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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 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. Best Book of 2018 -- NPR, Library Journal


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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 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. Best Book of 2018 -- NPR, Library Journal

30 review for Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    Jamie Bernstein's account of growing up the kid of Leonard Bernstein is substantially less grubby than Charlie Harmon's memoir, but it's impossible to de-grub the great man completely, so we're told about his endless cigarette sucking, his bowel movements with the bathroom door open as he peruses a score ("I'll be with you in a minute, darling - let me just finish this movement" - explosion of laughter), his tongue kissing of even his own daughter. His earthiness was inseparable from his charism Jamie Bernstein's account of growing up the kid of Leonard Bernstein is substantially less grubby than Charlie Harmon's memoir, but it's impossible to de-grub the great man completely, so we're told about his endless cigarette sucking, his bowel movements with the bathroom door open as he peruses a score ("I'll be with you in a minute, darling - let me just finish this movement" - explosion of laughter), his tongue kissing of even his own daughter. His earthiness was inseparable from his charisma, apparently. Felicia Bernstein had the worst of it, although she knew going in he was gay. They married for love, with Felicia writing to him the year they wed, “You are a homosexual and may never change…I am willing to accept you as you are, without being a martyr and sacrificing myself on the L.B. altar.” Yet there was much that was sacrificial on her side of it; Jamie notes “how a successful performing artist is constantly replenished through performance and audience adulation, while the artist’s companion gets slowly but inexorably depleted.” Whenever the family traveled to concerts with L.B., there was the backstage entourage, the hangers-on, the late night parties. It got old fast. Felicia was an anchor and a restraint on Bernstein, and when she died of cancer his relationships with men became more open and his pill use mushroomed. The children hadn’t known he was gay until they spent a summer at Tanglewood as teens and heard the bounteous rumors (everyone assumed they knew). Jamie confronted her father, who denied it. Later, with his children grown, he was very open about it. L.B. told Jamie on the phone on a tour of the Far East that “there is no moment more lonely than to finish conducting Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and have thousands of people screaming at you for twenty minutes while you’re up on the stage – then have no one to go to off the stage.” There are gossipy little dribs throughout: at a meal in Salzburg with the Karajans, the belittling Eliette (Herbert von’s third wife) flirted “almost maliciously with Daddy, while making jab after jab at her frail, tense, socially awkward husband. From that lunch, I would never have guessed he was a titan on the podium.” At a performance of Cats, L.B. was “audible in [his] dislike of the proceedings.” Jamie was horrified when William Styron, a family friend, lent her a summer cottage, walked in on her naked after a shower, then advised her, “Don’t worry about me, we’re all used to each other’s bodies around here” and slapped her ass. Styron also failed to completely cover his penis and testicles at meals. His daughter (a friend of the author) explained that he was always that way. At the funeral of the husband of a couple L.B. had been close friends with for decades, Bernstein delivered a eulogy in which he announced, “They were both so beautiful, I couldn’t decide which one I desired more.” Bernstein had been thinking of writing an opera about the Holocaust, so a dinner meeting with Woody Allen and Mia Farrow was arranged. (Bernstein's sister thought Woody would fit with the project.) L.B. was an hour late (leaving his children to make awkward small talk) and then did most of the talking as Woody ate a single potato. As the maid served, she stepped backward onto the cook’s little dog, “who let out a blood-curdling squeal. After dinner, we all filed out of the dining room to have coffee in the library. On the way, I overheard Woody say quietly to Mia, “Well, I liked it when she stepped on the dog…”"

  2. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    I picked up this book at my library by accident and finally started reading it this morning and couldn't put it down. Not only was Leonard Bernstein incredibly talented, he was also a complex, and very avant-garde man. This is not uncommon in the arts, nor for people considered geniuses. His eldest daughter, Jamie describes growing up with her father very honestly, lovingly; warts and all. There were good times and not so good times, but her writing is often funny recalling family stories, some I picked up this book at my library by accident and finally started reading it this morning and couldn't put it down. Not only was Leonard Bernstein incredibly talented, he was also a complex, and very avant-garde man. This is not uncommon in the arts, nor for people considered geniuses. His eldest daughter, Jamie describes growing up with her father very honestly, lovingly; warts and all. There were good times and not so good times, but her writing is often funny recalling family stories, some famous guests who were just her parent's friends to a child, and summers on Martha's Vineyard. One of my favorite parts was her remembrance of going to the Fillmore East in NYC in 1968-9, describing the rundown theatre it was in, the rock groups she saw, the haze of pot smoke filling the audience, no matter how many times ushers came around saying, "put it out," and her father going with her a few times! I loved this! Someone else who also remembers Fillmore East as I do, and the same year. Bless you you Jamie Bernstein!!! Of course in later years, she tells of her mother's illness and death; her dad's now obvious gay liaisons, no longer hidden from the kids who are now adults, and simply growing old but still famous. I enjoyed getting to know the real Lenny and his daughter's honest attempt to tell her story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Well, my takeaway from this one is that Leonard Bernstein, as talented as he may have been, was a first-class creep. Sticking your tongue in your daughter's mouth while kissing her? No. Just no. And said daughter seems to have some issues herself. 65 years old and still refers to her father as Daddy. The whole book just made my skin crawl. Weird family dynamics.

