MY LONG TRIP HOME

A FAMILY MEMOIR

A heavily detailed and highly readable account of the author's lineage.

Seasoned journalist Whitaker reports the history of his parents' lives. Now managing editor of CNN Worldwide, the former NBC Washington bureau chief and former editor of Newsweek, the author decided, one year to the hour after his father's death, to write this book. The structure is largely chronological, beginning with his parents' meeting at Swarthmore in the mid ’50s, when his father, Syl, was one of the only black students and his white mother, Jeanne, taught French. Despite Syl's adultery, they were married for six years and had two sons, Mark and his younger brother, Paul, until Syl asked for a divorce. An estimable expert on Nigeria, Syl was asked to start Princeton's first African-American Studies program, though he was eventually fired because of his drinking. In and out of his sons' lives, often failing to pay child support, Syl weathered numerous trips to rehab, and his alcoholism derailed what might have been a stellar career. He never stayed at any college for too long, due in no small part to the problems that resulted from his womanizing. As a boy, Whitaker struggled to forgive his absences. His anger, manifested itself as compulsive eating, anorexia and long periods of being out of touch with his father. The author chronicles how he made peace with his father, despite his many failings, and how he built for a fulfilling marriage and career. It's difficult to follow the many names and threads, especially in the first half, but the writing comes across as honest and wholly engaging. A fascinating personal treatise on racial identity and complicated father-son dynamics.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2754-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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