In "Giving It All Away," author Michael Zitz examines the life of Doris Buffett -- Warren Buffett's older sister -- from growing up with an emotional abusive mother to donating more than $100 million to support women and children in need.
Warren Buffett wrote the forward for the book.
Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
When Doris was twelve, she locked herself in a closet. "I won't remember this when I'm forty," she kept whispering to herself, crying. Outside the door, her mother, Leila Buffett, continued one of a lifelong series of tirades which would sometimes go on for two hours. "She was never happy 'til I was sobbing," Doris said.
One of Leila's favorite themes was Doris' supposed stupidity. Over and over, she would mock her by punctuating insults with "Duh!"
Leila would also make her son, Warren, cry. As a young boy, he said he often felt the urge to protect his older sister. "But I never did, because I was afraid of becoming the target myself." Once he ran away from home to escape her rants.
"Her fury would come 'in spurts,' he said, "minute by minute. She would really lay into Doris or me. We had a mutual aid society." He chuckles about it now, downplaying it. But Warren told his first wife Susie that he was surprised Doris didn't end up in a mental institution because of the abuse.
And when Warren and Doris were in their late twenties, they went to visit their father, Howard Buffett, to ask for his help in ending decades of emotional abuse by their mother. "She has to let up on us or we're moving away," they told him. Howard must've said something, because Leila toned it down for a while.
When Doris was born, on February 12, 1928, her grandparents "went nuts," she said. "They wanted to declare it a national holiday." But it was a difficult delivery for Leila, who developed an infection and almost died.
Some later believed that she developed postpartum depression. "It was a long postpartum," Doris joked. "It ended with her death." Decades later, Doris came to the conclusion that her mother may have suffered from bipolar disorder, because she would tear into her oldest daughter at the kitchen table for an hour, then smile and say pleasantly, "I'm glad we had this discussion."
Leila was a pretty, petite and vivacious woman with brown hair and green eyes.
"And as my father said, she could make more friends than he could lose," Doris remembered. "It was always fun to watch her work her way across a room, because she was a born campaigner." When her husband Howard was elected to Congress, Leila worked tirelessly in his office on Capitol Hill, typing letters for no pay, "and she enjoyed that."
Leila was so well-liked that when she was sixty-five she got sixty-five birthday cards, Doris recalled. One of Doris' grandsons, Alexander Buffett Rozek, recalls Leila as a sweet great-grandmother. He treasures a picture of himself as a child standing next to Leila, who was a good enough sport in her nineties to don a dark cape and Darth Vader helmet and mask to amuse Alex, a Star Wars fan.
Warren doesn't believe his mother was bipolar. "There were periods she would attribute to neuralgia. I think they refer to it now as migraines. But I think my mother did have terrible headaches, and how much of these periods of extreme criticism and extended berating of us would be attributable to that would be hard to tell."