I love, love, love memoirs. The last two days I have been reading Condoleezza Rice's memoir, Extraordinary Ordinary People, a memoir of her childhood, focusing on the impact her parents love, support, and high expectations had on her. This is a book that I know has received mixed reviews. If people were looking for a book about Rice's time in the White House, this is not it. Extraordinary Ordinary People focuses on her childhood up until the election of 2000 (this would seem to me that Rice could easily write another memoir about her time in the White House). Once I started, it is so easily readable that I stopped reading the other books I had begun, knowing this one would keep my interest.
While I was reading I had to remind myself that Rice is really a very accomplished and influential person- her book recollects a very normal, happy childhood - that eventually led to her role in the White House and prior to that as Stanford's provost. The experiences she had as a child certainly helped her to achieve these things, but this could also have been a book about many of her Birmingham peers, growing up in the South in the 1950s and 60s.
As I carried this book with me, it was interesting to see people make comments about Rice, or about not wanting to read this book because of her political beliefs. This attitude frustrates me a lot. I read memoirs by people who have varied political and religious beliefs, as well as other aspects of their identity that I may or may not agree with. Only reading books by someone whose beliefs are the same as mine seems rather narrow minded. And, believing that I like someone or dislike someone based on one aspect of that person's identity also seems narrow minded. Usually I am able to appreciate or understand someone better after I find out more about them. And while I may not agree with them, at least I can see where they are coming from.
So, despite the irritating comments I received from a few - and a few "I really want to read her book, too" - from others, I genuinely enjoyed learning more about Condoleezza Rice. I know of (and own one) two other books about Rice, but this is different as it is straight from Rice herself.
Rice's own upbringing definitely supports the idea of parental guidance as being a critical factor in her success. She is a fascinating woman. Those people who don't want to learn more about Rice, might want to rethink their stance.