Born Along the Racial Fault Line

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2012-01-01 02:22Z by Steven

Born Along the Racial Fault Line

The New York Times

Janet Maslin

My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir By Mark Whitaker. Illustrated. 357 pages. Simon & Schuster.

As a social studies major in his junior year at Harvard, Mark Whitaker attended a debate on the subject of ethnicity. One participant was the chairman of the department. Mr. Whitaker stood up to raise some questions.

“What would you tell someone who didn’t have a clear ethnic identity?” he asked. “For example, what would you tell someone who had one parent who was black and another who was white? Who had one parent who was American and another who was European? Who had moved dozens of times as a child and didn’t have a specific place to call home?” Everyone in the room knew that Mr. Whitaker was talking about himself.

“I guess I would say that that’s too bad,” the professor answered. “In the future I hope we don’t have too many more people like you.”

Mr. Whitaker recounts this story in “My Long Trip Home,” a book filled with as much family tumult as Jeannette Walls described in “The Glass Castle” and a racial factor to boot. It’s a story that registers not only for its shock value but also for the perspective and wisdom with which it can now be told…

Read the entire review here.

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“My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir,” by Mark Whitaker [Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2011-10-19 23:50Z by Steven

“My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir,” by Mark Whitaker

The Washington Post

Jonathan Yardley, Critic

Now in his mid-50s, Mark Whitaker has had an impressive journalistic career. Fresh out of Harvard in the late 1970s, he went to work at Newsweek and rose steadily through various assignments, eventually becoming its editor. In 2006 he moved to NBC, at first as “the number two executive in the news division,” then as chief of its Washington bureau. Now he is executive vice president and managing editor of CNN Worldwide, an immensely influential position given that CNN reaches into almost every nook and cranny of the world.

All of which makes for quite a resume, but it also makes for the least interesting part of “My Long Trip Home,” Whitaker’s memoir. It’s worth reading because it’s a thoughtful account of growing up bi-racial at a point in this country’s history when racial identities are in flux and when people of mixed race are ever more common…

…“My Long Trip Home” is not a confessional memoir of the sort so popular these days, especially among younger memoirists who have nothing to confess except the cruelties allegedly inflicted upon them by others or simply by life itself. For the most part Whitaker’s tone is objective, almost reportorial, which permits the reader to see his story clearly rather than through the mists of hyperventilated emotion. It’s a good book.

Read the entire review here.

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My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2011-08-17 04:34Z by Steven

My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir

Simon and Schuster
October 2011
368 pages
Hardcover ISBN-10: 1451627548; ISBN-13: 9781451627541
eBook ISBN-10: 1451627564; ISBN-13: 9781451627565

Mark Whitaker

In a dramatic, moving work of historical reporting and personal discovery, Mark Whitaker, award-winning journalist, sets out to trace the story of what happened to his parents, a fascinating but star-crossed interracial couple, and arrives at a new understanding of the family dramas that shaped their lives—and his own.

His father, “Syl” Whitaker, was the charismatic grandson of slaves who grew up the child of black undertakers from Pittsburgh and went on to become a groundbreaking scholar of Africa. His mother, Jeanne Theis, was a shy World War II refugee from France whose father, a Huguenot pastor, helped hide thousands of Jews from the Nazis and Vichy police. They met in the mid-1950s, when he was a college student and she was his professor, and they carried on a secret romance for more than a year before marrying and having two boys. Eventually they split in a bitter divorce that was followed by decades of unhappiness as his mother coped with self-recrimination and depression while trying to raise her sons by herself, and his father spiraled into an alcoholic descent that destroyed his once meteoric career.

Based on extensive interviews and documentary research as well as his own personal recollections and insights, My Long Trip Home is a reporter’s search for the factual and emotional truth about a complicated and compelling family, a successful adult’s exploration of how he rose from a turbulent childhood to a groundbreaking career, and, ultimately, a son’s haunting meditation on the nature of love, loss, identity, and forgiveness.

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