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The Pursuit of Happyness
Cover of The Pursuit of Happyness
The Pursuit of Happyness
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The astounding yet true rags-to-riches saga of a homeless father who raised and cared for his son on the mean streets of San Francisco and went on to become a crown prince of Wall Street

At the age of twenty, Milwaukee native Chris Gardner, just out of the Navy, arrived in San Francisco to pursue a promising career in medicine. Considered a prodigy in scientific research, he surprised everyone and himself by setting his sights on the competitive world of high finance. Yet no sooner had he landed an entry-level position at a prestigious firm than Gardner found himself caught in a web of incredibly challenging circumstances that left him as part of the city's working homeless and with a toddler son. Motivated by the promise he made to himself as a fatherless child to never abandon his own children, the two spent almost a year moving among shelters, "HO-tels," soup lines, and even sleeping in the public restroom of a subway station.

Never giving in to despair, Gardner made an astonishing transformation from being part of the city's invisible poor to being a powerful player in its financial district.

More than a memoir of Gardner's financial success, this is the story of a man who breaks his own family's cycle of men abandoning their children. Mythic, triumphant, and unstintingly honest, The Pursuit of Happyness conjures heroes like Horatio Alger and Antwone Fisher, and appeals to the very essence of the American Dream.

The astounding yet true rags-to-riches saga of a homeless father who raised and cared for his son on the mean streets of San Francisco and went on to become a crown prince of Wall Street

At the age of twenty, Milwaukee native Chris Gardner, just out of the Navy, arrived in San Francisco to pursue a promising career in medicine. Considered a prodigy in scientific research, he surprised everyone and himself by setting his sights on the competitive world of high finance. Yet no sooner had he landed an entry-level position at a prestigious firm than Gardner found himself caught in a web of incredibly challenging circumstances that left him as part of the city's working homeless and with a toddler son. Motivated by the promise he made to himself as a fatherless child to never abandon his own children, the two spent almost a year moving among shelters, "HO-tels," soup lines, and even sleeping in the public restroom of a subway station.

Never giving in to despair, Gardner made an astonishing transformation from being part of the city's invisible poor to being a powerful player in its financial district.

More than a memoir of Gardner's financial success, this is the story of a man who breaks his own family's cycle of men abandoning their children. Mythic, triumphant, and unstintingly honest, The Pursuit of Happyness conjures heroes like Horatio Alger and Antwone Fisher, and appeals to the very essence of the American Dream.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    Candy

    In my memory's sketch of early childhood, drawn by an artist of the impressionist school, there is one image that stands out above the rest -- which when called forth is preceded by the mouth-watering aroma of pancake syrup warming in a skillet and the crackling, bubbling sounds of the syrup transforming magically into homemade pull candy. Then she comes into view, the real, real pretty woman who stands at the stove, making this magic just for me.

    Or at least, that's how it feels to a boy of three years old. There is another wonderful smell that accompanies her presence as she turns, smiling right in my direction, as she steps closer to where I stand in the middle of the kitchen -- waiting eagerly next to my sister, seven-year-old Ophelia, and two of the other children, Rufus and Pookie, who live in this house. As she slips the cooling candy off the wooden spoon, pulling and breaking it into pieces that she brings and places in my outstretched hand, as she watches me happily gobbling up the tasty sweetness, her wonderful fragrance is there again. Not perfume or anything floral or spicy -- it's just a clean, warm, good smell that wraps around me like a Superman cape, making me feel strong, special, and loved -- even if I don't have words for those concepts yet.

    Though I don't know who she is, I sense a familiarity about her, not only because she has come before and made candy in this same fashion, but also because of how she looks at me -- like she's talking to me from her eyes, saying, You remember me, don't you?

    At this point in childhood, and for most of the first five years of my life, the map of my world was broken strictly into two territories -- the familiar and the unknown. The happy, safe zone of the familiar was very small, often a shifting dot on the map, while the unknown was vast, terrifying, and constant.

    What I did know by the age of three or four was that Ophelia was my older sister and best friend, and also that we were treated with kindness by Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, the adults whose house we lived in. What I didn't know was that the Robinsons' house was a foster home, or what that meant. Our situation -- where our real parents were and why we didn't live with them, or why we sometimes did live with uncles and aunts and cousins -- was as mysterious as the situations of the other foster children living at the Robinsons'.

    What mattered most was that I had a sister who looked out for me, and I had Rufus and Pookie and the other boys to follow outside for fun and mischief. All that was familiar, the backyard and the rest of the block, was safe turf where we could run and play games like tag, kick-the-can, and hide-and-seek, even after dark. That is, except, for the house two doors down from the Robinsons.

    Every time we passed it I had to almost look the other way, just knowing the old white woman who lived there might suddenly appear and put an evil curse on me -- because, according to Ophelia and everyone else in the neighborhood, the old woman was a witch.

    When Ophelia and I passed by the house together once and I confessed that I was scared of the witch, my sister said, "I ain't scared," and to prove it she walked right into the front yard and grabbed a handful of cherries off the woman's cherry tree.

    Ophelia ate those cherries with a smile. But within the week I was in the Robinsons' house when here came Ophelia, racing up the steps and stumbling inside, panting and holding her seven-year-old chest, describing how the witch had caught her stealing cherries and grabbed her arm, cackling, "I'm gonna get you!"

About the Author-
  • Chris Gardner is the Chief Executive of Gardner Rich & Company, a multimillion-dollar brokerage with offices in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. An avid philanthropist and motivational speaker, Gardner is committed to many organizations—particularly those related to education—and was recently the recipient of the "Father of the Year Award" from the National Fatherhood Initiative. A Milwaukee native, Gardner has two children and resides in Chicago and New York.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 6, 2006
    Gardner chronicles his long, painful, ultimately rewarding journey from inner-city Milwaukee to the pinnacle of Wall Street. Born in 1954, he grew up like too many young blacks: poor and fatherless, with a mother strong on children and church, yet soft on men. His violent, hateful stepfather refused to accept Gardner as a stepson and thwarted him at every turn. By his own account, Gardner was a good kid who got into trouble occasionally, but stayed on a steady, upward track. After a stint in the navy, he set his sights on a medical career, but a foray into sales led him to the stock and bond market. Gardner's own weakness was women, and when one of them left him with a son, it led to a period of homelessness on the San Francisco streets. Determination and resourcefulness brought father and son not merely to safety but to the top. Gardner is honest and thorough as he solidly depicts growing up black and male in late 20th-century urban America. His story isn't especially fresh, but his voice is likable, resulting in a quality African-American/business memoir deserving a wider audience than its niche-market elements might suggest. Photos. Ad/promo to coincide with the major motion picture starring Will Smith.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 10, 2006
    Gardner's inspiring rags-to-riches memoir of his transformation from homeless single father to philanthropic owner of a multimillion-dollar brokerage house somehow has less of an impact in audio than on paper. Blake has an excellent, manly voice, perfect intonation and excellent streetwise cursing abilities (a crucial part of Gardner's account of his relationship with his stepfather). Yet as good as the narrator is, by the third CD listeners may not be able to shake the feeling that he's an actor reading someone else's words. Since Gardner's love of jazz is a running theme, the evocative jazz trumpet music at the beginning and end of each CD is appropriate; even more between-tracks music might have been effective where the narrator's pauses are not long or dramatic enough (say, between one sentence where he is with his biological father in Louisiana and the next, at work in his brokerage office). This is a moving story whose audio version might have been better served with more dramatic devices. Simultaneous release with Amistad hardcover. (Reviews, Mar. 6)

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