Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling

Overview

Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez’s never-before-told story of surviving a harrowing childhood and of how she found success—both in and out of the Hollywood limelight.
 
Rosie Perez first caught our attention with her fierce dance in the title sequence of Do the Right Thing and has since defined herself as a funny and talented actress who broke boundaries for Latinas in the film industry. What most people would be surprised to learn is ...

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Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair)

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Overview

Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez’s never-before-told story of surviving a harrowing childhood and of how she found success—both in and out of the Hollywood limelight.
 
Rosie Perez first caught our attention with her fierce dance in the title sequence of Do the Right Thing and has since defined herself as a funny and talented actress who broke boundaries for Latinas in the film industry. What most people would be surprised to learn is that the woman with the big, effervescent personality has a secret straight out of a Dickens novel. At the age of three, Rosie’s life was turned upside down when her mentally ill mother tore her away from the only family she knew and placed her in a Catholic children’s home in New York’s Westchester County. Thus began her crazily discombobulated childhood of being shuttled between “the Home,” where she and other kids suffered all manners of cruelty from nuns, and various relatives’ apartments in Brooklyn.
 
Many in her circumstances would have been defined by these harrowing experiences, but with the intense determination that became her trademark, Rosie overcame the odds and made an incredible life for herself. She brings her journey vividly to life on each page of this memoir—from the vibrant streets of Brooklyn to her turbulent years in the Catholic home, and finally to film and TV sets and the LA and New York City hip-hop scenes of the 1980s and ‘90s. 
 
More than a page-turning read, Handbook for an Unpredictable Life is a story of survival. By turns heartbreaking and funny, it is ultimately the inspirational story of a woman who has found a hard-won place of strength and peace.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“I read Rosie Perez's magnificent, very real, and heart wrenching book with equal parts joy and horror—horror that the world can and routinely does inflict its terrors on its children, and joy that Rosie made it out to become not only the superior, iconographic artist she is, but the magnificent woman this book reveals her to be. Her voice is the captivating instrument here: forthright, funny, and utterly her own.”—Hilton Als, staff writer, The New Yorker 

“Rosie Perez's Handbook For an Unpredictable Life is a shockingly brave, honest book, filled with so much grace, forgiveness  and humor that you feel invigorated reading it. A deeply moving story, told with unapologetic courage and heart.— George C. Wolfe
 
“Reading this story I was shaking my head in amazement that Rosie is even walking around on the earth, still smiling, let alone creating, contributing and caring about the world.  I know lots of artists who had to persevere and overcome a lot to get where they got and do what they do, but Rosie takes the prize for triumph of a spirit undimmed.  Charles Dickens never dreamed up a more incredible hard-knocks story.—Edward Norton
 
“Rosie Perez has written a brave, hysterical, wise and compulsively readable chronicle of growing up and surviving the dual challenges of a crazy family and crazy life in Hollywood.  Like Running With Scissors before it, Handboook For an Unpredictable Life is ultimately a story of survival and will inspire us all.”—Liz Garbus

“With refreshing candor and sass, Perez transforms the painful details of her life into an inspiring reminder that even the most unforgiving of personal circumstances can be overcome.  A spunky and heartfelt memoir.” —Kirkus

Publishers Weekly
03/31/2014
Rosie Perez, actress, choreographer, and activist known for her roles in films such as Do the Right Thing and White Men Can't Jump, opens up about everything from her difficult upbringing in a home for girls run by nuns to the breaks and trials of fame and silver screen success. Perez's life takes an unexpected turn when, living in L.A. and taking college classes, she is plucked from a crowd of dancers at a club to appear on Soul Train. Soon enough, Spike Lee discovers her at a "butt contest" and she is cast in his breakout film. While die-hard Perez fans may appreciate peaks at the actress' early life, the book otherwise falls flat. Perez speaks from the heart when describing an abusive childhood, but the carefree prose doesn't do the darker material justice. There is very little entertainment tell-all here: we learn that her mother suddenly turned kind after Perez became successful, there was drama with the Fly Girls on In Living Color, and that Jennifer Lopez was, as much as Perez liked her, challenging to work with. Half difficult-childhood tale, half celebrity-memoir, both storylines end up lacking. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-04
A celebrated Puerto Rican actress's memoir about how she found success despite growing up in unstable and often abusive environments. Brooklyn native Perez spent the first three years of her life with her father's sister, a woman she called "Mommie." When her beautiful but schizophrenic birth mother, Lydia, unexpectedly re-entered her life, it was to take her to a Catholic home for children 50 miles outside of New York City. Shocked and confused, Perez knew almost nothing but injustice from that moment forward. The nuns often lacked compassion, and her mother was as neglectful as she was cruel. The only person who genuinely cared for her was her aunt, who struggled for years against both Lydia and the New York court system to get custody of her niece. Perez's ebullience and scrappiness put her at odds with all of her guardians, but they also allowed her to survive her ever-changing cast of sometimes-abusive caretakers. Despite these challenges, the author still managed to reconnect with her father, Ismael, who helped her learn to appreciate her Puerto Rican identity at a crucial time in an otherwise fraught adolescence. Along the way, she discovered a gift for dancing that would eventually get her noticed in a Los Angeles nightclub by Soul Train creator Don Cornelius. She became a respected hip-hop choreographer and then caught the eye of film director Spike Lee, who cast her in his 1989 film Do the Right Thing. Perez ultimately went on to become the poor Brooklyn girl who made good; but in her personal life, she continued to struggle with the searing aftereffects of her difficult life, including PTSD and depression. With refreshing candor and sass, Perez transforms the painful details of her life into an inspiring reminder that even the most unforgiving of personal circumstances can be overcome. A spunky and heartfelt memoir.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307952400
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/31/2015
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 676,666

Meet the Author

Rosie Perez

ROSIE PEREZ is an Oscar-nominated actress, whose credits include Do the Right Thing, White Men Can't Jump, Fearless, and The Counselor. She is the Artistic Chair of Urban Arts Partnership and sits on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

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