A poignant memoir of growing up as the product of a racially mixed marriage in the 1950s by a national correspondent for U.S. News and World Report. Minerbrook's parents represented two very different cultures. His mother, La Verne, was fleeing the suffocations of family and small-town life in the Missouri ""bootheel,"" a place of blinkered racial attitudes in the heart of the Cotton Belt. His father, Alan, was the product of Chicago's black elite, an upper-middle-class man with aspirations to professional life. After her marriage, LaVerne was dropped by her family, and at the outset of the book, the adult Minerbrook has gone to Missouri seeking to close this chapter in his growing up. Using this attempt to exorcise personal demons as a starting point, the author retraces the turbulent years of his parents' marriage, the forces in both families and in society that drove a wedge between them, and his own struggle with questions of racial and personal identity. He recounts amusingly his childhood days of running wild on New York City's Upper West Side in the '50s; he chronicles in harrowing detail his father's descent into drug and alcohol abuse and terrifying acts of violence. By and large, Minerbrook is writing to lay the ghosts to rest, and the book is finally an eloquent record of his voyage to maturity in the complex rivers of race, pride, and dignity. His final destination is a place of impressive equanimity, a place in which blame is supplanted by understanding and a sober acceptance of the humanity of his family at both its best and worst. (For another memoir by the son of a racially mixed marriage, see The Color of Water by James McBride, p. 1546.) Although floridly overwritten in some places, this is an unusually thoughtful memoir that avoids the twin pitfalls of self-pity and arrogance.