Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

Life Beyond Measure – Letters to My Great-Granddaughter, by Sidney Poitier

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Life Beyond Measure, by Sidney Poitier(Harperone; Reprint edition (April 20 2009)

While I was reading Sidney Poitier’s memoir, it was as if he were talking to me in his velvety voice with his pristine pronunciation.

Poitier is a film industry icon for breaking the race barrier in film and theatre during the Civil Rights Era, and for his acting accomplishments. The memoir consists of letters to his great-granddaughter, Ayele, about life’s philosophical questions, interspersed with references to his film and diplomatic career. Through his dignified and candid writing we learn that Poitier attributes his success to his unyielding determination to survive and succeed, the love of his family and the surprising kindness of strangers, and that he has never forgotten his humble beginnings, even though he is now Sir Sidney Poitier.


On 14 February 2016, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts granted Sidney Poitier its highest honour, the Bafta Fellowship. In a special moment of gravitas and depth of feeling during a night full of flash and bravado, Sir Sidney received the award from ardent admirer, Jamie Foxx, and Poitier’s daughter Sydney Tamiia Poitier, at his Los Angeles home.  He could not go to London for the Baftas – he is after all 88 years old – but in the same tone as that in which he writes, he graciously thanked the Academy:

“Today my cup runneth over because I am here with my daughter and the future filmmakers of the world in celebration of this wonderful art form. To my family, my life force, I am nothing without you. And all of you, thank you for your warm embrace and this extraordinary moment and memory I shall cherish.”

He sounded, as always, beautiful, and though he looked frail, he stood with a straight back and an elegant stance. I had to remind myself that this was the man who had started in the film industry practically penniless and almost illiterate.

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