Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Review: A Hand to Guide Me

A Fair Trade Book

Title: A Hand to Guide Me

Editor and primary author: Denzel Washington

His charity: Boys & Girls Club of America

Contributors: Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, Debbie Allen, Walter Anderson, John Antioco, Eddie Armstrong, Notah Begay, Yogi Berra, Chick Bigcrow, Geroge Bodenheimer, David Boies, Jimmy Carter, Swin Cash, Wesley Clark, Bill Clinton, Johnny Damon, Dominique Dawes, Socrates Delacruz, Jamie Farr, Antwone Fisher, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Gonzalez, Omar Gooding, Glenda Hatchett, Chamique Holdsclaw, Phil Jackson, Donna Richardson Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, John Kasich, Patrick J. Kelly, Anna Kournikova, Kelly Zimmerman Lane, Tara Lipinski, Mario Lopez, Edward A. Malloy, Willie Mcginest, John Mellencamp, Daryl Mitchell, Joe Morgan, Toni Morrison, Leonard Nimoy, Holly Robinson Peete, Bill Perocchi, Matthew F. Pottinger, Colin Powell, Bonnie Raitt, Ahmad Rashad, Cal Ripken Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Ron Sargent, John Schuerholz, Bud Selig, Bernard Shaw, John Singleton, Dennis Smith, Stan Smith, Roxanne Spillett, George M. Steinbrenner, Gloria Steinem, Ruben Studdard, Courtney Vance, Michael Vick, Manny Villafana, Antonio Villaraigosa, Dick Vitale, Kerry Washington, David Wolper, Martin Wong, John Wooden, Bob Woodward, James Worthy

Date: 2006


ISBN: 978-0-696-23049-3

Length: 272 pages

Quote: “I don’t care…what you do for a living…there was someone cheering you on and showing you the way.”

Movie star and minister Denzel Washington uses some of the pages in this long book to thank those who cheered him and showed him the way, but not many. A Hand to Guide Me really is a collection of tributes to the mentors and sponsors of people who’ve achieved high levels of success in all kinds of endeavors.

That’s what’s to love about this book—all the personal reminiscences from the superstars. It’s also what’s not to love; each celebrity author gets only a few pages to reminisce, and if you read several stories in a row they can all sound somewhat alike.

The point of the whole book is made in the introduction: children need support from adults. Some of the narrators are able to pinpoint a specific thing someone did that helped them. Not all of them are.

“When I saw ‘Revelations’ and ‘blues Suite’…I threw my toe shoes away. I wanted to dance barefoot, and dance in some heels…Alvin Ailey’s choreography spoke to something in me,” confides Debbie Allen.

“Mrs. Williams…was a teacher…always slipping me something to read,” recalls Walter Anderson. “She’d begin by telling us a story…we were on the edge of our seats. And then she would say, ‘Well, if you want to find out the end of the story, go get the book and read it’.”

Rachel Clark, who took future President Carter under her wing, “could pick more cotton and shake more peanuts than any other person in Georgia,” or so it seemed to little Jimmy. “I could pick 150 pounds of cotton, but Rachel could pick near twice as much.”

“Kelli Hill was my coach,” says Dominique Dawes of her years as a gymnast. “I would set a goal and then she would set it higher.”

“Robert…wasn’t particularly popular and I wasn’t particularly popular either,” recalls Whoopi Goldberg, but “One day…somehow I was running with the popular kids,” and “Robert…just didn’t exist. It’s like I left him behind.” Her mother helped her see how this carelessness had become an act of social cruelty, and, Whoopi says, she’s been mindful of the need not to repeat that mistake again.

“Mr. Whitney…didn’t tolerate unruly behavior,” reminisces Patrick J. Kelly. “Two of my friends got into…a fight…We expected Whit to give those kids a good thrashing and kick them out of the club. Instead, he…put his arms around both fighters and hugged them.”

“[T]hanks to Christopher Reeve,” says Daryl Mitchell of his nearly disabling accident, “it caught up with me that it wasn’t just about me…as hard as it is for you to accept that you might never walk again, it’s even harder for them” (your family).

Colin Powell credits his aunts. “You can talk about the Internet…it is nothing compared with the speed of the Auntnet…We lived in 952. My Aunt Laurice lived in 935 and my Aunt Evadne lived in 936, and another set of aunts lived in 920, I think…You couldn’t get into trouble without getting caught by this network of aunts and uncles and cousins…There isn’t a failure among the cousins.”

Bob Woodward thanks Katharine Graham: “She said, ‘when are we going to find out the truth about Watergate?’…my answer to her was ‘never.’ She…said… ‘Don’t tell me never!’ I left that lunch a motivated employee.”

If you want to find out whom the others thank for what, and why, get the book and read it. To buy it here, send $5 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to the appropriate address from the very bottom of the screen, from which we'll send $1 per copy to the Boys & Girls Clubs. You could fit two copies into one package, for a total of $15 (on the U.S. postal order) or $16 (via Paypal), and we'd send $2 to the Boys & Girls Clubs.