An American Story and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy Used
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Withdrawn library copy with the usual markings and attachments. Ships direct from Amazon's warehouse. Pages are otherwise clean and reasonably crisp. Cover and dust jacket have moderate wear. Gift Wrapping and Expedited Shipping always available. Prime and Super Saver in place for eligible accounts.
Add to Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

An American Story Hardcover – September 19, 2000

See all 9 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$2.40 $0.01
Unknown Binding
"Please retry"

Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed


Hero Quick Promo
Browse in Books with Buzz and explore more details on the current pick, "The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee" by Marja Mills.

Product Details

  • Series: Pantheon
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (September 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037542069X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375420696
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,677,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Debra Dickerson's fiercely honest account of her journey from the black working class to the ivied halls of Harvard Law School couldn't be more aptly titled. What's more American than someone who reaches a political turning point as a result of buying a lousy car? At the time, Dickerson was a conservative supporter of Ronald Reagan who believed her north St. Louis neighbors were poor and jobless because of their personal failings--and of course, it wasn't really her lemon of a Renault Alliance that changed her mind. But after years of struggling to get an education while her brother Bobby threw away every opportunity, after finding an apparent refuge in the Air Force (just as her bitter, violent father had during World War II in the Marines), Dickerson was appalled that "a blameless person in uniform" was expected, by everyone from her superior officers to the lawyers she tried to hire to help her, to make payments on a car that wouldn't run. "That experience made it crystal clear to me whose side society was on," she writes. Without abandoning her belief in personal responsibility, Dickerson began to reassess her contempt for people like her brother, who had made mistakes but had never been given any margin for error. Her reconciliation with Bobby is the most moving moment in a book notable for its bruising candor on the uncomfortable subjects of race and class, as well as its complete lack of political and cultural platitudes. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

