Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez’s never-before-told story of surviving a harrowing childhood and of how she found success—both in and out of the Hollywood limelight.
Rosie Perez first caught our attention with her fierce dance in the title sequence of Do the Right Thing and has since defined herself as a funny and talented actress who broke boundaries for Latinas in the film industry. What most people would be surprised to learn is that the woman with the big, effervescent personality has a secret straight out of a Dickens novel. At the age of three, Rosie’s life was turned upside down when her mentally ill mother tore her away from the only family she knew and placed her in a Catholic children’s home in New York’s Westchester County. Thus began her crazily discombobulated childhood of being shuttled between “the Home,” where she and other kids suffered all manners of cruelty from nuns, and various relatives’ apartments in Brooklyn.
Many in her circumstances would have been defined by these harrowing experiences, but with the intense determination that became her trademark, Rosie overcame the odds and made an incredible life for herself. She brings her journey vividly to life on each page of this memoir—from the vibrant streets of Brooklyn to her turbulent years in the Catholic home, and finally to film and TV sets and the LA and New York City hip-hop scenes of the 1980s and ‘90s.
More than a page-turning read, Handbook for an Unpredictable Life is a story of survival. By turns heartbreaking and funny, it is ultimately the inspirational story of a woman who has found a hard-won place of strength and peace.
Rosie Perez, actress, choreographer, and activist known for her roles in films such as Do the Right Thing and White Men Can't Jump, opens up about everything from her difficult upbringing in a home for girls run by nuns to the breaks and trials of fame and silver screen success. Perez's life takes an unexpected turn when, living in L.A. and taking college classes, she is plucked from a crowd of dancers at a club to appear on Soul Train. Soon enough, Spike Lee discovers her at a "butt contest" and she is cast in his breakout film. While die-hard Perez fans may appreciate peaks at the actress' early life, the book otherwise falls flat. Perez speaks from the heart when describing an abusive childhood, but the carefree prose doesn't do the darker material justice. There is very little entertainment tell-all here: we learn that her mother suddenly turned kind after Perez became successful, there was drama with the Fly Girls on In Living Color, and that Jennifer Lopez was, as much as Perez liked her, challenging to work with. Half difficult-childhood tale, half celebrity-memoir, both storylines end up lacking.
I enjoyed most of the book. Rosie, I have an understanding of what you endured because I and some of my siblings were there, though many years before you. My younger brother had it worse than me. The male counselors did terrible things to the younger boys. I didn't find out until many years later and it pained me to realize how hurt he was, and the anger he held inside. From this experience, we couldn't feel any trust in life and with other people. I have to admit I was looking for love in all the wrong places (people). Thankfully I married a smart businessman who provided me and our six children a wonderful life, so far. We raised our children in Scarsdale community. They have learned piano and violin lesson, supported the school with the cheerleading squad. We did belong to a golf club for many years during which they took up tennis, golf and lifeguard responsibilities. During and after reading your book, I couldn't help but continuously cry. I cry for our life there but also for my brother, Manny Aran, who was killed in the Bronx coming out of a store with other people. A drive-by shooting at the time. A year before he died he had told me what he and other boys had been subjected to. I was surprised to say the least. Thank you for acknowledging to others what life was in the home. Funny how most people can't believe how it was detrimental to us in many ways . Yes, we were fed, clothed with the minimum, and educated but no caring of us as young children in their care. It"s as if we were to blame for being put there. Funny it has been a while since I read your book but I tell some of the girls I keep in touch with to get your book. I think of your stories and realized, you too had a chance to succeed and made good use of it. I wish you and so many others the very best. Tears in my eyes I say good-bye.
What a amazing story. Kept captivated in your world. Rosie Perez you are indeed a angel walking among us here on earth. What a inspiration for those with hardships with no choice but, to walk straight ahead. I was a fan in the past of your talent and now a bigger fan of your perseverance as a woman. Good luck with your future projects, I will be watching. I would definitely recommend this book to all. So we all can learn to love unconditionally and be thankful for whatever hand life deals us.
Denise Kneller (Laurel, MD)
All in life is not roses
I like it and made me so sad that, people, always said nothing bad happend in the good times over the 50,60 and etc, because nothing was public, everything was on closed door. The 90 and 2000 are not the only ones with out feelings.