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My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir Hardcover – October 18, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“This is one of the most beautifully written and skillfully reported memoirs I have ever read. Searching to unlock the puzzle of his parents’ lives, Whitaker writes with empathy and insight, shifting seamlessly between a child’s recollection and an adult perspective. This story will capture your heart from start to finish.”

—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals

“I picked up Mark Whitaker's My Long Trip Home and I couldn't put it down. He brings his gifts as a journalist and ultimately, his deep compassion as a human, to shed light on his own unique and very moving family story. Spending time with these characters, himself included, reminded me of some of my favorite nights in the theater.”

—Anna Deavere Smith, playwright and performer, author of Fires in the Mirror

"Mark Whitaker has given us a deeply personal, instructive and unsparing story of life in a contemporary bi-racial American family. It's all here—the love, pride, anger, confusion and achievement from a man who rose to the top ranks of American journalism."
—Tom Brokaw, journalist, author of A Long Way from Home and The Greatest Generation

“[a] poignant memoir…Whitaker is unsparing in his account of his father's sins and the scars they inflicted…but the author filters his profile through a rich reflection and understanding. Like Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father, Whitaker's memoir is in many ways an iconic story of the post–civil rights era, one in which transcending racial barriers liberates people to succeed—and fail—in their own peculiar ways.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A deeply moving history of family relations and racial identity.” Booklist (starred review)

“…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…. . 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.” —Washington Post

“A heavily detailed and highly readable account of the author's lineage…the writing comes across as honest and wholly engaging. A fascinating personal treatise on racial identity and complicated father-son dynamics.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Told straightforwardly, Whitaker's stories of life and work in proximity to power will appeal to government and media junkies…The parallels to another high-achieving, mixed-race public figure are hard to ignore. Whitaker's retelling of his journalistic triumphs and missteps will remind readers that the face of America's elite is changing.” —Library Journal

“A book filled with as much family tumult as Jeannette Walls described in The Glass Castle and a racial factor to boot. . . . Mr. Whitaker . . . is well justified in thinking that his family’s unusual history warrants book-length treatment. My Long Trip Home is full of remarkable stories.”The New York Times

About the Author

Mark Whitaker is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, My Long Trip Home. The former managing editor of CNN Worldwide, he was previously the Washington bureau chief for NBC News and a reporter and editor at Newsweek, where he rose to become the first African-American leader of a national newsweekly.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451627548
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451627541
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #764,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mark Whitaker's memoir, "My Long Trip Home", is subtitled "A Family Memoir". Whitaker's family is the by-product of the American melting-pot. His father was African-American and a Quaker. His mother was white, with an American mother and a French Protestant father. Mark and his younger brother Paul were raised as Quakers and Mark married a Jewish woman and raised two Jewish children. There were grandparents, seven French aunts and uncles and a passel of French cousins from his mother's side and his father's side consisted of grandparents, aunts, and uncles, as well. Only in America could you find this unique family grouping, along with the French contingent.

But in this "family" there was one member who never quite fit in. Mark's father, Syl Whitaker, was a brilliant man who made his mark in academia at the highest levels. For an African-American, of course. Married three times, the first to Mark's mother Jeanne, with whom he had two sons, and then two other marriages later in life. Syl was an alcoholic with charm and dash and elan who could go from brilliance to drunken despair in the course of an evening. A self-destructive man when drunk, he wasn't easy when sober. His relations with his older son, Mark, were fitful and mutually hurtful when Syl left his wife and sons after a few years of marriage and contributed little economically to the family. Jeanne made a valiant effort to give her two sons a steady home life, but she was plagued with periods of depression while raising the boys in college towns where she was lucky to find teaching jobs. As a result, Mark Whitaker, to a large extent, raised himself. He did a pretty good job of it, it seems.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book more with each page I read. I found the characters and story so compelling I couldn't bear the thought of it ending. Not only is it entertaining, but it's that rare, important book that changes how we perceive the world. It illumines the bi-racial family experience, which is becoming a mainstream American experience. I was moved by Whitaker's coming to appreciate and love a father who was as challenging and hurtful as he was brilliant and charming. The voices of father and son live on, long after the book ends.
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I happened to see Mark Whitaker talking on CNN about his book and decided to buy it. I was so enthralled by his life's story which is filled with such unique and interesting people. I could not stop reading and it was the first time in a long time that I was sad to see a book end. Mark's story is somewhat similar to that of our president's - mixed race family, mostly absent father - but he too managed to rise about any adversity and become a scholar, father, husband and important news writer.

This is a book that I believe everyone who reads it will come away feeling inspired by Mark's family story and the wonderful cast of characters that comprised his family tree.
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I have to agree with the reviewers'opinions dated prior to mine. They're all "right on the money".

I would add that even though this is written in a semi- reportorial vein, it resonates emotionally. Whitaker is composing from the heart, and the parts dealing with his own youngish ( pre-career) life and his Father's and Mother's middle age are excellent- not trite. This is not just a mixed race conquering adversity book.

Whitaker's coming to terms with his parents as human beings is honest and, also, difficult given how prominent he is in America-- at the height of his career.

Only one drawback. The almost complete lack of mention of his brother's life speaks volumes about their still contentious relationship. Of course, between the lines, we understand that this part of the author's life is still unresolved.
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Format: Hardcover
A brilliant, charismatic, black father, who is also a womanizer and a drunk; a very intelligent, hard working, white mother who is left to support the offspring after being deserted by the father - no I'm not reviewing Barack Obama's, "Dreams from My Father," but the similarities are definitely there. There are differences, too. For one thing, Mark Whitaker's memoir lacks Obama's soaring prose. But whose book doesn't?

Like Obama, Whitaker is a biracial child, but unlike Obama he doesn't struggle with his racial identity and then consciously choose one identity over the other. He seems pretty comfortable in his own skin, whatever the color. His struggle is with being deserted by his father, whom he resents for leaving his mother and him and his brother, for his volatile temper, for self-destructing as he moves from one remarkable university position to another, and for his charm which he more often bestowed upon strangers than upon his family.

Whitaker's French mother came from a devout Quaker family. She and her seven sisters emigrated to America as children during the early years of WW II. Her parents stayed in France and helped hide Jewish people from the Nazis. As with Obama, we know about his mother and her family but the focus is really much more on the father. (I found this a bit irritating in both books.) Whitaker writes that, as an adult, he was surprised to learn that his father was the one who was first attracted to his mother and not the other way around. And this pretty well tells you about the focus of Mark's book.

His father's career in academia overlapped, in part, with the Black Power, Black Panther movements and university administrators expected him to play a positive role for the university in those movements.
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