HFollowing a controversial 1995 New Republic article about the shooting of her nephew, Dickerson became a popular commentator on race and society in America. In her first book, she again stirs the cauldron with a no-holds barred look at her humble Midwestern beginnings, scrappy clan, career strivings and personal miscues and victories. Rarely does a memoir strip away so much emotional armor to expose so many defects as well as strengths. A lawyer with a Harvard Law School pedigree and journalist with bylines in many leading national publications, Dickerson first turns her unflinching gaze upon her struggling parents, sharecroppers who had migrated to north St. Louis, whom she analyzes in painstaking detail. She admits the brutal psychological effects of her father's iron-fisted rule and life in an inner-city environment, which left her with a growing burden of self-doubt and self-hatred that only subsided upon her entry into the Air Force at age 21. A minor flaw is Dickerson's reluctance to examine her other four siblings with the same razor-sharp scrutiny that she applies to her youngest brother, Bobby, who als0 endured emotional abuse by their father. If Dickerson is ruthless in her appraisal of others, she is twice as hard on her own shortcomings, especially the views about poor and lower-working-class blacks trapped in poverty and despair she held as a young woman. Her display of courage following a rape, along with her gritty determination to excel at Harvard, attests to the complexity and resilience of this chameleon of a woman. This tough, sassy memoir dramatically underscores the importance of hope, family and truth in one person's quest to reach and sustain her version of the American dream. Agent, Ronald Golddfarb. First printing 75,000; 9-city author tour. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Her narrative voice is engrossing, appealing and emminently readable.
Leslye Lyons
Debra Dickerson's book is extraordinary-- a must-read for anyone serious about issues of race or gender, class or social justice, war or peace.
Jonah Blank
Dickerson is a born writer, and her quest for personal autonomy and fulfillment makes up the heart of this compelling book.
Karen Sampson Hudson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By monicae on April 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an African American woman, who also served as an officer in the Air Force during the same time frame of Ms Dickerson, I was anxious to read about her journey through the military. I saw many similarities in our experiences. I found the book to be most compelling in the first 100 pages; her memoir about the foundation laid to make her the person she is today. This was poignant and affecting writing. After high school, she turns from a living, feeling, and thinking young girl to a two-dimensional character. Important events are glossed-over/minimized. For example her treatment of sex and her relationships with men or really...anybody. There was little or no acknowledgement of her relationships with anyone outside of her parents and her little brother. She occasionally mentioned a boyfriend by name, but apparently other than getting her into Harvard Law School, they had very little impact on her life or the way that she sees the world. Same goes for roommates during OTS and her time as an enlisted person in the Air Force. These people are apparently (by theri ommission) unimportant to her intellectual/emotional development as an adult. Her journey became about the environment she was navigating and her perceptions thereof. A very sparsely drawn environment at that. It was the literary equivalent of her looking through the glass at other peoples lives and judging them rather than experiencing and examining her own life. She did address something that I think is unfortunately overlooked: how middle and upper class blacks feel and interact within their own culture and amongst themselves. She nailed it. I saw similar attitudes and behavior.
Ms Dickerson seems to have bountiful book knowledge, but not necessarily emotional intelligence. Unless she is in charge, she doesn't seem to do well.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Even the most die-hard conservative/liberal will be nudged toward the center by Ms Dickerson's personal journey across the political spectrum--from self-actuating conservative to longsuffering liberal, landing somewhere in the middle. Woven throughout are powerful statements on the state of American society today, gender issues, and a refreshing take on the potential of the military to level the playing field. "An American Story" offers a balanced perspective on race and gender in these United States, without all the angry baggage, and with a writing style that insists that you read on. Highly recommended!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a compelling memoir of a remarkable woman's personal odyssey from a hard childhood in St. Louis to a brilliant career of a dozen years in the US Air Force, a college education garnered on the side, civilian reentry at Harvard Law School, and the choice of journalism and writing over law as a second career. Ms. Dickerson's story is compelling and well written, and thus it is hard to put down once you start. It offers original and insightful "takes" on racism, on segregation and integration, on the American military (including its successes in becoming a race-blind meritocracy and its failures in areas of sexual harassment and assault), on personal growth and self-knowledge, on being black as well as being female in modern America, and on where our society stands today in a variety of sectors. There is much that is painful here, but much that is funny and more that is uplifting and deeply thoughtful. The writing is crisp and the pace is rapid. A good read in every way.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Leslye Lyons on October 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dickerson has written a searing story of struggle and success. Her narrative voice is engrossing, appealing and emminently readable. Her journey from sharecropper's daughter to Harvard Law School graduate kept me marveling at her continued accomplishments. But she doesn't stop there...
Dickerson also offers extraordinary perspective into her own behavior and the behavoir of those around her. At every turn she analyzes her motivations and separates out issues of race and personal identity. With sparkling insight, she digs right to the core of human behavior.
Book groups and other readers will find themselves mulling over such topics as obstacles to maximizing personal potential and to what degree our race/religion/ethnic identity affects our life choices.
By the time I finished this book, I felt as if I had just completed a soul-searching conversation with an old friend.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Debra Dickerson's memoir was an interesting read, and I recommend it to people who want to know what its like to grow up in a poor black family with above average intelligence, and scratch and claw one's way to upper-middle class success through sheer will, determination, and the occasional, well placed affirmative action program. I had no idea that she was a columnist when I began reading the book, and therefore brought no political biases to the book.
Ms. Dickerson's stories about her relationship with her father, and growing up in an abusive working class household were gut wrenching to read at times, as were the details of her having been sexually assaulted while in the Air Force. She seems like a very hard-working person with an exceptional ability to absorb knowledge through nearly compulsive reading and study. But, is she likable?
What seems clear is that Ms. Dickerson seems a tad short on the kind of charisma and personal appeal that true leaders seem to possess - "emotional intelligence" in the words of Daniel Goleman. It's an understanding of people, what makes them tick, a sense of one's own personal limitations, and an understanding of how to negotiate one's way through varied, complex interpersonal challenges. Most of her achievements - leaving out the highly structured world of the USAF where leadership in the lower ranks is determined by the ability to know the rules and execute them better and faster than anybody else - were an extension of her childhood tendency to withdraw into her own world and just plain old learn and memorize. Witness this skill in her ability to memorize and recite biblical phrases that go on forever as a young child.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

Most Recent Customer Reviews


What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?