  4. 4 out of 5

    MaryBeth's Bookshelf

    If you are a fan of Leonard Bernstein and his music, you will want to read this beautifully written memoir by his daughter, Jamie. The composer of "Our Town" and "West Side Story," Bernstein was a loving, funny, complicated man who led an extraordinary life. Bernstein tells the most wonderful and sometimes heartbreaking stories of her father, the life he led, and the people he knew. A must read for any true fan of music.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Carlson

    Probably one of the saddest and strangest books I've read. It left me feeling empty. The author's photo speaks volumes and is a foreshadowing of things to come in this story. Clueless and often absent parenting, a father who led a dual life amidst his popularity, cancer, death and the tough issues were never discussed in this family. What is it about privileged people who have their adult children call them Mummy and Daddy? It's just plain odd.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Quo

    Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein is something by a hybrid account of Leonard Bernstein's life by his daughter Jamie, a biography of the composer/conductor, encased in an extended autobiographical coming-of-age story. Ultimately, for both father & daughter, Jamie Bernstein's 2018 book seemed to portray an expansive search for identity on the part of both father & daughter and it is this aspect that caught & kept my interest. Yes, this is a "warts & all" book about L.B., his fa Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein is something by a hybrid account of Leonard Bernstein's life by his daughter Jamie, a biography of the composer/conductor, encased in an extended autobiographical coming-of-age story. Ultimately, for both father & daughter, Jamie Bernstein's 2018 book seemed to portray an expansive search for identity on the part of both father & daughter and it is this aspect that caught & kept my interest. Yes, this is a "warts & all" book about L.B., his family & his dealings with the public at large, including those who knew him only because of West Side Story, or who were viewers of at least some of episodes over the many years of his televised Young People's Concerts, the show that caused Jamie Bernstein to be labeled a "famous father girl". Leonard Bernstein was the child of Jewish immigrants in Boston. He was always fiercely competitive at tennis, word games & life in general, committed to liberal causes, including the Civil Rights struggle & "race music" that included Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday & Leadbelly, a clever student at Harvard and later gifted as both a composer & a conductor but also plagued by various addictions, sexual uncertainty for much of his life & personal habits that ranged from the eccentric to the freakish. Can we as listeners to his remarkable music ever hope to deal with the aspects of Bernstein's life that often made him appear like a 20th century gargoyle? The answer is perhaps the same as that given by Toscanini who when asked about Richard Strauss, responded: "To Richard Strauss the composer, I take my hat off; to Richard Strauss the man, I put it back on again!" But this is Jamie Bernstein's book as well & with her book, Famous Father Girl, we explore her life & that of her family through the shadows of her esteemed father & his extraordinary world of music. Imagine the feeling of not measuring up to such a perpetual musical & social gadfly, while never learning to read musical notation, this in spite of piano tutors. Her attempts to compose songs & to play the guitar were never met with more than a very modest degree of success. Even at Harvard, she was L.B.'s daughter more than a student on a world-class academic campus and late in her college career, her father even returns to a residency at his alma mater to give the Norton Lectures, formally comparing music to linguistics. Always, it seems that L.B. displayed the aspect of a teacher but his pervasive, often overbearing shadow made life difficult for Jamie, her sister & brother & their mother Felicia, a South American Roman-Catholic, virtually surrounded by North American secular Jews. As Jamie puts it, "It was my mother's fate to be cast in the thankless role of the lone grown-up supervising a sandbox full of quasi adults." For, "the Bernstein family's childlike exuberance made them irresistible but also exhausting." Knowing in advance about L.B.'s sexual proclivities, Felicia married him in any case & according to Jamie, they were for much of their time together, a dedicated, happy couple. Felicia's death from cancer at 56 has a devastating impact on the entire family. Jamie comments that her mother performed as a kind of Florence Nightingale figure, a stabilizing force for the family and with regard to Felicia & her father, "the thing of it was that they really loved each other." There was of course the infamous incident with the Black Panthers, hosted by the Bernsteins at a time when L.B. already had a substantial FBI file due to longstanding support of Civil Rights causes. Then came Tom Wolfe's "radical chic" expose, which seemed to devastate the family & which may have heightened Felicia's downhill slide. In the midst of all of this, we learn of Jamie's series of intimate relationships, her continuing search for personal recognition well beyond her famous father & her own rather persistent use of drugs of various flavors before eventually establishing a comforting bond with a man, with whom she had children, the delight of the Bernstein family. As Leonard Bernstein's health begins to wane following a lifetime of smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day, a heavy daily intake of alcohol, an often unhealthy diet, pills to aid sleep & further pills to combat drowsiness when awake, L.B. achieves great acclaim when he conducts Beethoven's 9th Symphony in Germany as the Berlin Wall is dismantled. He attempts to continue to conduct summer concerts at Tanglewood in the Berkshires, the site of his early success as a young conductor, prior to taking on that role with the New York Philharmonic for so many years. While Bernstein's prowess & his strength are quickly