Famous Father Girl

A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein
Narrated by: Jamie Bernstein
Length: 10 hrs and 49 mins
4.2 out of 5 stars (108 ratings)

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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 listeners say about Famous Father Girl

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  • Overall
    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.

4 people found this helpful

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Not like her father

Jamie’s book was filled with inconsequential and boring details and her narration childlike, insisting on calling her father daddy and mother mommy. Jamie and her siblings never grew up nor, did it seem from this book, did they appreciate the full significance of their father and his effect on the world of music.

3 people found this helpful

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A Brave and Dazzling Tribute to Bernstein

It’s not easy being the child of an iconic conductor, beloved by people the world over. Jamie brings us so close to her famous father in such an intimate way that we feel like family. She also lets us into his life as a driven, passionate composer, who lived and died for music. Her authenticity and spunky narration left this listener spellbound and quite teary, by the end!

1 person found this helpful

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Can't say enough good things

Jamie Bernstein is a gutsy, honest, irreverent, bright woman, and her memoir of growing up with Leonard Bernstein as a father is fabulous. Many years ago, I read a wonderful biography of Leonard Bernstein (can't remember the author, unfortunately), and I am old enough to have enjoyed and been deeply touched by the televised Bernstein concerts for young people. I can still remember clearly several key moments from those concerts that have stuck with me to this day. So it was a delight for me to hear the "behind-the-scenes" story of what it was like to be Leonard's daughter. Jamie is a wonderful story-teller, a wonderful narrator, and someone I could well imagine being friends with. I'm so grateful she wrote this book and shared her experiences with us. I admire her honesty, her courage, and her devotion to her family and to her father's legacy. I love her humility and candor when describing her own meandering life path. Bravo to Jamie! Thank you for this wonderful book!

1 person found this helpful

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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 person found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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Bad narration

I downloaded this for a book club at a local book store. Leonard Bernstein was before my time but, being new to the area, I thought I'd give it a go. You know that voice when a woman narrates and she's trying to do the man's voice? That was this. To top it off, I ended up in the doctor's office and never made it to the book club. Just not my cuppa.

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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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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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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