Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Handbook For An Unpredictable Life - Perez

*This book was received free of charge for review  from Netgalley for my honest review and opinion.  All comments in this review are the honest opinion of the blogger.

Much of the hub-bub around Rosie Perez' new memoir, Handbook for an Unpredictable Life, seems to be around her feud with Jennifer Lopez. While there is some truth to this feud, Perez is open about it, she also admits that both she and Lopez made mistakes in the relationship and have since come to a friendly cease-fire. Focusing, however, so much attention on that one subject is short-sighted and foolish. Perez' book is about so very much more: abuse, neglect, growth, hope, love, and forgiveness.

Born in Brooklyn, NY in the 1960's, Perez was a "love-child" born to a married man and his mentally ill lover. Perez spent the first few wonderful years of her life with her Tia (aunt), whom she called Mommie. Eventually, however, Perez' birth mother returned and placed her into a catholic girls home, along with several half siblings, pocketing welfare benefits for Perez' supposed care.

Perez grew up in that environment, alternately abused and loved, by nuns and staff for years. Despite her inclination to resist authority (especially when she was being beaten) and an understandable temper, she was offered the opportunity to live in a group home for teen girls in upstate New York. A mixed blessing, this opportunity allowed her to the opportunity to experience a different world than she had previously known. She learned to hope for something more.

Throughout the years, she maintained a strong connection with her Tia and eventually developed a relationship with her father, who truly did love her. She also maintained forced relationships with her birth mother, who was physically and verbally abusive, and her half siblings.

Eventually, Rosie moved to California to live with family and to attend college.  She found her Brooklyn-street style opening doors in surprising ways. She was asked to choreograph a dance video for an up-and-coming R&B star (Bobby Brown, previously of the New Edition), which led to the chance to choreograph tours for LL Cool J, Heavy D and the Boyz, and others. Eventually, she was asked to choreograph for In Living Color (a '90's comedy show) for which she received three Emmy nominations. This was also the scene of the infamous Perez-Lopez feud, as Perez had a major hand in hiring the supposedly fame-hungry upcoming star.

In the midst of these experiences, Perez met a Spike Lee, a movie director, at a local bar one night. He asked her to audition for his new movie, Do The Right Thing. She quickly feel in love with acting - something she felt she had been doing her whole life for survival's sake - and excelled, winning parts in 1992's White Men Can't Jump and 1993's Fearless, with Jeff Bridges, for which she received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.

This memoir is a wonderful rags to riches story about a sadly typical American girl who struggles to beat the limitations that life seems to have given her. The story of her neglect and abuse is heart wrenching, while alternatively offering hope for something better.

Though I had heard of Perez prior to reading the book, I didn't know a lot about her and couldn't really name any of her movies. Written in a very friendly, readable manner, Perez does use quite a bit of street slang and curses, so be aware if you might be offended. Overall, this was a great read (despite some typos that hopefully will be fixed in the final version) and I am glad to have gotten to know more about this amazing woman.

3/5- Good. Read it, have a good time and move on. Or not.