ebbing, particularly at home in the U.S., he continues to be celebrated in Japan & in Europe. He had the healing balm of his concert audiences, with the euphoric ovations, their tears & flowers--especially in Europe. No wonder Daddy couldn't cut down on his conducting. This was a more potent painkiller than any drug--far better in fact, because the high came from the gratifying & universally celebrated act of sharing something beautiful with others. He wasn't called a "conductor" for nothing: the energy--music, sublimity, love--traveled through him in a magical circuit from the players to the listeners and back around again. What activity could be more healing--and more addictive?My take on the book, unlike some others at G/R, is that in spite of NYC penthouse apartments, expensive schools in Manhattan, a summer home in Connecticut, dinners at the White House, college at Harvard, influential & interesting friends like Mike Nichols, Steven Sondheim, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, playwright Arthur Miller, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Lillian Hellman & so many other notables, the Bernsteins were just people attempting to deal with their own frailties & life's uncertainties, though one of them was definitely not financial. As mentioned, the focus within the book seemed to be the search for personal identity and it was uplifting to learn that not only had each of the 3 Bernstein children made peace with their larger than life father & engendered many sustaining happy family memories, they had ultimately each found a manner in which they could serve to perpetuate his music. 2018 was the Bernstein Centennial, observed locally with Jamie Bernstein on hand at the Ravinia Festival for a part of the summer to offer commentary on Leonard Bernstein's life and his music. So successful was this series of concerts that 2019 was offered as Bernstein 101, a reprise of the composer's musical works & again with his daughter Jamie on hand to moderate some of the concerts. Music from Bernstein's symphonies, his incidental music for the film On the Waterfront, West Side Story + Candide, A Quiet Place & many other compositions that filled parts of two seasons at Ravinia, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Marin Alsop, Leonard Bernstein's final conducting protege, conducted almost all of the concerts. Among the main events in the Bernstein cycle was a 2nd performance of The Bernstein Mass. Seeing this rarely performed Bernstein work a 2nd time, composed for the opening of the Kennedy Center in 1971, a staged rendering involving a priest's descent into a state of anarchic disbelief, only to to be restored to something akin to his former role by his own congregation, complete with full orchestra, a children's chorus, a high school marching band & with an unfolding blend of rock, jazz & gospel music, caused Leonard Bernstein to loom even larger in my consciousness of him. This work more than any other seemed to deliver a sense of the amazing complexity, occasional bizarre behavior & multiple contradictions that were part & parcel of the great American composer/conductor. For all of the distractions, much of what Leonard Bernstein composed stands as Verwandlungsmusik, music that is transforming! Famous Father Girl, while not the most polished book in this genre, stands as a compelling memoir, particularly for anyone interested in the music of Leonard Bernstein. *There are many interesting B&W photos of L.B., family & friends spaced throughout the narrative.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Beth

    I received an uncorrected proof copy of this memoir from HarperCollins. Author Jamie Bernstein is the oldest daughter of renown composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. In this memoir, she tells the story of her childhood and early adult life, all of which are heavily dominated by the charisma and large personality of her famous father. Jamie and her younger siblings Alexander and Nina were raised by her parents largely in New York City. Her father's fame and connections meant that they regular I received an uncorrected proof copy of this memoir from HarperCollins. Author Jamie Bernstein is the oldest daughter of renown composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. In this memoir, she tells the story of her childhood and early adult life, all of which are heavily dominated by the charisma and large personality of her famous father. Jamie and her younger siblings Alexander and Nina were raised by her parents largely in New York City. Her father's fame and connections meant that they regularly interacted with famous individuals including the Kennedys and John Lennon. Although their father traveled frequently for work, he was a hands-on and loving father and an eternal teacher when he was around. All three of his children were heavily influenced by his love of music and approach to life. "In my mind's eye, my father is always in a scruffy brown wool bathrobe; my cheek still prickles at the memory of his scratchy morning hugs. He was frequently away on conducting tours, often for weeks at a time; we never felt we got enough of him" (11). The great takeaway from Jamie's tale is both the larger than life aspect of her father's personality but also her own lifelong devotion to him. Although as a young adult she was sometimes resentful of his constant intrusion and shadow over her life, ultimately she is grateful: "Daddy himself was the greatest passport of all" (345). Indeed, the title itself captures this theme of how much the family was overshadowed by Leonard, as Jamie was nicknamed "famous father girl" by friends in second grade (44). Jamie's mother Felicia fades into the background of this novel just as she did in life when compared to the grand persona of the maestro. This was an entertaining coming of age tale with the added bonus of featuring several famous individuals, apartments overlooking Central Park, and large country homes. I appreciated Jamie's candid discussion of her family's joys and heartaches and liked that the book concluded with a discussion of her father's legacy and memory in the years after his death.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alecia

