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On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson, TV News' First Woman Star Hardcover – October 17, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743287835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743287838
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,533,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"John Dickerson's biography of Nancy Dickerson is a raw and compelling portrait of his mother, who was, in a way, the Katie Couric of her time, the first woman to break into the all-male fortress of TV news, back in the dark ages of the 1960s.

"With 'On Her Trail' John Dickerson has written more than a biography: it is a history of the time -- with rich new stories about John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson; a social dissection of elite Washington; it is -- and this may be the most captivating part of the book -- a personal confession of life with a mother almost obsessively driven in her career....

"The book is a mix of sold reportorial digging with a son's sometimes heartbreaking insights. It is bold, shocking at times, and brilliant."

-- Lesley Stahl

"Beautifully observed and richly reported, a family tale with a twist -- because it's written about the kind of family that normally wouldn't let secrets make their way outside the security fence. A tough and loving book by a gifted journalist."

-- Peggy Noonan

"Anyone who was a big fan of Nancy Dickerson will hate John Dickerson by about page 40. But by the time you reach the end of this poignant, sometimes funny, but always wise and human memoir-biography, you will love them both. John for his insight and compassion, and Nancy for the price she paid to blaze the trail for Katie Couric and Greta van Sustren."

-- Al Franken --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

John Dickerson is Slate.com's chief political correspondent and appears regularly on NPR, FOX and MSNBC. A former White House correspondent for Time magazine, he covered George W. Bush's administration and his presidential campaigns. He and his wife and two children live in Washington, DC. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

More About the Author

I write about politics for Slate.com.
Before that I was a White House correspondent for Time magazine, where I worked for 12 years. In Washington I also covered Congress and before that I covered economics.

In Time's New York bureau I covered everything they threw at me-- from the baseball strike to stolen elections to the first World Trade Center bombing.

Before that I was a secretary at Time Inc. where I was only moderatly good at passing on phone messages.

I attended the University of Virginia

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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John Dickerson's book about Nancy Dickerson is extraordinary.
Kenneth S. Johnson
Instead, it is an honest, accessible story of the journey we all take to understand our parents as complete human beings.
Laura Loffredo
John was very truthful in this book and I loved how his personality and humor shined through.
D. McKenzie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By solly on October 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone 1) who is interested in politics and media or 2) who likes unusual and engrossing memoirs. And if you fit both categories, then you will really love it. Dickerson finds a nice balance between telling us about his mother the network star and his mother the mother. I was not only emotionally engrossed in the downs and ups of the author's relationship with his mom, but I also learned a lot about politics and the press in the JFK and LBJ era.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kent Shawver on May 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
John Dickerson's kind and honest account of his mother, Nancy Dickerson, makes a fine read. His book is no "Mommie Dearest." He exposes the hypocrisy of the male dominated Washington media world of the sixties and seventies when men and women were held to vastly different standards. Dickerson, like his mother, is smart and knows he is not likely to be "a perfect parent." His mature sense of humor informs, entertains and forgives. This is a "must-read" for working parents who know how difficult it is to have a job and kids.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By C. Arnold on March 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm reading some of these reviews and seeing that some "got the book", while others did not. I think enough of these reviews will tell you "what the book is about", so I'll just be short and sweet about my take on this book.

It's a compelling and lovely account of Nancy Dickerson's rise to fame and ultimate gain of respect as a news woman. On top of it, it certainly outlines the somewhat selfish relationship between a mother and a son - perhaps on both sides. Selfishness among parents and children is ever so common in families. Then we seem to grow up or grow out of it. John does a tremendous job allowing readers to feel how he felt both as an adult and a child, while allowing readers to feel like they are in the room while visiting some pretty exciting places in "old" high society Washington.

The book brings to life the many hardships women had in the 50's and 60's about choosing to work, and then being taken seriously in the workplace. Her personal involvement with top politicians and Hollywood may have been instrumental in times of not being taken seriously, but who knew this more than her? She certainly knew what she was up against. It's a beautiful story of Nancy's personal rise and fall, of not only her career but her marriage and her health. And most of all, it's a transforming account of John Dickerson's love and respect for a woman he chose not know while growing up, began to understand once he was grown up, and sort of yearned for when it was a little to late. You can never get time back.

I agree with Al Franken's review when he says you may hate John Dickerson by page 40, but don't be discouraged, by page 47 you'll do an about face and by the last chapter you see a man who respects, appreciates, understands and misses his mother dearly. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Laura Loffredo on November 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
On Her Trail is a wonderfully written, beautifully constructed book. John Dickerson's memoir is no mere chronology of life with his famous mother, it is a carefully drawn portrait that makes us feel about Nancy Dickerson exactly as he does at various stages of his life. It's brave for an author, and braver still for a son, to capture his subject from unflattering angles, but the overall effect is far from harsh. In fact, just the opposite. Dickerson's tone is intimate, but this book never reads like it was written from a psychiatrist's couch. Instead, it is an honest, accessible story of the journey we all take to understand our parents as complete human beings. That Dickerson's mother was a beloved figure from a time when we liked to keep our icons one-dimensional made his journey more challenging, perhaps, but Dickerson proves more than equal to that challenge. This is a very readable book, regardless of which Dickerson you're a fan of. Enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book on many levels. As someone who is catching up on my history of politics while paying closer attention to the present-day administration and world events, I loved the bits of history woven into this wonderful, messy, realistic story of a son's relationship with a famous, influential mother. As a mother of young sons who has struggled with the issues of work and raising a family, hearing a son's point of view was particularly compelling.

John doesn't give any easy answers to the modern conundrum of how to balance work and family, nor does he place the responsibility solely on women; he makes it an issue for all parents, male and female. As he says near the end of the book: "Our story should not be mined for any confirmation about whether a woman should choose work or family. Those aren't the lessons I was looking for. I have tried to figure out my role as a person and a parent, figure out how to get the balance right between achieving something durable in the public realm and doing something important and genuine in the private one. How do I avoid the anxiety, indecision and regret of getting the mix wrong? I don't see that task any differently for my wife just because she's a woman who works and is a mother.... [We] have a better chance of balance than Mom did, in part because of what Mom and other women did to allow women the choice to shape a broader identity."

No mother would want her child to take the path John did to find peace with his mother, but as a woman I can appreciate the agony of the choices Nancy Dickerson had to make between doing something she absolutely loved and needed for self-fulfillment, and taking care of the people she loved.
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