My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race, and Defiance

By Harry Belafonte, Michael Shnayerson

An eloquently told personal account of an era of enormous cultural and political change, which reveals Harry Belafonte as not only one of America's greatest entertainers, but also one of our most profoundly influential activists.

Harry Belafonte spent his childhood in both Harlem and Jamaica, where the toughness of the city and the resilient spirit of the Caribbean lifestyle instilled in him a tenacity to face the hurdles of life head-on and channel his anger into positive, life-affirming actions. He returned to New York City after serving in the Navy in World War II, and found his calling in the theater, before transitioning into a career as a singer and Hollywood leading man. During the 1960s civil rights movement, Belafonte became close friends with Martin Luther King, Jr., and used his celebrity as a platform for his activism in civil rights and countless other political and social causes. My Song tells the inspiring story of a startlingly original and powerful entertainer who has always engaged fiercely with the issues of his day.



    REVIEW QUOTES

A New York Times Notable Book "A brave and spellbinding memoir . . . Belafonte tells a sweeping story. . . . Surprising and revelatory." --The Washington Post

"A gorgeous account of the large life of a Harlem boy." --Garrison Keillor, The New York Times Book Review

"The 'Song' of [Belafonte's] life has been . . . diverse, encompassing the heartbreaking ballads of poverty and loss, up-tempo pop songs of fame and wealth, and deeply felt spirituals of dedication to social justice. The world is richer for having heard them." --The Boston Globe "This rich memoir chronicles a lifetime of activism alongside some of history's greatest heroes and sheds new light on moments that shaped our nation. Through it all, Harry exudes the same passion and candor I've experienced in our friendship and conversation over the years." --President Bill Clinton

"Absorbing. . . . Belafonte is a man of many conflicting identities, all of which he's needed to help change the world." --New York magazine

"An honest, in many ways important and genuinely revelatory autobiography. . . . My Song is a more than fitting denouement for a life well lived." --The Seattle Times "Engrossing. . . . My Song is rich with vivid scenes of Belafonte working as an advisor, mediator, fundraiser and implementer."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Even amid the most intensely charged subject matter, Belafonte traces a path . . . with the easygoing charm of a born raconteur. Uncluttered and free of fuss, his narrative unfolds effortlessly. . . . The world may think of Belafonte as an entertainer first and an activist second, but My Song makes it engagingly, compellingly clear that he wishes his legacy to be prioritized the other way around." --The A.V. Club

"Harry Belafonte has led an extraordinary life. . . . Some of the richest passages . . . focus on Belafonte's social engagement." --USA Today "To read Harry Belafonte's new memoir, My Song, is to discover a man who has packed enough life for ten people into eighty-four years." --NPR/Morning Edition "Belafonte certainly knows how to make an immediate and lasting impression. My Song follows suit with prose that's fluid yet intensely detailed. . . . [There's] a keen awareness of his greatness and place in history--but it's never overbearing. After all, it's not bragging when it's true." --The Austin Chronicle

"The entertainer-activist par excellence of his generation. . . . Belafonte, despite his gift for pungent soundbites, is a thoughtful man whose barbs are often tempered by nuanced observations on art, politics and race." --The Daily Beast

"Belafonte's story is the tale of a man who has well and truly balanced stardom and serious activism." --The New Republic

"A story of triumph amid adversity that focuses on the intriguing personal life of one of the 20th century's most iconic actors." --The Root "Bracingly opinionated autobiography from an American original, still provocative in his ninth decade ." --Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"An honest, in many ways important and genuinely revelatory autobiography. . . . My Song reveals, Belafonte was more than celebrity eye candy, burnishing his image with a little politically correct politicking. He not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. . . . My Song is more than fitting denouement for a life well lived." --Curt Schleier, Seattle Times "In My Song, a brave and spellbinding memoir written with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson, Belafonte tells a sweeping story . . . riveting . . . In these days of national and global uncertainty, with the numbers of poor steadily rising, there are lessons aplenty in the life of Harry Belafonte, as told in this surprising and revelatory book." --Wil Haygood, Washington Post " . . . engrossing autobiographical account of a life devoted in equal parts to entertainment and social causes. My Song is rich with vivid scenes of Belafonte working as an adviser, mediator, fundraiser and implementer with such players as John and Robert Kennedy and King." --Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle

"Here is a gorgeous account of the large life of a Harlem boy . . . Scenes of extravagant waste, scenes of righteous anger--rich contradictions abound--with little attempt to explain them away, a mark of the honest autobiographer." --Garrison Keillor, New York Times Book Review

"Absorbing . . ." --Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, New York "To read Harry Belafonte's new memoir, My Song, is to discover a man who has packed enough life for 10 people into 84 years." --"Morning Edition," NPR

"Somewhere amid the accounts of when he became the first artist to sell a million copies of an album, the first black leading actor to romance a white leading actress in a major Hollywood film, and the man who was asked to help pick out the clothes that Martin Luther King Jr. would be buried in, you realize just how extraordinary Harry Belafonte's life has been. If Belafonte had simply pursued one strand of that life - the immensely popular singer, the Tony Award-winning actor, the powerful political and social activist - it would have made fascinating material for a book. That he managed to cram all three into his 84 years makes My Song, his captivating memoir written with Michael Shnayerson, not only a sometimes exhausting chronicle of Belafonte's own story but an intriguing look at US history from the late '40s to the present. . . . One of the book's triumphs involves the way Belafonte and Shnayerson manage to capture Belafonte's distinctive voice . . . You can almost hear him narrate the story in his stately rasp." --Sarah Rodman, The Boston Globe

"Bracingly opinionated autobiography from an American original, still provocative in his ninth decade." --Kirkus (starred)




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About the Paperback

Publisher Vintage
Publish date 11/13/2012
Pages 469
ISBN-13 9780307473424
ISBN-10 0307473422
Language English