    Because I have been such a fan of Leonard Bernstein's glorious music for West Side Story, Candide and On The Town, this book was of interest to me. When I was growing up, he was a larger than life figure to me, as I would watch him on The Young People's Concert Series on TV. He was so full of obvious passion for music that his conducting and educating was inspiring and fascinating to view as a young person. When I was older, I remember reading about his personal life (complicated) and his quest Because I have been such a fan of Leonard Bernstein's glorious music for West Side Story, Candide and On The Town, this book was of interest to me. When I was growing up, he was a larger than life figure to me, as I would watch him on The Young People's Concert Series on TV. He was so full of obvious passion for music that his conducting and educating was inspiring and fascinating to view as a young person. When I was older, I remember reading about his personal life (complicated) and his quest to be remembered for more "serious" classical pieces than West Side Story (unfulfilled). What must it have been like to be brought up by such a complex, incredibly talented man as one's father? Jamie Bernstein, the eldest of his three children, does a very good job of letting the reader know what this experience was like. Jamie describes her childhood and beyond with empathy, honesty and compassion towards her father, mother and her two younger siblings. There is plenty of name-dropping as the Bernstein's lives included very famous people such as the Kennedys. Mike Nichols, John Lennon and more. She does a very good job of explaining how the music Bernstein composed became intertwined into their lives. This is an unflinching look at what it was like to be the child of such a complex, extraordinarily gifted father, and it also gives insight into her parents marriage. There is humor, poignancy and love in this memoir, and I thought it was very well done.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Jamie Bernstein "tells all" in this memoir about being the daughter of legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. For New Yorkers and those who love to read about the Big Apple, you'll find lots of juicy tidbits about the artistic set in the 60s and beyond. Jamie details her parents' personal life and much of her father's creative output while also shedding light on her own difficult journey to step out from under her father's enormous shadow. I found her ability to assess what all arti Jamie Bernstein "tells all" in this memoir about being the daughter of legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. For New Yorkers and those who love to read about the Big Apple, you'll find lots of juicy tidbits about the artistic set in the 60s and beyond. Jamie details her parents' personal life and much of her father's creative output while also shedding light on her own difficult journey to step out from under her father's enormous shadow. I found her ability to assess what all artists need profound. She writes: "I felt I was missing some crucial resource. I called it the Golden Blind Spot: the ability of creative artists to suspend judgement, even common sense, to believe that what they were creating was earthshaking--and to believe it long enough to allow them to complete their creation."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Parts of this were sad to read, but overall, I enjoyed this loving, daughter's-eye-view of a complex, exuberant genius.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lorri Steinbacher

    Liked this a lot. Read it in prep for the two competing Bernstein movies that they are making. What shines through in this memoir is the complicated love a girl has for her charismatic, talented father and how that can color your future relationships and personal goals. Bernstein accomplishes this in bot a "poor, poor me" way, but in a clear sighted, balanced way. No doubt, JB had moments of rage aimed at her father, rage that in the immediate moment had great meaning, but through the long lens Liked this a lot. Read it in prep for the two competing Bernstein movies that they are making. What shines through in this memoir is the complicated love a girl has for her charismatic, talented father and how that can color your future relationships and personal goals. Bernstein accomplishes this in bot a "poor, poor me" way, but in a clear sighted, balanced way. No doubt, JB had moments of rage aimed at her father, rage that in the immediate moment had great meaning, but through the long lens of their relationship, had far less meaning. Did it sometimes feel like she was looking at her father through rose-colored glasses? Sure. But leave the microscopic examination of Bernstein to the scholars, and be glad that we get to hold loving daughter's view of a complicated man up against more objective biopgraphies.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I remember Bernstein’s concerts for young people and was crazy for West Side Story. Jamie Bernstein fleshes out the family side of this often outrageous composer/conductor. I admire the way in which she has come to terms with her “elf’s thread” a family anagram for self-hatred, and has laid down the burden of being the child of a famous father. I look forward to watching her documentary on Netflix.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marge Congress

