Critics are divided on Condoleeza Rice's new book, Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family. In the Los Angeles Times, Bob Drogin calls it "disappointing" and says parts "read like a résumé." By contrast, The Daily Beast's Stephen L. Carter describes it "a briskly written... fascinating look into her childhood." But, everyone agrees that the book, which focuses on Rice's parents and her growing up in the Jim Crow South and ends with the 2000 election, provides at least some insight into George W. Bush's famously enigmatic former Secretary of State. (Watch Rice discuss the book.) Here, a list of interesting revelations:
1. Painful childhood memories
The book is full of "raw vignettes" showing "a child's pain that has endured unhealed in middle age," says Tunku Varadarajan in The Wall Street Journal. For instance, Rice recounts how, to celebrate the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, her parents took her to a Birmingham, Ala., hamburger stand where blacks had previously not been allowed. But after biting into her burger, Rice discovered she had been given a bun cruelly filled with nothing but onions.
2. Olympic dreams
She dreamed of being an Olympic figure skater and practiced hours before and after school each day. "Rice felt she could accomplish anything, despite not being able to shop in white stores in downtown Birmingham," says Stanton Peele in Psychology Today. Her fatal limitation? She could never get airborne on jumps.
3. A dislike for delving or doubting
"As national security advisor and then secretary of State to President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice never displayed any doubt or admitted any errors in the White House decisions that led to war in Iraq," says Bob Drogin in the Los Angeles Times. "Rice seems similarly immune to introspection or self-criticism in her disappointing new memoir."
4. Radical family friends
Rice says her father, a Presbyterian minister, "was fascinated with the radical side of black politics," and drawn to controversial figures like Louis Farrakhan and Black Panther Stokely Carmichael. "When so much attention was paid to then-Senator Obama's radical associations, I wondered what might have been made of the people who sat at our dinner table," she writes.
5. A taste for team players
"Nearly every boyfriend or crush she lists — and she lists a lot of them — was an athlete," notes Stephen L. Carter in The Daily Beast. Rice has never been married and denies rumors the she is a lesbian. She dated onetime Denver Bronco Rick Upchurch and thought she had "found them man I wanted to marry." What happened? He "had too many irons in the fire," she writes cryptically.
6. A certain elusive quality...
Despite having published a 352-page memoir, Rice remains inscrutable. "One grapples for an adjective to describe her personality, even after reading her autobiography," says John McWhorter in The New York Times.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- Pope Francis' American problem
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- 10 things you need to know today: December 19, 2014
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why the Sony hack changes everything
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
Subscribe to the Week