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Publisher's Summary

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 20th-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.

©2018 Jamie Bernstein (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A bit too much gee-whizzing

I'm a child of the 60s and Leonard Bernstein was a god to me. West Side Story and Candide changed my life. In the ensuing decades other of his compositions have spoken to me. I was in the audience for rehearsals of Houston Grand Opera's productions of Trouble in Tahiti and A Quiet Place. All that is leading up to saying that I have the greatest respect for the maestro's immense talent.

Jamie Bernstein is a clear-eyed observer and reporter of her and LB's life and relationship. I'm grateful for that. The only criticism that I would offer is that there's a bit too much of the forced cutesy-ness in her childhood stories. The family's in-jokes are not all that funny to an outsider.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Thoroughly entertaining!

Jamie Bernstein's story and enthusiastic narration kept me thoroughly entertained on the long drive from Pittsburgh to North Carolina and back!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Best Read of the Year

I have never felt so completely engaged in someone else’s story! And it gave me
words and images that brought my own life into clearer focus, as well. Thank you to Jamie Bernstein for writing it!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful in Every Way!

I just finished this wonderfully narrated memoir. My only disappointment is that it was not longer. I’ll plan on attending one of Jamie’s programs with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach. Thank you for a memorable audio book.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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A Missed Opportunity During His Centennial Year

I returned this book roughly halfway through because the narrator' voice was annoying from the start-- in both sound and perspective. while her intention was to portray a famous father through the eyes of his daughter, all I really received was the daughter material.

Prior to publication, the book needed an editor to refine the descriptive passages of this well-intentioned author, to delete unctuous adjectives and trivial side-plots. In all, we learn so little that is new about Bernstein, that the text barely keeps it's head above water

Moreover, the author's attempted portrayals of artistic Titans such as Aaron Copland, Stephen Sondheim and many, many others are reduced to caricatures.

As for the cadence of Ms. Bernstein's voice, I leave it to the astute listener to decide.

In the end, the reader wonders whether the purpose of this book was to resurrect the author's authority about matters involving her father. I don't know, but my disappointment in the outcome left me a bit hungry for substantial information and a bit starved for an authentic narrative voice

What I didn't need we're the words of a privileged daughter if an American musical Titan, attempting to tell his story through the Ken's if her own. It simply doesn't succeed

If, perhaps, Ms. Bernstein had instead crafted a more literary memoir of her mother, that would have been the more redeeming choice. Felicia was a passionate and fascinating subject, but she fades into shadow with all the rest here.

I applaud the effort but not the outcome.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Jamie Bernstein is so likable! 

Jamie Bernstein is so likable!  I enjoyed listening to her story and felt her mother was an even more interesting character than her father.  Her mother kept the family together and moving forward. 

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Engrossing, engaging and full of life!

I love the book. Jamie's life found its full meaning far sooner than she tells in this amazing memoir. Well done.
Dwayne Johnson-Cochran

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Lovely!

Very alive and personal and real and surprising, Jamie adds new perspectives about her father and her also amazing family.

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Sad tale..

Jamie Bernstein has led a sad life. She relies on name-dropping and unfortunately never succeeded in making career. She had plenty of money, connections, etc. She reads like a spoiled teenager.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful