Andrew Cuomo is the protagonist of an ongoing political saga that reads like a novel. In many ways, his rise, fall, and rise again is an iconic story: a young American politician of vaunting ambition, aiming for nothing less than the presidency. Building on his father's political success, a first run for governor in 2002 led to a stinging defeat, and a painful, public divorce from Kerry Kennedy, scion of another political dynasty, Cuomo had to come back from seeming political death and reinvent himself.
He did so, brilliantly, by becoming New York's attorney general, and compiling a record that focused on public corruption. In winning the governorship in 2010, he promised to clean up America's most corrupt legislature. He is blunt and combative, the antithesis of the glad-handing, blow-dried senator or governor who tries to please one and all. He's also proven he can make his legislature work, alternately charming and arm-twisting his colleagues with a talent for political strategy reminiscent of President Lyndon Johnson. Political pundits tend to agree that for Cuomo, a run for the White House is not a question of whether, but when.
Harry Belafonte is not just one of the greatest entertainers of our time; he has led one of the great American lives of the last century. Now, this extraordinary icon tells us the story of that life, giving us its full breadth, letting us share in the struggles, the tragedies, and, most of all, the inspiring triumphs.
Belafonte grew up, poverty-ridden, in Harlem and Jamaica. His mother was a complex woman--caring but withdrawn, eternally angry and rarely satisfied. His father was distant and physically abusive. It was not an easy life, but it instilled in young Harry the hard-nosed toughness of the city and the resilient spirit of the Caribbean lifestyle. It also gave him the drive to make good and channel his anger into actions that were positive and life-affirming. His journey led to the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he encountered an onslaught of racism but also fell in love with the woman he eventually married. After the war he moved back to Harlem, where he drifted between odd jobs until he saw his first stage play--and found the life he wanted to lead. Theater opened up a whole new world, one that was artistic and political and made him realize that not only did he have a need to express himself, he had a lot to express.
He began as an actor--and has always thought of himself as such--but was quickly spotted in a musical, began a tentative nightclub career, and soon was on a meteoric rise to become one of the worlds most popular singers. Belafonte was never content to simply be an entertainer, however. Even at enormous personal cost, he could not shy away from activism. At first it was a question of personal dignity: breaking down racial barriers that had never been broken before, achieving an enduring popularity with both white and black audiences. Then his activism broadened to a lifelong, passionate involvement at the heart of the civil rights movement and countless other political and social causes. The sections on the rise of the civil rights movement are perhaps the most moving in the book: his close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr.; his role as a conduit between Dr. King and the Kennedys; his up-close involvement with the demonstrations and awareness of the hatred and potential violence around him; his devastation at Dr. Kings death and his continuing fight for what he believes is right.
But My Song is far more than the history of a movement. It is a very personal look at the people in that movement and the world in which Belafonte has long moved. He has befriended many beloved and important figures in both entertainment and politics--Paul Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sidney Poitier, John F. Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Robert Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Tony Bennett, Bill Clinton--and writes about them with the same exceptional candor with which he reveals himself on every page. This is a book that pulls no punches, and turns both a loving and critical eye on our countrys cultural past.
As both an artist and an activist, Belafonte has touched countless lives. With My Song, he has found yet another way to entertain and inspire us. It is an electrifying memoir from a remarkable man.
From the Hardcover edition.
“I know where I’m going. I’m still myself. I just can’t remember things as well as I once did. So on short trips, I work hard not to be confused. I’ll say to myself, What are we going to do? How long are we staying? It’s like I’m talking to my other self--the self I used to be. She tells me, This is what we need to buy--not that. I’m conscious of that other self guiding me now.” Restaurateur, magazine publisher, celebrity chef, and nationally known lifestyle maven, B. Smith is struggling at 66 with a tag she never expected to add to that string: Alzheimer's patient. She’s not alone. Every 67 seconds someone newly develops it, and millions of lives are affected by its aftershocks. B. and her husband, Dan, working with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson, unstintingly share their unfolding story. Crafted in short chapters that interweave their narrative with practical and helpful advice, readers learn about dealing with Alzheimer's day-to-day challenges: the family realities and tensions, ways of coping, coming research that may tip the scale, as well as lessons learned along the way. At its heart, Before I Forget is a love story: illuminating a love of family, life, and hope. From the Hardcover edition.