Handbook for an Unpredictable Life by Rosie Perez – Book Review


From the Cover of Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother and Still Came Out Smiling (With Great Hair) by Rosie Perez:

“Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez’s never-before-told story of surviving a harrowing childhood and of how she found success—both in and out of the Hollywood limelight.

Rosie Perez first caught our attention with her fierce dance in the title sequence of Do the Right Thing and has since defined herself as a funny and talented actress who broke boundaries for Latinas in the film industry. What most people would be surprised to learn is that the woman with the big, effervescent personality has a secret straight out of a Dickens novel. At the age of three, Rosie’s life was turned upside down when her mentally ill mother tore her away from the only family she knew and placed her in a Catholic children’s home in New York’s Westchester County. Thus began her crazily discombobulated childhood of being shuttled between “the Home,” where she and other kids suffered all manners of cruelty from nuns, and various relatives’ apartments in Brooklyn.

Many in her circumstances would have been defined by these painful experiences, but with the intense determination that became her trademark, Rosie overcame the odds and made an incredible life for herself. She brings her journey vividly to life on each page of this memoir—from the vibrant streets of Brooklyn to her turbulent years in the Catholic home, and finally to the early days of her career on film and TV sets and the LA and New York City hip-hop scenes of the 1980s and ’90s.

More than a page-turning read, Handbook for an Unpredictable Life is a story of survival. By turns heartbreaking and funny, it is ultimately the inspirational story of a woman who has found a hard-won place of strength and peace.”



Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 3 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

What I Thought:


I found this to be an interesting and heartrending book in which I learned so much about Rosie Perez and the long, difficult road she had to adulthood and success. Reading this book, caregivers can easily create a long list of ways not to behave towards traumatized children, and it’s possible there may be clues we can glean as to how to help our own children overcome the effects of abuse, neglect, or trauma.

Rosie writes in a very conversational tone as if sitting down talking with a girlfriend. I found myself drawn back to the book to keep reading what happened next, and while much of the content was very heavy, she kept it lighthearted. I will say that I had hoped this would be a good book for a middle school or high school child to pick up to read about a celebrity who overcame incredible trauma, but the content and language could be very inappropriate and triggering. I would love to see her write a book tailored more to a younger, adolescent audience!

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It’s Your Turn:

  1. What part of Rosie’s story surprised you the most?
  2. Can you relate to Rosie’s life in any way?
  3. Have any of the children in your home (past or present) had similar experiences?
  4. Is there anything about Rosie’s story and her path that may change the way you parent?
  5. Are there any clues in this book as to how to help children who have experienced trauma overcome and succeed?


What do you think?

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