How does a young black woman growing up in the turbulent South during the 1960s become one of the world's most prominent women in academia and government? The answer to that question is the underlying theme of Condi, and Antonia Felix uses the threads of Condoleezza's life to weave them into a beautiful biography. Felix makes excellent use of quotations from contemporary publications as well as statements obtained from interviews to demonstrate the reasons for Rice's rise to prominence. Rice's biography is focused on Rice's childhood, family, and academic pursuits that led her to the important role in government in which she is now cast, and it is a story that people should read. Felix moves her story along nicely, and even for readers who want a quick overview of Rice's life without considering the book for its depth, I highly recommend it.
Felix describes Condoleezza as self-disciplined, competitive, and highly motivated. To support this position, Felix draws on the influence Rice's parents had on her during her early childhood days in Birmingham, Alabama, where blacks attended segregated schools and were subjected to the unwritten Jim Crow laws that regulated their standards of behavior with the white citizenry. Felix describes Condoleezza's middle-class parents as people who encouraged her to believe she could reach whatever goals she set for herself while trying to shield her from the violence and unrest in her segregated city. Rice was never taught that she was inferior or had less intellectual ability because she was black, and she seems to have thrived on her desire to achieve–a concept that her parents implanted in her thinking when she was quite young–and a concept that Felix believes resulted in Rice's self discipline and motivation that ultimately propelled her into the academic limelight throughout her educational career–both as a student and as Provost at Stanford.
Rice's parents provided their daughter with cultural advantages and supported her in each endeavor that she undertook. Condoleezza was introduced to the piano at an early age and continued to study it until she was in college, when she realized she would always be a talented pianist but not a great one. Although an accomplished pianist today, Rice, when deciding not to continue studying piano, made a decision that ultimately thrust her into the political arena more than once in her life. According to Felix, Rice made her decision to discontinue her pursuit of a professional mucic career while she was enrolled in the University of Denver and that Rice had an "undeclared" major until she enrolled in her first international politics class–a subject area she wanted to know more about and a subject area that fit nicely with her aptitude for languages.
Condi is also interesting because Felix describes events and people surrounding Condoleezza and the influence they had on her life. One example involves the discussion of Josef Korbel, her first professor in the international politics area–and the father of Madeleine Albright. Felix also enlightens the reader on the similarities between Rice and Albright and discuss the professional relationships and personal friendship with the Bush families.
As the events of September 11, 2001, unfold, Rice is making history. Her role as National Security Advisor is a visible role in American government and world politics. Condi describes Rice's role in the world scene, her perception of what that role is, and an explanation of how her background and qualifications propelled her into the spotlight she is in today.