Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter

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Sidney Poitier is one of the most revered actors in the history of Hollywood. He has overcome enormous obstacles in extraordinary times and is a role model for many Americans because of his convictions, bravery, and grace. Poitier reflects on his amazing life in Life Beyond Measure, offering inspirational advice and personal stories in the form of extended letters to his great-granddaughter. Writing for all who admire his example and who search for wisdom only a man of great experience can offer, this American ...

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Life Beyond Measure

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Sidney Poitier is one of the most revered actors in the history of Hollywood. He has overcome enormous obstacles in extraordinary times and is a role model for many Americans because of his convictions, bravery, and grace. Poitier reflects on his amazing life in Life Beyond Measure, offering inspirational advice and personal stories in the form of extended letters to his great-granddaughter. Writing for all who admire his example and who search for wisdom only a man of great experience can offer, this American icon shares his thoughts on love, faith, courage, and the future.

Poitier draws upon the perspective and wisdom gained from his memories as a poor boy in the Bahamas, his experience of racism coming to the United States, falling in love and raising a family, breaking the race barrier in theater and film during the Civil Rights Era, achieving stardom and success in Hollywood, and being a diplomat and humanitarian. He reflects on the deepest questions and the significant passages of his life, the virtues that helped him through tough times, and the sense of purpose and history that strengthened him. He emphasizes the importance of the role of faith in a technological age, as well as our responsibility to the earth and future generations. Throughout, Poitier shares stories about the people of courage he has met along the way and the meaning of life in the face of death.

Life Beyond Measure is the perfect book to inspire readers to live the fullest life with integrity, from one of our most respected celebrities and a national treasure.

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Editorial Reviews

“Wise life lessons for everyone’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
The Los Angeles Times
“It’s typical of Poitier’s modesty that what may be his last book is not another celebration of his triumphs but a collection of lessons learned by that wise old actor, passed on to generations who might never truly understand how he changed movies.”
O Magazine
“Some people aren’t satisfied to be dashing, principled, talented, influential, and legendary; they have to keep giving of themselves. In Life Beyond Measure, Poitier unaffectedly muses on life’s mysteries, as compelling as ever in his ninth decade.”
“Wise life lessons for everyone’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Publishers Weekly

Celebrated writer/director/actor Poitier returns with a third memoir (following 1980's This Life and 2000's The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography) detailing his remarkable story and offering his own take on some of life's most ponderous questions. Written as a set of letters to his great granddaughter, Life Beyond Measure is bursting at the seams with inspirational stories aimed to advise and motivate us all. His writing is deep, his views are that of a wise man who has seen the world from every angle. Poitier's classical, firm and rolling voice is entirely engaging, and listeners will find themselves yearning for more. A HarperOne hardcover. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061496202
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 800,341
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to win the Academy Award for best actor for his outstanding performance in Lilies of the Field in 1963. His landmark films include The Defiant Ones, A Patch of Blue, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and To Sir, With Love. He has starred in over forty films, directed nine, and written four. He is the author of two autobiographies: This Life and the "Oprah's Book Club" pick and New York Times bestseller The Measure of a Man. Among many other accolades, Poitier has been awarded the Screen Actors Guild's highest honor, the Life Achievement Award, for an outstanding career and humanitarian accomplishment. He is married, has six daughters, four grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.

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Read an Excerpt

Life Beyond Measure LP Letters to My Great-Granddaughter
By Sidney Poitier
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2008 Sidney Poitier
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061562792

Chapter One

first letter

You and Me

Though these letters are addressed to you, my dearest Ayele, they are also written for me, so that I can rest assured in knowing that you will have me as a steadfast presence in your life—even after I'm gone and you are older. Much as I would have it otherwise, chances are that I will not be around long enough for you to know me well. Even so, on these pages you will find me waiting whenever you choose to visit.

But until such a time as I am not physically here anymore, it will be a top priority for us to spend as much time together as possible, you and me, hand in hand, eye to eye—in spite of the two thousand miles between your house and mine that do require logistical adjustments. After all, we've got a lot of catching up to do, don't you think?

I am fully aware that the history between us is more than your seventeen months and my eighty years. Our history encompasses all that came before us. And all that came before us is the stage on which we were destined to appear.

As to exactly what role we are meant to play on that stage—that's one of those questions I'll examine at further length in upcoming letters. For now, I can start by relating a conversation that took place many years ago, when I was just about thirteen years old.

