Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush Natasha Mozgovaya
Condoleezza Rice with George W. Bush Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya
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Since leaving her role as the U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, 55, has pretty much disappeared from the public eye. She declines most requests for interviews, and admits that she's relieved to watch news on television, without needing to rush and react.

She has returned to work at Stanford University and she's currently helping the campaign of Meg Whitman, the Republican hopeful for the California governorship.

Rice's new book, "Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me" deals with her parents, John and Angelina, and her journey to the political leadership of the United States, while avoiding such controversial issues as the Iraq war.

This is the first of two volumes planned by Rice.

Since the book ends long before the Annapolis Conference, Israel is only mentioned once, in a short passage describing the meeting between Rice's family and the family of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Denver, Colorado.

"One of our neighbors was an Israeli family," writes Rice. "Benzion Netanyahu, a professor of Hebraic studies, taught in the Department of Religion, giving him and my father common interests. The Netanyahus had three sons but only one was young enough to live at home. Their oldest son, Bibi, was in college, and their middle son was serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Our families shared what I now understand to have been a Seder meal during the Passover holiday. Many years later when Bibi Netanyahu was elected prime minister of Israel for the first time, my father reminded me of this example of far less than six degrees of separation. I still send greetings to Professor Netanyahu when I see his son."

Although the book describes difficult moments in her life and career, it is interspersed with lighter moments in the White House, such as when former president George H. W. Bush received a huge cake from representatives of the Soviet baking cooperative.

Rice writes that the cake arrived in crumbles and half-eaten by bugs, but that in order to avoid a diplomatic incident, she had to stage a festive White House photo with the cake before throwing it out.

She writes about her first meeting in the Oval Office, when she forgot her notes and had an overall sense of "Condi in Wonderland."

Rice also describes her childhood in the American South, during times of racial segregation. She writes about the education she received from her parents, both educators, who instilled in her the belief that she could accomplish anything, despite the condition of African Americans in the U.S.

She discusses her years as a wunderkind, playing the piano, excelling at sports and skipping grades. Rice also writes about a romantic relationship she had with a football player in college. She says she never married because she never found anyone that she wanted to commit to and live with, and that she was not interested in entering into a bad marriages, as had happened to many of her acquaintances.

The memoir ends with the death of her father and her appointment as national security advisor to the Bush administration, several months before the September 11 terror attacks.

The job, writes Rice, was not always as enticing as it seemed from the outside.