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Lessons in Becoming Myself

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  429 ratings  ·  66 reviews
By the time Ellen Burstyn arrived in New York to study acting, she'd already worked as a Texas fashion model, a Montreal chorus girl, suffered numerous toxic relationships, and just as many name changes and spiritual paths. Theater legend Moss Hart called her "a natural" but Ellen Burstyn was still trying discover who she was. This is the graceful story of a personal and p ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Riverhead Books
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Sep 21, 2007 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with an open mind that can appreciate the life lessons of another
Shelves: autobiography
This book was fantastic. I admire Ellen to be able to retell the life she has lived with such detail and candor. She really opened up with deeply personal issues and situations for all the world to read. She is just a regular person, trying to live her life like the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, she is able to reflect on her life realizing the spirituality in every moment, good and bad. In her writing, you can tell how discerning she was throughout her life. It seems very rare to come acros ...more
I didn't know what to expect from this book since I usually avoid autobiographies. I saw Ellen on Oprah while flipping channels and once I started listening, I found her highly intelligent and self-aware, so I got the book. Reading through it was an eye-opening experience. To see what Ellen went through, to see what she survived, created a strong female influence. She went through emotional, physical, professional hardships and aches. I think her story has someone everyone can relate to. If not ...more
An invitation to view a full, well lived life. I enjoyed Ms. Burstyn's memoir greatly. I am in awe of how one person can experience such hardships can still push forward in pursuit of dreams. This memoir taught me that our experiences don't have to crush our spirit, yet it can be used as a catalyst to teach us great lessons about lives and ourselves. I re read this book often.
I found the early years of Ellen's life (when she was still Edna) to be fascinating. She had a difficult home situation to overcome and she was determined to do so. Later, after she became a famous actress, as she focused on soul searching and exotic religions, I became less interested. I was disappointed that she didn't tell us more about her experiences in theatre and film.
Jennifer Burns
I have mixed feelings about this book. I was drawn to this book because of the title. I am always trying to find out who I really am.

Ellen Burstyn managed to write her life's work in 452 pages. That's no small feat.

Most of the book is deliciously interesting. I wasn't able to put it down. However several chapters were bone dry. They seems to chatter on about religious epiphanies and such. I just wanted to skim, quickly.

Nobody can fault her for putting her point of view down on paper, and everyth
There were parts of this memoir that I really enjoyed but overall there was a lot of detail about the plays and movies in which she acted in which I just wasn't interested. The book is heavy on her spiritual journey which I found interesting and from which I took away a few key ideas but it did have a tendency to be a little bit more "out there" than I could relate to in parts. My biggest issue was her description of how self-sabotaging she was and non-self-promoting when in fact each time she t ...more
I loved this book. Ellen's life was very difficult and complex with many struggles and adventures along the way. I always thought she was a great actress and I love knowing her story.
Dale Stonehouse
This was on my list for a long time, primarily because Burstyn struck a friendship with Buckminster Fuller, and to a lesser extent, Carlos Castaneda. Among the running themes of her life were mother issues, sexual abuse, feminist awakening, a few addictions here and there, and of course the accompanying search so many of us are primed for by those experiences. She talks about struggling with judgment, another type of reaching for control. But control is a tough one because how can one give up wh ...more
I love Ellen Burstyn's acting work, and this autobiography made me appreciate her even more. The first few chapters are written in present tense, which I thought was a great device for making her early experiences really pop and underscoring their importance in her later development. There is a lot of hardship to get through, but along the way you get the backstory on her stage and film work, and lots of tales of lumnaries of the acting world and the Actor's Studio. I enjoyed the book more for t ...more
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I saw her appear on a late-night re-run of Oprah promoting the book. For some reason I was very drawn to her, even though I've only seen a handful of movies she was in. But she presented herself well both on TV and in the book. She has quite the amazing memory. It's a long book, but never dull. I've since rented a lot of her movies and she truly is a talented actress. What I enjoyed most was her depiction of her spiritual journey in Sufism; visiting various temples, going up mountains for spirit ...more
This book surprised me. I thought I would get a typical actor's biography that focused mostly on movie roles and naming names. Instead she puts all her cards on the table from her mom's abuse to her husband's mental illness. She takes you on her spiritual journey as well which is something I rarely hear about from actors in their interviews. Burstyn is a survivor. Her acting is part of the story but it is only a fragment of all of the other experiences that have shaped who she is as a human bein ...more
I really enjoyed this memoir, because I think Burstyn is one of the greatest actresses ever. She had many horrible events occur in her personal life, which she bravely opens up about. It was neat to hear all of the behind the scenes tidbits from a lot of the movies that she worked on like The Exorcist, Requiem for a Dream, and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. She has a deeply spiritual side which comes out through much of her writing as she seeks "truth." Recommended for fans of movies, autobiog ...more
Denise Ervin
I learned a great many things reading this autobiography. One is that Ms. Burstyn is from Detroit and a fellow alum of Cass Technical High School. Two is that she has had a long and storied career as an actress. Three is that her troubled personal life has led her on a profound spiritual journey down the path of Sufism, a mystic form of Islam that fascinates me. Her life story, aside from having one of the most intriguing titles to date, is a inspirational piece that will leave the reader feelin ...more
Wren Andre
Loved it! I took away a lot from this book. It is not your typical "celebrity" memoir. It is brutally honest about a person's inner journey combined with their outer one. There were some surprising and shocking moments, and interesting revelations. For those who have an open mind, are inner seekers, and also like to hear trivia regarding a couple of the biggest classic films of the seventies (Exorcist, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), you will find this book compelling and difficult to put down ...more
I hate to give this book a low rating because it was a gift from wonderful Alexis. Ellen Burstyn is, indeed, a cool lady who has many stories to share about a terrible childhood and her experiences in Hollywood during a fantastic period in film. I struggled to feel interested in her spiritual journey, however; these sections of the book were either boring or uncomfortable. As the title suggests, this journey is the main focus of the work and so to have it be less than compelling is truly unfortu ...more
In this powerful story of a woman's search for a deeper understanding of herself, Ellen Burstyn explores the unexpected paths her life has taken in this unflinchingly honest, moving and inspirational memoir. For this podcast, Burstyn is interviewed by television critic-at-large and author, Greg Moody.

