Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleezza Rice
A Memoir of Family

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Synopsis

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.




From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Condoleezza Rice

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CONDOLEEZZA RICE was the 66th United States Secretary of State and the first black woman to ever hold that office. Prior to that, she was the first woman to serve as National Security Advisor. She currently teaches at Stanford University.
 
Published October 12, 2010 by Crown Archetype. 342 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Extraordinary, Ordinary People

Kirkus Reviews

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The author chronicles a dizzying academic trajectory from Notre Dame to Stanford, where she eventually became a tenured professor—clearly an affirmative-action hire, of which she is “a fierce defender”—and, later, provost.

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The New York Times

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Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, wrote a memoir about her family and her life before working for former President George W. Bush.

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The New York Times

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Condoleezza Rice’s memoir, from Jim Crow Birmingham to George Bush’s Washington.

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The Wall Street Journal

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In 1964, when Condoleezza Rice was 10 years old, she was taken to a drive-through hamburger stand called Jacks, in her ferociously segregated hometown of Birmingham, Ala.

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Los Angeles Times

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Readers hoping for candor and insight might not find much in this volume from the former secretary of State.

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Christian Science Monitor

Condoleezza Rice’s memoir is largely a loving tribute to the parents who were "anxious....

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Christian Science Monitor

The Rices fiddled with the idea of naming a first child – who would, as it happened, be their only child – “Andantino” or “ Allegro” but her mother settled upon con dolcezza when she learned it translated “with sweetness.” In keeping with Condoleezza Rice’s birth name, her memoir focuses on the s...

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The Daily Beast

And although so fiercely partisan an observer as Donna Brazile, who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000, told a reporter that she had “chills” up and down her spine when Rice was sworn in as the first black woman to serve as secretary of State, the fact remains that a thread of controvers...

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The Gospel Coalition

Condoleezza Rice served in high-profile roles as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State for President George W.

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Statesman.com

The episode revealed the fragility of the protective environment Rice's parents sought to create for her in the South's most segregated city: They were virtually powerless in the face of what Rice describes as the "homegrown terrorism" directed against Birmingham's black children.

Nov 07 2010 | Read Full Review of Extraordinary, Ordinary Peopl...

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