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My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  200 ratings  ·  52 reviews
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 grands

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Simon & Schuster
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Catherine the Great by Robert K. MassieMy Long Trip Home by Mark WhitakerClarence Darrow by John A. FarrellMalcolm X by Manning MarableReading My Father by Alexandra Styron
2011 LA Times Book Prize Finalists
2nd out of 5 books — 3 voters
State of Wonder by Ann PatchettIn the Night Kitchen by Maurice SendakBehind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine BooTwilight of the Elites by Christopher L. HayesMoonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
Colbert Report Book List
58th out of 65 books — 22 voters

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Community Reviews

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Aug 05, 2011 Susan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of memoirs
(3.5 out of 5 stars)

First of all, I have to admit that I didn't know who journalist and news executive Mark Whitaker is, I just wanted to read this book because I like memoirs and I thought the story of a child born to a white mother and a black father during a time of blatant racism would be interesting. And it was.

Whitaker's parents were both caring, intelligent people who were both a bit dysfunctional in very different ways. This isn't a The Glass Castle or A Child Called It kind of dysfuncti
At it's core, My Long Trip Home is a very American story, even though it spans three continents. Reviewers will be tempted to peg this as a book about race and racial identity, but it is so much more than that. It is a book about family, and the family just happens to be multiracial. Given today's shifting racial demographics, I can't think of anything more American.

Mark Whittaker has done some serious research on his family and he has done a tremendous amount of soul searching. This was a book
Simon & Schuster Goodreads
From Nick, our summer marketing intern!

"In MY LONG TRIP HOME: A Family Memoir (Simon & Schuster; HC 9781451627541, e-book 9781451627565, October 2011), journalist Mark Whitaker examines his family history and the people and events that have shaped the man he is today. After an astonishing early career as a groundbreaking black scholar of Africa, his father spiraled into an alcoholic descent that resulted in the abandonment of his French wife and their two children—an issue that impacted Whi
Mark Whitaker is former editor of Newsweek. His parents were both college professors. His father, a much-lauded expert on African studies, esp. Nigerian politics, was African American. His mother, a professor of French literature, emigrated to the U.S. from France as a child during WW II. With a family background like that, the story couldn't help but be interesting. The first 2/3 of the book, in which Mark recounts his family's various stories, from his Whitaker grandparents' rise to prominence ...more
I finished this book on BART on my way in this morning, and I was in tears. I think that Mark Whitaker did a remarkable service to his mother and father by writing this book. It really makes me want to interview my family to make sure my family history is recorded for posterity.

Yesterday, I read a passage of an exchange that Mark had with his father that completely resonated with me for some things I'm seeing lately.

It's from page 285 and briefly quoted here:
"Human nature is to abuse power. You
Mark Whitaker has a colorful family background and that is not just a pun. His mother is one of eight French sisters, daughter of a French pastor who protected Jewish citizens during the Holocaust. Six of the young sisters were sent to New York to escape World War II, raging in Europe. Mark's father was an African American academic with a promising career which he sabatoged with alcohol and hubris. Mark expresses a lot of bitterness toward his father which he never completely resolves. The story ...more
Feb 12, 2012 Sull rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sull by: Library
Good, involving tale of growing up biracial with a difficult and often absent father whose flaws haunted the author's life. Brilliant & charismatic, yet self-centered & fickle, he came & went, a law unto himself, frustrating, disappointing & occasionally enraging his son, impossible to ignore, impossible to forgive, almost impossible to understand....

This autobiog is the attempt to understand, & it's gripping in parts, especially the parts that show what it was like to grow u
Megan Fuller
I really enjoyed this autobiography. Not my typical favorite genre, but Whitaker's story had many aspects/settings/themes that drew me in and kept me involved. I appreciated gaining a new perspective on growing up in a biracial family. When I was growing up, one boy in our school was like Mark, and I never thought really about what he went through, 20 years ago. I have a new perspective and appreciation. However, Mark did have a much better life than the boy I knew (as in an excellent education) ...more
Mark Whitaker’s My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir tells Whitaker’s personal story of being raised by a black father and white mother, but it also recounts a great deal of his family history. Whitaker used his journalistic skills to do an impressive amount of research into both sides of his family, and the book is just as much a tribute to his parents and grandparents as it is a testimony of his own experiences. Whitaker even included several photographs of his various relatives. Despite these g ...more
This is a highly readable and poignant memoir of Mark Whitaker, CNN executive (formerly with CBS News and past editor of Newsweek)and his parents -- his father an African-American born in Pittsburgh, who was the first black to get a Ph.D in Political Science from Princeton, and his mother, the French daughter of missionaries in the Cameroons who came to America to escape World War II and stayed to become a professor of French, first at Swarthmore and then at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. Whi ...more
Kimberly Shadwick
This book was just an average read. I think I didn't relate to the bi-racial theme.
It is a well written family memoir with pictures included. The pictures helped me understand who I was reading about.
I was bored by it.
With all the interesting books available, I was not happy that I was wasting time reading this book to write a review.
The book would make a great book for reading groups because of all the discussions topics it contains.
Mary Frances
Wow, I was hoping for an interesting and well written story and instead this book is surprisingly dull for a book about a mixed race marriage in the 1950s, and the life of a child from that marriage. It is so devoid of emotion as to make all of the characters cardboard figures.
The last of 3 memoirs I read for the Elle book jury, and by far the best. An intriguing family past, combined with the lessons he learns from both of his parents' experiences, made for a great read.
Mark Whitaker, a prominent journalist who has held prominent positions with CNN, NBC, and Newsweek, shares his memoirs with us. His is an emotional story, one of growing up as a biracial child trying to understand his identity. As an adult, he used his own personal knowledge and did additional research, to gain a better understanding of his family history and therefore, himself.

