cover image My Name Is Barbra

My Name Is Barbra

Barbra Streisand. Viking, $47 (962p) ISBN 978-0-5254-2952-4

Streisand’s long-anticipated debut memoir doesn’t disappoint. Utilizing her own journals, her mother’s scrapbooks, and interviews with colleagues and friends, the decorated singer and actor delivers a thoroughly enjoyable survey of her life and career that—even at nearly 1,000 pages—never overstays its welcome. Streisand begins with her teenage adventures fleeing her emotionally distant mother and stepfather’s Brooklyn apartment for Manhattan, where she and a friend went to see Broadway plays and where she eventually moved and got her first taste of showbiz success singing in nightclubs. From there, she dives deep into her key projects and famous relationships, writing of being booted off the Billboard top two by the Beatles (“Their sound was sensational, so I had no complaints”), developing stage fright during her star-making turn in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, and falling in love with leading men from Elliott Gould to James Brolin. The tone throughout is delightfully garrulous, often verging on conspiratorial: Streisand offers detailed descriptions of not only who she rubbed elbows with, but what everyone ate, what they wore, how the room was decorated, and what she really thought about it all (at one point, she returns a dress Phyllis Diller bought her so she can use the money to purchase fabric for a custom design). That combination of fastidiousness and looseness, mixed with Streisand’s natural humor, makes for a deliriously entertaining autobiography that gathers heft from the sheer breadth of its author’s experiences and achievements. This is a gift. (Nov.)