    I'm not quite sure what this book is: a memoir of the author, whose father is famous; or the biography of her father, which includes much of her story. I got a "distant" feeling throughout the book, though the depiction of her mother's illness and death, and her father's final illness were beautiful and heartfelt. Too much of her attempt to be a musician, and her constant failure at this slowed it down. There is much to like, but some things just took me away from the point.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    Whew - I'm glad to have this book done with! I'd kind of been reading three books at the same time - the other two I loved, this one......no. And three stars is probably a generous rating. Many times I thought of quitting it - but I persevered, for what it's worth. This book reminded me of the feelings I experienced when reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue. I loved that book, though - but the lives of the very wealthy - the nannies, cooks, etc, were kind of appalling. And I also contrasted this boo Whew - I'm glad to have this book done with! I'd kind of been reading three books at the same time - the other two I loved, this one......no. And three stars is probably a generous rating. Many times I thought of quitting it - but I persevered, for what it's worth. This book reminded me of the feelings I experienced when reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue. I loved that book, though - but the lives of the very wealthy - the nannies, cooks, etc, were kind of appalling. And I also contrasted this book with Hillbilly Elegy, which I also just completed. What a difference between JD Vance, who grew up in an odd family also, but in poverty, and Jamie Bernstein, who grew up in an odd family, but very rich. He talked about being surprised going out somewhere when he's in college, and his friends didn't pick up after themselves. Jamie talked about going out with friends or siblings and leaving a mess. Hmmmmm. Anyway, Jamie tells about what it was like growing up with Leonard Bernstein as a father. Evidently, he he had a foul mouth, a crass sense of humor, was actually a homosexual, took a variety of drugs..... And she and her siblings use of drugs was shared, too. I'm not sure exactly why she had to share an embarrassing peeing episode of his, either...... Some "little" things bothered me, that weren't explained - like why did they turn a blind eye at the chauffeur who used a telescope to spy on the neighbors?????? There was a lot of name-dropping in the book, and snide (though probably true) remarks about various celebrities. I was amazed, too, that LB dipped his finger in his scotch and let Jamie's day-old baby suck on it...... Jamie noted that the siblings - the whole family, I guess - were non-confrontational. But in some ways, she sure seemed outsp0ken. I can't believe the things they put up with, instead of actually standing up to their dad. Halfway through the book, I appreciated her analysis of her dad: "He had always tried, as hard as he knew how, to make the world a better place through his outspoken advocacy for the things that mattered: civil rights, human rights, would peace." I saw on the cover flap that Jamie had made a documentary that was on Netflix called Crescendo. I thought I'd watch it......but it is no longer available there. anyway - very disjointed review. But this was kind of a disturbing book. It sounds like the siblings all ended up doing well. And the book was well-written. But - very hard to like.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I was hoping for more gossip and scandalizing stories TBH. I guess if I was writing about my dad I’d reduce them to mere quirks as well. Speaking of dads (duh lol), Jamie Bernstein refers to Leonard as “Daddy” the whole memoir. While this isn’t exactly weird to me (my mom still refers to my own father as daddy in conversation) it‘s unnerving to read over and over again. (But then again, that may be her point.) The writing is rather elementary. The descriptions are reminiscent of my middle school I was hoping for more gossip and scandalizing stories TBH. I guess if I was writing about my dad I’d reduce them to mere quirks as well. Speaking of dads (duh lol), Jamie Bernstein refers to Leonard as “Daddy” the whole memoir. While this isn’t exactly weird to me (my mom still refers to my own father as daddy in conversation) it‘s unnerving to read over and over again. (But then again, that may be her point.) The writing is rather elementary. The descriptions are reminiscent of my middle school diaries where I wanted to sound panache but just sounded immature. I also know less about the 70s than I thought, between the name dropping (with cutesy nicknames, i.e. Lauren Bacall was “Betty”) and concertos had me Googling a lot. And it was never worth it. By the end, I did have a soft spot for Jamie. I cared almost nothing about “Lenny”. And I still had no idea where my sudden interest ever spun from. (Which was like the only reason I wanted to read this book lol.) Now, there were pop culture events that were cool. Like, she was at their apartment building, The Dakota, when her friend John Lennon was shot. And some funny one-liners that did make me wish I had been at a Bernstein party. (Jamie is funny, and does appreciate humor.) But, I’m sure these highlights could be found in interviews some where instead of weeding through this.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stevedieleman

