Book Review: 'Famous Father Girl': Window into a Legend

By Erica Miner - Broadway World
June 13, 2018

Jamie Bernstein has described her newly minted book,Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein (Harper Collins, ISBN-13: 978-0062641359), as "a love letter to my whole family" (/article/BWW-Interview-Part-1-Jamie-Bernstein-Celebrates-Remarkable-Centennial-20180611).

It is a love letter filled with candid, disarmingly frank memories: an insider's view of what it was like to grow up as the eldest daughter of the most influential American musician of the 20th century: Leonard Bernstein, or "LB," as Jamie came to call him in her young adult years.

Bernstein clearly has inherited her father's gift for self-expression in words, as well as a goodly amount of his boldness and charisma. She is impressively articulate in her descriptions, not only of family events but of her feelings about everything: from her parents' relationship with each other, to her relationship with her siblings Alexander and Nina, to her own adolescent angst. Her writing is fearlessly honest; she's not afraid to analyze her father's faults, to criticize him, to express her unease at his criticism of her, and of her mother, Felicia. But behind each and every word lies a profound affection for the man she calls "Daddy"—who was so frequently absent from the family abode with his conducting tours that she and her siblings "never felt we got enough of him."

The love between a father and a daughter is a complex subject that has been examined under a high-power psychological microscope since the time of the ancient Greeks. In Bernstein's case the complexities are compounded to the power of 40x, by virtue of LB's stratospheric level of stardom: unprecedented for a musician who was the first American to be named music director of a major symphony orchestra—the New York Philharmonic—not to mention being the youngest ever—and Jewish.

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Jamie Bernstein