After spending the firstdecade of my life in the village of Arthur's Town on semiprimitive Cat Island in the Bahamas, where my family lived and worked as subsistence farmers, without electricity or running water or even cars, a change in trade policies caused my parents to move us to Nassau—which had all those things and more. It may have been rustic in those days to some, but at that point in my worldview, Nassau was the height of civilization. Though I was a fantastic, formidable daydreamer, the possibility that I could envisage one day traveling far from there was severely limited by a lack of exposure to other places. So when, quite out of the blue one afternoon, my older sister Teddy posed a question to me about my future, I was forced to push past those limits of imagination in order to give her a solid answer.

Out of my eight siblings, Teddy was the one to whom I was closest. No longer alive today, I regret to tell you, Teddy was an original—so full of life, bright and open, bursting with laughter and affection. Though it was not her habit to ask me serious questions, she did so that day when, without an explanation as to why she wanted to know the answer, she asked suddenly, "Sidney, what do you want to do when you grow up?"

In a flash, it became clear to me. Confidently, I said, "I'm going to go to Hollywood."

"Oh," said Teddy. "Well, why Hollywood?"

"Because," I explained to her, "I want to work with cows."

Loving sister that she was, Teddy refrained from laughing. Then she patiently went on to describe Hollywood as a place where they made movies. Teddy figured that since it was in the movies that I had seen cows, I must have assumed that in order to be one of the heroic cowboys from the movies, I had to go to Hollywood.

Disappointed by this revelation, I concluded that my future apparently was to lie elsewhere. Ironically, however, as you probably know, I eventually did go to Hollywood—where I made two Westerns! And, as you can imagine, when that time came, among our family members my sister Teddy would have been the least surprised of all.

That story is a reminder that, just as it was in my youth, questions regarding the future can be the most difficult to answer. It is my hope that insights revealed in such anecdotes and memories from my life will find a place of meaning in yours.

You will have questions after I'm gone. Such answers as I might embrace in the course of this book may or may not apply when you stroll across these pages. But never mind. What I can promise is to give you my best judgment on what I've seen in my time, and my understanding of what unfolded even earlier and in the millennia before we came along.

What I can also promise, here at the outset of our correspondence, is that as you meet up with some of the questions that have nurtured my curiosity starting at a very early age, you'll discover that none of them are new. Nor are the answers. They are all variations of other questions, other answers, passing quietly from culture to culture over thousands of years, proclaiming that for salvation and redemption one must frame one's own questions, seek one's own answers, in the boundary of one's own time. Each generation must be responsible for itself, and there's no escaping that.

Even so, dearest Ayele, it can be helpful at crucial moments to listen to the murmurings of ancestors in whose footsteps we follow. And sometimes, if we're fortunate, they catch us off guard and make themselves known to us as well. I hear them even today, out of a distant time, through fading recollections of my father and our village elders gathered in conversation, wrestling with the fundamental questions of life, survival, and death. All ordinary working men: fishermen, farmers, men who built houses out of palm leaves and tree trunks, men who exchanged fish for land crabs, others who worked the sea in respectful ways, others who worked the land with reverence. A few were teachers, and others worked for the colonial government. A few owned petty shops stocked with items shipped in from the capital island, Nassau. Mostly flour, sugar, rice, lard, pork, and the like. Some dry goods, tobacco, fishhooks; some lobster pots.


Excerpted from Life Beyond Measure LP by Sidney Poitier Copyright © 2008 by Sidney Poitier. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: Meeting Ayele     xi
First Outdoorings
You and Me     3
Getting to Know You     11
Where We Come From     25
The Early Days     37
Family Poitier     57
The Loner     77
Me and God     99
The Channel Between Want and Need     123
Taking a Stand     135
Love Is a Many-Splintered Thing     147
Fear, Doubt, and Desperation     173
Battling the Demons     187
Bravery and Cowardice     201
Close Calls     219
People of Courage     245
Questions, Answers, and Mysteries
The Neutral Zone     273
Logic and Reason     285
Science and Society: Friends or Enemies?     295
The Warrior Within Us     319
The Environment     333
Faith     341
Death     349
The World I Leave You     359
Acknowledgments     371
Photo Credits     375
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2010

    Steal this book if you have to. It's worth the jail time.

    I'm listening to the audiobook, and it is possibly the best book that I've ever read and I've read many! This a brilliant man's knowledge of life.

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