Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice is a remarkable book. Rice reads the audio book over seven discs and nearly nine hours. It is a book detailing Rice’s parents and growth from childhood to her first encounter with Colin Powell, working in the White House, and serving as Provost of Stanford.
Rice begins the book with a simple but all-encompassing truth: “Good parents are a blessing.” It sets the stage for future stories explaining she wasn’t the first PhD graduate in her family as well as how, living in Birmingham, Alabama, she lived through segregation and integration, as well as the sacrifices her parents made to give her a “proper” education. Both of her parents were teachers, and they taught and encouraged the likes of Willie Mays and Sinbad among many other successful young people.
I’ve always admired Condoleezza Rice, and her book shed light on brilliantly written details and stories newly framing her in my mind: her family which includes two of the first black nurse graduates from the Booker T. Washington Tuskegee Institute; her father’s only way to become a registered voter at the time – through the Republican party, which he never forgot; her strong defense of the second amendment as a result of her own experience watching her father and other neighborhood men defend their homes from the KKK; her father’s choice to not march with Dr. Martin Luther King; the 1963 bombing of 16th Avenue Church that killed four little girls waiting for Sunday school; the assassination of JFK and the fear she had as a young Birmingham girl; LBJ signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and her later conversations with the President’s cabinet about celebrating the anniversary of the legislation; her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis in 1970, subsequent mastectomy, the time’s cavalier attitudes towards breast reconstruction, and her mother’s battle with metastatic disease; the mystery of grief; and her thoughts on affirmative action, including her own affirmative action hire at Stanford as a young, black woman studying Russian policy and politics.
Yeah, it’s incredibly interesting. You should read it. Or listen to it.