The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography – Book Review

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography

by Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier is an unparalleled talent on the Hollywood screen with amazing movies such as Lilies of the Field (for which he was the first African American to win an Oscar), To Sir, With Love and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. His “spiritual autobiography” is essentially a journey through his life that emphasizes his thoughts even more than his actions.  It begins with the idyllic Cat Island where Poitier was born and lived in childhood.  The island has a magical quality and the chapters dedicated to it are also magical.

Cover of "The Measure of a Man: A Spiritu...

Cover via Amazon

Poitier’s family’s move to Nassau brought with it the promise of a job, but also the poison of racism.  Poitier will then immigrate to Miami where racism plays a major role in his move north to New York City.  He will find his biggest enemy to be the winter that his Caribbean blood is unprepared for.

Throughout the book, Poitier offers spots of wisdom based usually on his experiences.  One such gem is:

“…I’ve learned that I must find positive outlets for anger or it will destroy me. I have to try to find a way to channel that anger to the positive, and the highest positive is forgiveness.”

The book does tend to become a stream-of-consciousness mental conversation towards the end that frankly, is rather tedious.  Poitier’s charm as a writer comes through his stories and what he learns from them.  Whenever he veers from that, the writing weakens.  The memoir feels like a conversation with an interesting and intelligent man and is a conversation worth enjoying.

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