My Long Trip Home by Mark Whitaker
A Family Memoir

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Synopsis

In a dramatic, moving work of historical reporting and personal discovery, Mark Whitaker, award-winning journalist, sets out to trace the story of what happened to his parents, a fascinating but star-crossed interracial couple, and arrives at a new understanding of the family dramas that shaped their lives—and his own.

His father, “Syl” Whitaker, was the charismatic grandson of slaves who grew up the child of black undertakers from Pittsburgh and went on to become a groundbreaking scholar of Africa. His mother, Jeanne Theis, was a shy World War II refugee from France whose father, a Huguenot pastor, helped hide thousands of Jews from the Nazis and Vichy police. They met in the mid-1950s, when he was a college student and she was his professor, and they carried on a secret romance for more than a year before marrying and having two boys. Eventually they split in a bitter divorce that was followed by decades of unhappiness as his mother coped with self-recrimination and depression while trying to raise her sons by herself, and his father spiraled into an alcoholic descent that destroyed his once meteoric career.

Based on extensive interviews and documentary research as well as his own personal recollections and insights, My Long Trip Home is a reporter’s search for the factual and emotional truth about a complicated and compelling family, a successful adult’s exploration of how he rose from a turbulent childhood to a groundbreaking career, and, ultimately, a son’s haunting meditation on the nature of love, loss, identity, and forgiveness.
 

About Mark Whitaker

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Mark Whitaker is a broadcaster and historian. After a first career as an academic, during which he taught in both London and Tunis, he joined the BBC in 1990. He was a reporter for BBC2's sports documentary series On the Line, and from 1994 to 2002 was a regular presenter of File on 4 on Radio 4. He then became a founding partner of the independent production company Square Dog Radio, which is named after a beloved Bernese Mountain dog. To his great regret he recently had to give up playing cricket. He lives in the West Yorkshire hills with his family and their animals.
 
Published October 18, 2011 by Simon & Schuster. 368 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for My Long Trip Home

Kirkus Reviews

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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.

Jul 05 2011 | Read Full Review of My Long Trip Home: A Family M...

The New York Times

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As a social studies major in his junior year at Harvard, Mark Whitaker attended a debate on the subject of ethnicity.

Nov 06 2011 | Read Full Review of My Long Trip Home: A Family M...

Publishers Weekly

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Whitaker, executive v-p of CNN Worldwide, recounts the risky marriage, bitter divorce, and subsequent discontents of his father, Syl Whitaker, a grandson of slaves who became a prominent African studies scholar, and his mother, Jeanne Theis, a white refugee from WWII Nazi-occupied France whose fa...

Jul 04 2011 | Read Full Review of My Long Trip Home: A Family M...

New York Journal of Books

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This reader never felt the presence of author Whitaker’s mind or personality in an account that was overly flat and dry: “My mother taught and my father began writing his dissertation and I played with the other faculty brats in the spacious yard outside while my brother grew into a toddler.” The...

Oct 18 2011 | Read Full Review of My Long Trip Home: A Family M...

Star Tribune

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Whitaker's prose is lean and strong, and while race is certainly a central theme in his story, he's more interested in exploring the relationship between father and son.

Oct 22 2011 | Read Full Review of My Long Trip Home: A Family M...

Entertainment Weekly

The son of a black Quaker father and a white half-French mother — scholars who met at Swarthmore in the 1950s — Whitaker came of age in the post-civil rights era, vaulting through ­Harvard and the magazine-world ranks, scarred by his parents' short, volatile marriage and fueled by anger toward hi...

Nov 09 2011 | Read Full Review of My Long Trip Home: A Family M...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Mark Whitaker, the first black editor of Newsweek and current managing editor of CNN Worldwide, explains that it was the memoir of another prominent biracial man, Dreams of My Father by Barack Obama, that inspired him to write his own father's story in My Long Trip Home.

Nov 09 2011 | Read Full Review of My Long Trip Home: A Family M...

Bookmarks Magazine

Based on extensive interviews and documentary research as well as his own personal recollections and insights, My Long Trip Home is a reporter’s search for the factual and emotional truth about a complicated and compelling family, a successful adult’s exploration of how he rose from a t...

Oct 24 2011 | Read Full Review of My Long Trip Home: A Family M...

Reader Rating for My Long Trip Home
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