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Don't Block the Blessings By Patti La Belle, with Laura B. To my surprise, La Belle told me she was 50, adding that she'd never been embarrassed to tell her age to a journalist. La Belle had three sisters, all of whom died of cancer while they were in their 40s. Throughout her book, La Belle writes of them all with tenderness, wondering constantly if she had been a good enough sister or daughter, wondering if she had neglected them in her obsessive quest for music stardom.

Randolph Riverhead Books, 305 pages, .95When I interviewed Patti La Belle more than two years ago, I asked her how old she was. La Belle's verdict is that she had not done all she could for her family, and it seems that "Don't Block the Blessings" is therapeutic for her: She reveals her pain over the deaths and asks for her family's forgiveness at the same time.

When La Belle speaks of her husband, Armstead Edwards, and children, especially son Zuri (she also has several adopted adult children), her love comes to the forefront.

La Belle has built a huge following and a multifaceted career one fan at a time, and she continues the quest in her book.

There are tinges of both in this book, but what La Belle conveys more than that is a sense of forthrightness.

More often than not, what comes out in these pages is the real Patti La Belle. Her parents fought, often over her father's infidelities.

Of all the female R&B/soul stars out there, Patti La Belle isn't the best singer--although there are few who compare. When she's on stage, on TV, in the movies, or in the recording studio, La Belle always gives her all.

And in one of the most harrowing passages, she describes being sexually assaulted by soul singer Jackie Wilson and an accomplice at a theater in Brooklyn.

One of the funniest things about the book is Priscilla, La Belle's "mean, selfish" alter ego, which has gotten her into and out of trouble during different periods.

Instead of burying Priscilla, as other celebrities might do in their books, La Belle lets us know that she exists, and that she has done good and bad along the way.

She wants everyone to know that despite her often-tough life, she considers herself fortunate and blessed, and that there's always space in her huge heart for one more friend or fan.

As celebrity autobiographies go, "Don't Block the Blessings" is pretty forthcoming.

Often, celebrities take one of two approaches to their memoirs: Either they write florid, gushing prose about how wonderful they or their friends are, or they sobbingly reveal just what horrible childhoods they had and how they were irreparably damaged.


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