    A unique perspective on Leonard Bernstein. Written by his daughter, the book chronicles her own struggles growing up in the shadow of her brilliant world famous father. A bold, blunt, honest portrayal of life in the Bernstein family. Hold on tight for a captivating emotional roller coaster ride filled with humor, joy & sorrow. Language may be a bit rough for the faint of heart. The story provides rich insights into the life and times of the mid 20th Century. A refreshing style of writing. Enjoye A unique perspective on Leonard Bernstein. Written by his daughter, the book chronicles her own struggles growing up in the shadow of her brilliant world famous father. A bold, blunt, honest portrayal of life in the Bernstein family. Hold on tight for a captivating emotional roller coaster ride filled with humor, joy & sorrow. Language may be a bit rough for the faint of heart. The story provides rich insights into the life and times of the mid 20th Century. A refreshing style of writing. Enjoyed the journey ... loved the story.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    This book jumped out at me from the library shelf, perhaps because we shared the same name and age but for whatever reason I loved it. Living with a true artist who has boundless energy and is a deep thinker and ends up having to self-medicate is a gift and a curse. Jamie Bernstein traveled a tumultuous road with both her parents but with their love and the love of her siblings and her love of music was ultimately a winner.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fentestik

    What an eye opener into the world of a musical genius and icon. The life of Leonard Bernstein was very interesting and surprising. Jamie wrote an easy to read story that left nothing to the imagination. It was obvious she admired and loved her father. After reading this story I will go listen to LB's works of genius . I will appreciate the gifts he left to the world of music lovers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This is one of those books I couldn’t put down. Fascinating look at Leonard Bernstein, warts and all, by his eldest daughter. But also a portrait of a very close knit, loving family. Many revealing anecdotes of encounters with famous people. Leonard Bernstein was a larger than life character, and his daughter does a good job of revealing what it was like to be in his orbit, as well as taking seriously the burden of carrying on his legacy.

  20. 5 out of 5

    John Lieto

    A wonderful inside view into the family of one of our greatest musical talents. Jamie B does a wonderful job of paying tribute to her famous father while not sugar coating the difficult moments. Kudos to her and here’s to Lenny!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen Paris

    Interesting! The composer/conductor father, the actress mother, lots of love and all the weird and crazy talented people they knew were hard to handle for the three children but money certainly did help them survive. I was happy to "grow up Gretchen Hurd"!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joseph J.

