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Barbra Streisand Autobiography: Unfiltered Review

A career against misogyny and anti-Semitism: Singer and actress Barbra Streisand has published her memoirs at the age of 81.

Barbara Streisand in profile, black and white photo

Barbara Streisand in an undated photo from the 1960s Photo: Everett Collection/imago

Once you reach a certain age, the weight of events shifts from the future to the past: what has already happened gradually becomes more important than what could still happen. For many, this seems to be the right time for an autobiography. Apparently the now 81-year-old had Barbra Streisand ten years ago she started writing hers, writing down her long, eventful and highly musical life – but back then she was still too busy with acting, singing and producing.

She found the time during Corona. A lot of time: “My name is Barbra”, the first autobiography of the Brooklyn-born artist after several unauthorized biographies, is so heavy at over 900 pages that the book shouldn’t be thrown at anyone.

Although sometimes you would like to do that while reading. Not because Barbra’s impressively meticulous memoirs, which begin in the abject poverty of a one-bed apartment, are inherently boring, not at all.

She is called a seasick ferret

In the prologue of her memoirs, the actress and singer, who comes from a Jewish family, furiously sums up all the misogyny she experienced, all the terrible anti-Semitism, all the offending lookism, when she lists the terms with which she was referred to at the beginning of her career: As lovable anteater, as a seasick ferret, as a short-sighted gazelle. “Sometimes I felt like my nose was getting more press than me,” she writes laconically.

How much they resented the insults that she had to endure as an ambitious, incredibly talented, but not attractive enough “Jewish girl” according to the strict, heteronormative rules, and how strongly this evoked the desire for a different, glamorous stage life, is the starting point for their unfiltered, mostly but not always chronological, comprehensive review.

“Sometimes I felt like my nose was getting more press than I was,” she writes

There are exciting images that awaken a longing for an early 60s New York filled with retro clubs and beehives – when Barbra, for example, remembers her first engagements as an 18-year-old in gay clubs and indulges in second-hand clothing finds, describes silver-colored velvet dresses, which she snags in thrift stores and proudly presents on plush stages, wearing olive green Papagello heels.

Her comments on the music, on the songs with which she began her career, especially “A Sleepin’ Bee”, lyrics by Truman Capote, music by Harold Arlen, are also loving and atmospheric.

Difficult mother-daughter relationship

Her difficult relationship with her mother, who, after her father’s early death – he died when Barbra was 15 months old – married a penniless man who “didn’t care about children,” as Barbra writes, also runs through the whole thing as a never-fulfilled love desire Book. Because there was never a rapprochement between the callous mother and her loud-talking, defiant, outrageously self-confident daughter.

But after a few chapters full of meandering, steamy memories, full of almost unseemly name-dropping, the first signs of fatigue appear. Because the stories, peppered with many confusing first names, as different in terms of personality and content, lack any kind of suspense and always follow the same pattern: Barbra wants something (a new engagement, a role on Broadway, a role in the film , a man) that no one believes she can do.

But it shows how great she is. And although she of course never expects it, those involved fall on her neck and at her feet in astonishment and write down their admiration as a letter or message. Countless similar expressions of love run through the book.

Redford thought she was “beautiful”

Robert Redford, with whom she starred in “The Way We Were” in 1973, writes: “I thought she was beautiful. I still think she’s beautiful. This beauty is comprehensive and she is talented.” Omar Sharif, who played “Nicky Arnstein” in her 1968 film debut “Funny Girl” about the vaudeville artist Fanny Brice, writes: “I don’t think I love anyone else in the film business as much as I love Barbra Streisand.”

Bill Clinton, whom she became friends with in the early 1990s, writes: “I am grateful that she directed, produced and starred in these great films.” Henry Fonda, who saw her in the stage version of “Funny Girl,” writes: “I send my children to learn from you. You are beautiful. I love you.” Frank Sinatra: “Singing with you was a dream come true.”

Inferiority complexes and megalomania

And although all of that is certainly true – the feelings of their partners, the fantastic talent, the voice, the beauty, and the reason for all the blunt and undoubted self-congratulation also makes sense from a psychological point of view, namely the classic mix of inferiority complexes instilled early on and the resulting consequences Megalomania, it becomes clear: Sometimes, even with divas, ghostwriters who separate the important from the unimportant, have a dramaturgy in mind and protect authors from redundancy and vanity might be an advantage.

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