Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein (Hardcover)

Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein By Jamie Bernstein Cover Image
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Best Book of 2018 -- NPR, Library Journal

The oldest daughter of revered composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein offers a rare look at her father on the centennial of his birth in a deeply intimate and broadly evocative memoir

The composer of On the Town and West Side Story, chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic, television star, humanitarian, friend of the powerful and influential, and the life of every party, Leonard Bernstein was an enormous celebrity during one of the headiest periods of American cultural life, as well as the most protean musician in twentieth century America. 

But to his eldest daughter, Jamie, he was above all the man in the scratchy brown bathrobe who smelled of cigarettes; the jokester and compulsive teacher who enthused about Beethoven and the Beatles; the insomniac whose 4 a.m. composing breaks involved spooning baby food out of the jar. He taught his daughter to love the world in all its beauty and complexity. In public and private, Lenny was larger than life.

In Famous Father Girl, Bernstein mines the emotional depths of her childhood and invites us into her family’s private world. A fantastic set of characters populates the Bernsteins’ lives, including: the Kennedys, Mike Nichols, John Lennon, Richard Avedon, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, and Betty (Lauren) Bacall.

An intoxicating tale, Famous Father Girl is an intimate meditation on a complex and sometimes troubled man, the family he raised, and the music he composed that became the soundtrack to their entwined lives. Deeply moving and often hilarious, Bernstein’s beautifully written memoir is a great American story about one of the greatest Americans of the modern age.

About the Author

Jamie Bernstein is a writer, broadcaster, and filmmaker. She travels the world as a concert narrator. Her documentary, Crescendo: The Power of Music, is available on Netflix. She lives in New York City.

Praise For…

“A wry and wonderful memoir.... Jamie is in print a warm but unsparing eyewitness: peeking poignantly from the wings as her progenitor glories, sifting through the jumbo pillbox when he starts to fall apart.” — New York Times

Famous Father Girl paints a winning picture of the Bernstein family, especially her parents, the much-celebrated Lenny and the much-loved Felicia, while offering a poignant take on the complexities of growing up as the child of a legend—or, for that matter, as anybody’s child.” — Adam Gopnik

“Bernstein’s jaw-dropping honesty and humor gives us the best example of the ‘growing up famous’ genre since Brooke Hayward’s classic Haywire.” — John Guare

“Seduction might have been his greatest talent, one countered by his daughter’s aptitude for truth-telling. Her memoir portrays a man whose weaponized ego fits perfectly into American celebrity culture, but it’s also a story of how his daughter survived that ego to become her own woman, even as she remains intent on keeping her father’s legacy alive. By preserving his legacy, Jamie honors her father as both a great talent and a complex human being.” — Washington Post

“Jamie Bernstein’s book about her fabled father not only takes us closer to Leonard Bernstein than anything yet published but stands by itself as a beautifully written and unflinchingly courageous expression of love, exasperation, amazement and forgiveness.” — Tim Page, Professor of Journalism and Music at the University of Southern California

Famous Father Girl is unique among classical-music memoirs for its physical intimacy, its humor and tenderness, its ambivalence toward an irrepressible family genius. . . . The existence of this well-written book, with its poignancy and its shuddery detail. . . is a mark of [Jamie Bernstein’s] sanity and survival. In telling [her father’s] story, she got to write her own.” — New Yorker

“An intimate look at the famous, and famously private, musician, whose 7 Emmys only begin to scratch the surface of his musical achievements.” — Vanity Fair

“Readers are taken behind the scenes into what most would consider a fantasy life. There were vacations, Beatles concerts, luxury apartments and dinner parties with famous guests. To many readers, Jamie Bernstein’s childhood will seem charmed. Alas, the family has its issues. Readers may find interesting the (largely) bygone era of extravagance, and and tales of a quirky, yet average American family who got to experience the extraordinary.” — Associated Press

“Yes, Famous Father Girl is a love letter. It is also honest.” — WOSU Radio

“Growing up in the presence of a super famous parent is no easy thing. Jamie Bernstein presents an undisguised and understanding picture of her father, family, and friends. She chronicles her emergence as a partisan of ideals in which they believed. The book is full of inside stories and personal perspectives on the inspiring, spontaneous, and often no-holds-barred challenges of Bernstein’s multiple worlds.” — Michael Tilson Thomas

“Making her literary debut, broadcaster and filmmaker Jamie Bernstein offers an intimate, gossipy, and candid memoir of growing up the eldest child of renowned conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). . . . A cleareyed portrait of a spirited, and troubled, family.” — Kirkus

“[In Famous Father Girl,] Bernstein paints a fascinating picture of the dizzying magic that Leonard Bernstein brought to his music—and the complexity to his home life.” — Publishers Weekly

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062641359
ISBN-10: 0062641352
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: June 12th, 2018
Pages: 400
Language: English