    Won in a Goodreads giveaway. Growing up watching Leonard Bernstein's Young Peoples' Concerts, I recall praying for his soul's repose in my seminary chapel the morning after his death. He was a major cultural and entertainment figure in the last century. His daughter pens a uniquely personal memoir of her composing and conducting father and the family he and wife Felicia created. This family and story mirror the times. Opening chapters in the late 1950's-as LB wrote the music for West Side Story- Won in a Goodreads giveaway. Growing up watching Leonard Bernstein's Young Peoples' Concerts, I recall praying for his soul's repose in my seminary chapel the morning after his death. He was a major cultural and entertainment figure in the last century. His daughter pens a uniquely personal memoir of her composing and conducting father and the family he and wife Felicia created. This family and story mirror the times. Opening chapters in the late 1950's-as LB wrote the music for West Side Story-into the Kennedy 60's read like a sitcom of that time-yet in a rarefied atmosphere. Names like Adolph Green, Lillian Hellman and a young Stephen Sondheim dot Jamie's growing up recollections or happy weekends in the country. But relative tranquility pass into the turbulent anti-war, assassination drenched late 60's, and a tranquil family life starts to crumble. The beautiful and artistic Felicia Bernstein married LB in the 40's acknowledging his homo-or bi-sexuality. As LB grows his hair and sideburns, his personal life expands beyond marriage. One of the most painful episodes in the book is Jamie, hearing rumors of her dad's gay life as a young man, is sent by Felicia to LB and LB tells his daughter that as a famous man people are out to get him. But eventually, LB leaves his wife and family as his entourage opens to more gay men-one especially. When he returns to Felicia, she is already ill with cancer. Jamie's account of her mother's battle resonate with anyone who has watched a parent fight terminal illness. Sadly, with Felicia's death in the late 1970's, the book loses much. There are still famous names like "Betty Bacall" and Michael Jackson and Jacqueline Onassis, but Felicia's death opens a massive void for her family and the reader. As LB sputters into an early twilight, there are personal and professional frustrations and failures, as Jamie struggles as the daughter of a legend to chart her own course and land her place in life. This book is rich in historical guideposts and cultural moments: returning to their home in Manhattan's famous Dakota after the 1980 Kennedy Center Honors, LB and Jamie pass John Lennon groupies outside and enter a night shattered by gunshots. Such is the intersection of culture, history and family pathos in these spellbinding pages. While painful to read of a drug addicted a distended bellied Leonard Bernstein, we are reminded the that the greatest genius is ultimately human and prone to the weakness, desire and tragedy which shadow us all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Jamie Bernstein is an inviting, engaging writer. Right away, she clues us in to her famous family's inside jokes, then uses them throughout her memoir so the reader understands her perspective in, quite literally, her own words. And what a perspective it is! Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein traces Jamie Bernstein's life in the orbit of her superstar father, legendary musician Leonard Bernstein. Due to the sheer power of his charisma, her story can't help but be the story o Jamie Bernstein is an inviting, engaging writer. Right away, she clues us in to her famous family's inside jokes, then uses them throughout her memoir so the reader understands her perspective in, quite literally, her own words. And what a perspective it is! Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein traces Jamie Bernstein's life in the orbit of her superstar father, legendary musician Leonard Bernstein. Due to the sheer power of his charisma, her story can't help but be the story of him as well, and she is quite open about the psychological toll of having a parent who burns so brightly that no one else can even try to compete. It's a story of pain wrapped in some sardonic humor, but it's also a story of fierce love—her love for her father and oft-eclipsed mother, LB's love of music and humanity, and Jamie Bernstein's struggle to love herself. Jamie Bernstein has lived an extraordinary life, casually encountering celebrities as they collaborate and socialize with her father. She manages to hit just the right tone, name dropping without sounding boastful, evoking how normal it seemed in her childhood when she knew nothing different, yet acknowledging her mature perspective that it was all kind of unbelievable. I recommend this book to anyone with any interest in Leonard Bernstein. Her descriptions of music are evocative, accessible, and intensely personal. They will probably change the way you listen to his compositions, revealing what parts of his personality she hears manifest in his music. A little warning for more empathetic readers: She is very open about her life, including the pain of watching each parent deteriorate toward the end of their lives, as well as her struggles with her father's overwhelming, obvious sexualness. (I'd say sexuality, but that word implies that it's all about his orientation, which is just a small part of it. She describes a magnetism that attracted everyone, which was confusing during her adolescence and affected her choice in boyfriends.) Jamie Bernstein truly puts it all out there, an apt tribute to an extreme extrovert.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    Leonard Bernstein (1918-2018) was still a big name as I was growing up. The current generation of music fans is perhaps quite a bit less familiar with him, especially since his passing in 1990. But this is not about him, exactly. I did not like this book even though it is tolerably written. Jamie Bernstein may be working to keep her father's legacy alive, but this book does not exactly honor him nor many of the people mentioned within its pages. Do we need to know his bathroom habits? Other self- Leonard Bernstein (1918-2018) was still a big name as I was growing up. The current generation of music fans is perhaps quite a bit less familiar with him, especially since his passing in 1990. But this is not about him, exactly. I did not like this book even though it is tolerably written. Jamie Bernstein may be working to keep her father's legacy alive, but this book does not exactly honor him nor many of the people mentioned within its pages. Do we need to know his bathroom habits? Other self-indulgences? While it does provide context for his work and how it was received, it does not analyze his work or attempt to help readers really understand the man or his genius. Instead... we learn about every man Jamie has slept with along with how much cocaine and pot she and her brother used. Off the charts name dropping is intriguing at first and then just excessive. Photos were nice. This is the story of a very wealthy family and it is off-putting if not outright disturbing how many advantages that the children had that were manipulated. Did all three kids deserve to go to Harvard or were they there because there father went there and became famous and will probably donate a lot of money to Harvard one day. Their connections as young adults (making demo records, bit acting parts) were the dream of other aspiring artists as were the abilities to travel the world constantly to really fantastic places, private islands, the Hamptons, etc. At the end it would seem the three children of Bernstein finally grow up (in their 50s?). This will appeal to those who want to know what it is like to live among the rich and famous. That will never be my cup of tea.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Thanks to Harper and NetGalley for my review eGalley. One of my first memories of listening to music was when my mother played her beloved West Side Story soundtrack. I was mesmerized by it years before I saw the film version. Many decades later it remains one of my favorite musicals. For that reason I couldn’t wait to read Famous Father Girl. I wanted to learn what it was like to grow up the daughter of Leonard Bernstein. I wasn’t disappointed by this memoir. In college I earned a music degree a Thanks to Harper and NetGalley for my review eGalley. One of my first memories of listening to music was when my mother played her beloved West Side Story soundtrack. I was mesmerized by it years before I saw the film version. Many decades later it remains one of my favorite musicals. For that reason I couldn’t wait to read Famous Father Girl. I wanted to learn what it was like to grow up the daughter of Leonard Bernstein. I wasn’t disappointed by this memoir. In college I earned a music degree and, along the way, I learned why I loved Bernstein’s music – the rhythm, orchestration, the emotions it evoked. Jamie Bernstein tells the story of her larger than life father and his effect on his family. I enjoyed the photos scattered throughout and was unsurprised by mentions of notable names of the era. Readers who grew up during the mid 20th century will recognize most if not all. As in any life well lived there are triumphs and disappointments. The Bernstein family experienced all. I think there could be a surprise or two for readers but I also think fans of the maestro and the memoir genre will be happy with Jamie’s efforts.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Igor Piovezan

