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Customer Review

on January 4, 2012
Christina Lewis Halpern's memoir takes us into a rarefied world. Her father, Reginald Lewis, dragged himself up from his childhood on an unpaved street in East Baltimore to Harvard Law to being owner of a billion-dollar global food conglomerate and one of the world's richest black men. She grew up brilliant, beautiful and privileged in Paris and New York, never quite sure whether her Harvard College admission resulted from her own scholarly achievements (substantial), her race (she's a two-fer, with a Filipina mother to go with the black father), or her dad's ability to donate a building to the law school. Disclosure: I knew Reg Lewis in my role as the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal and, more than a decade after his untimely death (he 50, she 12), encountered daughter Christina as a highly promising young reporter and writer at the paper. This lovely work shows that promise being fulfilled before our eyes. Through interviews of his contemporaries, she learns how he parlayed bluff and pluck, brains and luck to push himself into the vanguard of young black men clambering through a narrow window of opportunity opened by the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It proves easier for her to understand him than to learn just who she is and wants to be. But she makes a good start, and takes us along for the ride, anecdote after anecdote, some playful, some painful. We feel her frustration tinged by guilt when her mom interrupts her graduation good-byes with friends to drag the whole family blocks away for photos in front of dad's building. Earlier, we see her flirt with a couple of strapping law students as she seeks directions near that same building. They start going on about how wonderful Mr. Lewis was and then refuse to accept her assertion that she was his daughter. This is the start of the narrative arc of her 20s, in which she works hard, struggles even, to make her way in journalism, from the Stamford Advocate in Connecticut to the Journal and beyond, but fails to give herself credit, ascribing her success to luck. Then she hits that moment of revelation: "It is now painfully obvious that I will never be confident like my father. But that's ok. I think writers are supposed to be insecure." Writers. Yes. She is a writer indeed, and as this slim work shows, a good one getting better by the day. She will be heard from.
5 helpful votes
6 helpful votes
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