We met Ellen Burstyn when she visited the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. You can listen to her talk about Lessons in Becoming Myself here:
I have been giving 5 starts to all the actress autobiographies I have read so far. That's because all the ones I have read have just been incredible. I would have to say this one, though is by and far the best because Ellen Burstyn opens up about some deeply personal things that few women dare share. I was so moved. I actually first listened to this as an audiobook but loved it so much I bought a print copy and read it and then sent a copy to a friend, who also really enjoyed it.
After watching Ellen Burstyn in many films, I decided to read her story. What a fascinating life she has led. I found myself intrigued by her past and fell in love with her sense of self and acceptance of her childhood. This book was hard to put down and left me wanting to delve more into my spiritual side to find out my purpose in life. I highly recommend this book for anyone who questions their past and wants to move on with their life.
This is one of the best actor's biographies I've read. Burstyn has an amazing journey from childhood abuse to being under the thumb of the men in her life to her search for spirituality and meaning in her life. My only quibble is that more time is spent on the beginning and middle years than her later life, but that's small when I consider what she was willing to share.
WOW! I really enjoyed this book. So much so- I took notes. I saw her on Oprah and could tell she had some good stories to tell. The beginning is giving you her history/background so you see where she comes from. And then she gets into the knitty gritty. She really opens up and shares her wisdom with you. Very poignant. I highly recommend.
I read this book from cover to cover in 2 nights ! It is truly an actors manual and speaks to us on many levels. Her honest and vivid words create a colorful and interesting story that is fun to follow. I read it on the subway to work once a month to help get me back in touch with myself. Go on Miss Burstyn !
Amazing autobiography from someone who is leading a brave life. It takes a serious commitment to personal honesty to be an actor and to practice spirituality. And to write an autobiography, for that matter. I love this woman's work, and I deeply admire this woman's life.
This was a fantastic book! I really enjoyed it. Ellen discusses her life, and the many struggles and successes, while taking the greatest journey a person can take - finding you true self. Its an amazing journey, and I found it inspiring and very poignant.
Amazing read. Ellen put a lot of effort and energy into understanding herself and the world around her and also into her acting career. I wish I would have seen more of her movies; unfortunately, I was not attracted to the type of movies she played in.
I listened to Ellen's narration of the abridged version. She overcame a tough childhood, and messed-up marriage, to become the celebrity she is today. Some might be turned off by the new-age aspect of her approach to life, but I found that the best part.
Sheri Goodwin
This book changed my life I read several times. You can feel her pain, her deep desire to find true meaning and.... your past does NOT define you.
Ellen Burstyn is amazing! I hope she is half the woman this book portrays her to be.
This is an amazing book about an amazing woman who has lived an amazing life. I became a huge fan of Ellen Burstyn. What an incredibly brave and insighful woman. She made her life an exploration of humanity. Not many people can say that.
amazing woman, amazing actress and i read this before i even knew she was going to be on oprah last year! (a b&n bargain book!) i give women like her who write so honestly about the abusive relationships they were so much credit!
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“That's when I understood deeply that with all my studies of other religions, basically I really am devoted to Jesus. I am not a church-going Christian, not a conventional one by most standards, but in my heart, Jesus is my guru.” 0 likes
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