Rosie Perez's Handbook for an Unpredictable Life

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rosie Perez shares her story of growing up in Bushwick, being placed in a children’s home by her mentally ill mother at the age of 3, and how she found her way to acting. She writes about it in her memoir, Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair).

Asked about how Brooklyn has changed since she was a kid, and Spike Lee’s recent criticism of gentrification, she said: “I think it’s good and bad. It’s great that it’s safer. It’s great that it improved. But it’s bad because a lot of the people who have been there from the beginning are not allowed to participate in all of that. They don’t have the money to do so. Also, when they step out of their house now, they’re judged constantly by the gentrifiers, the hipsters. Um, I’ve seen hipsters move across the street if they see someone Puerto Rican or Dominican or black come down the street – and it’s, it’s so sad.

"I read about Spike’s rant – and you know, he’s kind of right. He’s kind of right. You know people say, ‘Oh well, New York changes all the time.’ The city changes all the time. The boroughs have always been slow to change. If you go to Woodhaven, it still looks like the opening credits to All in the Family, it’s still Archie Bunker Land. And so, just I wished that people would respect that, just a little bit."

She concluded: "We all need to come together and stop fighting and try to make it work so that everybody gets a piece of the new pie that’s placed on the counter."


Rosie Perez

Comments [20]

Chris m

I was in st joes with you rosie perez. I've read your book and found it very compelling. The book brought back a lot of memories good and bad. I am very proud of you. Thank you for being a voice for us.

May. 11 2014 05:58 PM
Dee from Hyde Park, New York

Sarah Miller, it is the same Rosie Perez. All of my siblings graduated from Roosevelt and she was in my brother's Home Room Class. He said she always talked about becoming a dancer.

Mar. 30 2014 02:16 PM
Adrian from Bethesda

Suggest recipes be placed in the back of the book on all the delicious meals Tia made. Also, the fate of all Lydia's children - I.e. Terry mother of 2, married and working as account (suggestion ).

Mar. 28 2014 06:34 PM

Um, Rosie, I am a white man born and raised in New York, NY who absolutely, positively LOVES Puerto Rican and Dominican women (including ones who look like you :) who I find to be friendlier, more approachable, and better put together physically than hipsterettes.

Mar. 03 2014 06:29 AM

Ed from Larchmont - what's your view of the monstrous, child-abusing Sister Renata? Does Bach's faith make up for her evil?

Feb. 26 2014 04:28 PM

@ashish - I'm not sure why you are even questioning the truth in her having hardships. It's truly a shame, and this is why SO many people are fearful in telling their story. Just because the 80's were dangerous and frightful for you, doesn't mean the rest of us let it it hinder our ability to live. Have some compassion for the fact that she is even telling her story. Obviously, the "favorite daughter" you speak of wanted to tell her own story, not the story you put your stamp of approval on.

Feb. 26 2014 02:50 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I've read that having 1 adult in their life who treats them right & is supportive can help an abused child cope w/what they're going through. I wonder if Ms. Perez's aunt was that person for her. In any case, I'm glad she made it through & overcame so much!

Feb. 26 2014 01:59 PM
ivan obregon from manhattan

you're far from being the only one even if the only one who knows sometimes.

Feb. 26 2014 01:54 PM
Mark from Newark

I LOVE Rosie's laugh. She's an amazing woman.

Feb. 26 2014 01:47 PM
Me from NYC

Not to knock the big big bookstore behemoth in the city, but really digging that Rosie is speaking at at the Indie bookstores!!
I hope this sparks a trend among authors not to overlook the smaller bookstores serving the community in more ways than the big big chain-stores could ever begin to understand.

Feb. 26 2014 01:45 PM
john from office


Spike Lee moved becasue he had to sell his home to make a dollar, no recent film success.

Feb. 26 2014 01:43 PM
ashish from nyc

from her previous interviews you get the sense that she was the favorite daughter of her neighborhood & family . so im not sure why shes taking this angle as if shes had a lot of hardships to over come . & she often annoyingly extolls the virtues of new york in the 1980s , same new york i remember being very dangerous & not so great to live in but which she describes something like a paradise

Feb. 26 2014 01:40 PM
lisa from harlem

Rosie is also a beautiful theater actress-I saw her on broadway in a revival of Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune...she was exquisite,I saw the original with Kathy Bates-brava!

Feb. 26 2014 01:37 PM
Cupcake from Brooklyn, NY

The only exposure I have had to Ms. Perez is when she sat in for Leonard. I found her to be a very thoughtful and interesting interviewer and look forward to her substituting again in the future.

Feb. 26 2014 01:31 PM
William from Manhattan

Ms. Perez is a brilliant actor (unforgettable performances in every role I've seen her play) and remarkably civic-minded New Yorker - the very model of a socially aware artist. I can't wait to read her book - I'll order from my local independent bookstore (Book Culture) today!

Feb. 26 2014 01:30 PM
Dorothy from Manhattan

I too survived the nuns -- no corporal punishment, but lots of angry and hateful ladies.

It used to be that girls entered the convent after 8th grade and some families couldn't afford to keep the girls. Remember that Catholic families (no matter how poor) had lots of kids, often more than they could support. This was a respectable place for a family to send one or more daughters and it was something of an honor to have children in the religious life.

I haven't forgiven them, but I feel I understand "where they were coming from."

Feb. 26 2014 01:28 PM
Jeff from The Office

Memo to John .....

She has written a book that just might help some people

Feb. 26 2014 01:20 PM
Sarah Miller from Manhattan

I am certain that Rosie went to my high school for a year or two at Roosevelt High School, Hyde Park, NY. Can she confirm that and possibly speak about her experience there?

Feb. 26 2014 01:13 PM
john from Office

Paris Hilton is coming on next to talk about leading a noble life.

Whose next?

Ms. Perez is a reasonable actress, but worthy of an interview?? I am not sure.

Feb. 26 2014 01:00 PM
oscar from ny

I actually met ms Perez thru Mr Lopate..we actually had a little chat and she's really cute..her voice though.. Sounds like she's chewing bubble gum..that day I remember I saw Mr Lopate, Mr Close and!!
Ps: I think Rosie was on medication that day he he he

Feb. 26 2014 12:36 PM

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