man

A Spiritual Autobiography

by Sidney Poitier

The Measure of A Man
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2000, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2001, 272 pages

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Book Summary

In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career.

"I have no wish to play the pontificating fool, pretending that I've suddenly come up with the answers to all life's questions. Quite the contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in selfquestioning. In other words, I wanted to find out, as I looked back at a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns, how well I've done at measuring up to the values I myself have set."

In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career. His body of work is arguably the most morally significant in cinematic history, and the power and influence of that work are indicative of the character of the man behind the many storied roles. Sidney Poitier here explores these elements of character and personal values to take his own measure--as a man, as a husband and father, and as an actor.

Poitier credits his parents and his childhood on tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas for equipping him with the unflinching sense of right and wrong and of selfworth that he has never surrendered and that have dramatically shaped his world. "In the kind of place where I grew up," recalls Poitier, "what's coming at you is the sound of the sea and the smell of the wind and momma's voice and the voice of your dad and the craziness of your brothers and sisters ... and that's it." Without television, radio, and material distractions to obscure what matters most, he could enjoy the simple things, endure the long commitments, and find true meaning in his life.

Poitier was uncompromising as he pursued a personal and public life that would honor his upbringing and the invaluable legacy of his parents just a few years after his introduction to indoor plumbing and the automobile, Poitier broke racial barrier after racial barrier to launch a pioneering acting career. Committed to the notion that what one does for a living articulates who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition.

Here, finally, is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, pride and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity, What emerges is a picture of a man seeking truth, passion, and balance in the face of limits--his own and the world's. A triumph of the spirit, The Measure of a Man captures the essential Poitier.

The Measure of a Man was chosen for Oprah Winfrey's book club in January 2007.

The Idyll

 It's late at night as I lie in bed in the blue glow of the television set. I have the clicker in my hand, the remote control, and I go from 1 to 97, scrolling through the channels. I find nothing that warrants my attention, nothing that amuses me, so I scroll up again, channel by channel, from bottom to top. But already I've given it the honor of going from 1 to 97, and already I've found nothing. This vast, sophisticated technology and . . . nothing. It's given me not one smidgen of pleasure. It's informed me of nothing beyond my own ignorance and my own frailties.

But then I have the audacity to go up again! And what do I find? Nothing, of course. So at last, filled with loathing and self-disgust, I punch the damn TV off and throw the clicker across the room, muttering to myself, "What am I doing with my time?"

It's not as if I'm without other resources or material comforts, you follow? I've been very fortunate in life, and ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

USA Today

As a listening experience, The Measure of a Man is enhanced beyond description by being read by the author....you would be crazy not to buy the unabridged audiotape instead of the book.

The New York Times Book Review

Poitier's second autobiography -- reflective, generous, humane -- is moving, as Poitier's memory keeps returning to the values and struggles of his parents . . .

The Boston Globe - Bruce McCabe

Sidney Poitier learned when to fight and when to cool it, something many of us never master. He developed the knack on a rather fantastic journey that took him from his native Cat Island, a tiny slip of land in the Bahamas, all the way to Hollywood. That's the gist of this book, whose 72-year-old author reflects on his odyssey.

Library Journal

It is not only Poitier's reflection on a long life in the world of arts and entertainment but also a statement of his personal views on what it means to be a good man, honed in discussions with friends and fellow travelers on life's journey who were themselves of a philosophical frame of mind. Highly recommended.

Reader Reviews

Randi Denyse Parker

The Messenger...
It all started with a Patch of Blue for me. I had seen that movie and instantly established Sidney's self acknowledgment in the 'gift of life.' Meaning, I knew and felt he was not a portrayer. I now translate The Measure Of A Man with nobility, ...   Read More

Devon Taylor

oh
This book was amazing. Not like any other. This book was read by me in November of 2008, and I refuse to read another book because this book has changed my opinion on books. I personally think that this is one of the best books I have ever read

Palesa Mpuru

Spiritually Uplifting
This book makes you think deep and be emotionally involved. You wonder how would your dad or father relate to you his past and future aspirations on being a better person with the help of your family, friends and your community. Great Inspiration. I ...   Read More

william russell

still waters run deep
I am a long distance trucker that has listened to many, many, books of all description and this one read by the author is excellent. It is a shame that the liberal elite such as Mr.Poitier are such unapproachable people. I had performed several ...   Read More

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