Review: Jamie Bernstein’s new “Famous Father Girl: A Memoir for Growing Up Bernstein”

Posted on: June 20, 2018

“Jamie Bernstein, Leonard Bernstein’s firstborn daughter, has written a memoir of her family, a family that her overwhelming dad—loving, inspired, and sometimes insufferable—dominated for decades,” writes David Denby in the June 25 issue of The New Yorker. “The author grew up wriggling inside a paradox, struggling to become a self when so much of her was defined by her brilliant parent. ‘Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein’ (HarperCollins) is unique among classical-music memoirs for its physical intimacy, its humor and tenderness, its ambivalence toward an irrepressible family genius. In the year of Leonard Bernstein’s centenary, with its worldwide celebrations, this book is a startling inside view—not a corrective, exactly (Jamie rarely thought her dad less than great), but a story of encompassing family love, Jewish-American style, with all its glories and corrosions. … Truth-telling, rather than dignity, is her goal…. As the daughters of great men go, Jamie Bernstein has had a happy fate: the existence of this well-written book, with its poignancy and its shuddery detail—her father’s fragrance in the morning—is a mark of sanity and survival. In telling his story, she got to write her own.”

Posted June 20, 2018