    First, I’d like to congratulate Jamie Bernstein for having the wonderful idea of writing this book, a true gift for Bernstein fans. Generally, it is very difficult to get you know someone you adore that has already gone, such as famous writers or historical figures. The main reason is because there is such a small quantity of resources for that. This is why “Famous Father Girl” has such an important role in introducing an inside view of a famous figure, which otherwise would never be know. Lenny First, I’d like to congratulate Jamie Bernstein for having the wonderful idea of writing this book, a true gift for Bernstein fans. Generally, it is very difficult to get you know someone you adore that has already gone, such as famous writers or historical figures. The main reason is because there is such a small quantity of resources for that. This is why “Famous Father Girl” has such an important role in introducing an inside view of a famous figure, which otherwise would never be know. Lenny is one of the most important musicians who has ever lived, and certainly the one who received the most admiration throughout the world. Being such a fan, I’ve done a lot of research about his live, but I never felt that I truly understood him. Now I feel like I do, and I have Jamie to thank for that. This book is beautifully written, with many parts where I found myself laughing out loud, yet there are also a great amount that touched me deeply. It is impossible to read about the life and death of Bernstein and Felicia without being touched by their personalities. For someone who didn’t, and will never met Bernstein in person, this book is as close as it gets.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Miller

    Leonard Bernstein's daughter Jamie's memoir of her family's life. Often charmed, certainly privileged, her family also had its dark side. The author believes that her mother--the actress Felicia Montealegre--essentially sacrificed her career to be "Mrs. Maestro"--and we find out that she knew about her husband's homosexuality before they married. That didn't make things any easier as it turned out--and Jamie also accuses the late Tom Wolfe of contributing to her mother's melancholia by his unfai Leonard Bernstein's daughter Jamie's memoir of her family's life. Often charmed, certainly privileged, her family also had its dark side. The author believes that her mother--the actress Felicia Montealegre--essentially sacrificed her career to be "Mrs. Maestro"--and we find out that she knew about her husband's homosexuality before they married. That didn't make things any easier as it turned out--and Jamie also accuses the late Tom Wolfe of contributing to her mother's melancholia by his unfair portrayal of her as "radical chic". She gives HER version of what that "party" for the Black Panthers was really about, i.e., a successful fund raiser organized by Montealegre who had long been active in the ACLU. The memoir seems a little over-long--we hear repeatedly about Jamie's struggle as a songwriter and self-doubt about whether she's really talented or if whatever success she has is really because she's Leonard Bernstein's daughter. Certainly a legit topic to explore, but it could have been done more succinctly to better effect. But all in all, an interesting--and loving--account of an extraordinary family.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Trudi Gardner

    The first half of the book is an absorbing read by Leonard Bernstein's daughter. He's shown as the vastly talented composer/conductor along with his insecurities, conflicting sexuality issues, mood swings, drug use and increasing unhappiness with his marriage, unsuccessful musical compositions and aging. Daughter Jamie, who one can first admire for her heartfelt revelations about LB and herself, gradually begins to dominate the narrative with her life, even as she insists she was trying to come The first half of the book is an absorbing read by Leonard Bernstein's daughter. He's shown as the vastly talented composer/conductor along with his insecurities, conflicting sexuality issues, mood swings, drug use and increasing unhappiness with his marriage, unsuccessful musical compositions and aging. Daughter Jamie, who one can first admire for her heartfelt revelations about LB and herself, gradually begins to dominate the narrative with her life, even as she insists she was trying to come out from under his shadow. She describes (though doesn't seem to appreciate) her life of privilege, men (one loses track of how many she slept with), drug use, and effort to succeed as a rock singer/star. When she becomes the focus as LB becomes more and more erratic, it feels like the downside of a bell curve. Interest wanes. A disappointment.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    This book was mediocre. At first it was interesting to read about the Bernsteins’ life and learn a little about Leonard. But after awhile it started to drag. I wasn’t particularly interested in the details of Jamie’s life. I know, it is her memoir. Of course it is about her. But the more it became about her, the less intriguing it became. Worthwhile for music lovers as it is somewhat interesting. Not remarkable by any means.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shirlee Sloyer

    Sitting in row C in Avery Fisher Hall listening to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, brought me very close to the conductor, Leonard Bernstein. He was so lively and animated that It was almost like watching a dancer. The limited size of the podium seemed hardly enough space to contain him. He made the music come alive. Jamie Bernstein's book brought me back to those moments. She took us through LB's life and hers with wit and honesty. I enjoyed the journey.

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