His mother was a young white college teacher. His father was her black student. The two eventually fell in love and b
Oct 19, 2012 Barbara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the topic and a few indifferent dads I know.
Recommended to Barbara by: Fareed Zakaria
The book is thoroughly researched and well written but I would not go as far to say as the blurb on the cover does "One of the most beautifully written and skillfully reported memoirs I have ever read". There is something about journalists, who when writing about themselves, seem unable not to include all the names of everyone who had even the most minimal impact on their life. I suspect its difficult to resist the impulse to tell the whole truth much as they are trained to do in their reporting ...more
In this memoir by the executive vice president and managing editor of CNN Worldwide, Mark Whitaker takes a look at his upbringing in a biracial family, his struggles of coping with divorced parents, and his climb to the top in spite of his father’s substance abuse.

Whitaker definitely has an interesting story to tell. Both his parents were part of the university elite. With education as a strong value in the Whitaker household, the mixed-raced boys had an advantage over other children of color gr
Mark Whitaker, managing editor of CNN Worldwide (and previously a long-time top editor at Newsweek magazine), wrote this memoir as a tribute to his family, past and present. He wrote to tell the story of his family to his children, Rachel and Matthew, and he also wrote to document the lives of his divorced parents, Jeanne Whitaker and Syl Whitaker. The book is Whitaker's personal journalistic investigation.

The story itself is detailed and interesting. Mark was born to a white, French mother and
Kathleen Hagen
My Long Trip Home: a Family Memoir, by Mark Whitaker, Narrated by Robertson Dean, Produced by Tantor Audio, Downloaded from

Mark Whitaker was a reporter and then chief editor of Newsweek for 30 years. Then he left to become news director for NBC, where he currently is. Whitaker is what he himself calls a mulatto, half White and half Black. His father was Black-a well-known political science professor who ultimately was brought low by alcoholism, although during the last years of his
Mark Whitaker, former editor of Newsweek, provides a well-written and researched autobiography. It was very reminiscent of Obama's Dreams of My Father, in it's storyline of white mother raises family on her own while black father is an absent disappointment in general. The first half held my attention better than the second half which at times read like a Who's Who of academics and journalists in the 70's and 80's. He could have included less detail on his and his parent's professions and stuck ...more
Knowing absolutely nothing about the author, when I started the book I found myself continuously asking, "Why do I care or need to know about this person?" But because it was the selected read for my bookclub I arduously kept plugging away. I'm so happy that I did! Not only did I end up feeling pretty embarassed that I didn't know about the author prior to reading but I also gained a great respect for how he was able to tell his story, explain his struggles and triumphs and do it very skillfully ...more
Subtracted a star due to lack of exploration or explanation of Mr. Whitaker's journey and clarity on his own racial identity. I kept looking back through the chapters trying to figure out where and how Mr. Whitaker (and his brother for that matter) came to balance their absent black father's conflicted self hatred/love for African people (and lesser extent African descendants) and his mother's seemingly lack of importance on the development/raising black boys in America during 1960-70s.

I feel t
I loved this book. Mark Whitaker is the son of a white French mother and a black American father, both of whom are scholars at Swarthmore as the story begins. Whitaker doesn't hold back. He lets both of his parents have it when they deserve it, but is also respectful of their achievements and their stories. He is a great writer (and a trained journalist who used to be the editor of Newsweek and now runs the DC bureau of NBC) and tells a wonderful story. I believe that he and I are close to the s ...more
I am close to the point of overdosing on well written memoirs about difficult upbrings that were overcome. But despite that, this is a good one and an interesting perspective on Mark Whitaker's life as a mixed race young man in the '60s and early '70s. As the child of brilliant academics, he never lacked for educational opportunities but his troubled relationship with an alcoholic and largely absent father is the most compelling part of the memoir. As you might expect from a former Newsweek edit ...more
Sabrina Laitinen
My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir (Hardcover)
This book is written as a memoir, but explores the complexities of growing up in a bi-racial family, post civil-rights era. It is well written, and moves at a good pace, and covers family situations that can apply to many of us in today's world. Ultimately, Mark outlines his life and how he was able to forge ahead, against many odds, to become a respected man in the newspaper and news industry. I think that there were some great little treasures to
It is interesting how those that seem to be in our lives the least can have such a profound influence over us. While this story is available due to the accomplishments of the author and his ancestors it should be very familiar to many more common folk. The parallels I found, sans outstanding academic and global social achievement, to my own life left me wondering (hopeful?) if I would ever find such peace.

I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.
Maya Hollinshead
Awesome book in which Mark Whitaker talks about his biracial background. His father, the son of funeral home owners, was the first African-American to receive a PhD in politics from Princeton. His mother left France during World War II, while her father helped hid Jews from the Nazis. This book not only tells the story about his life, but the lives of his parents and how it shaped him. If you liked Dreams From My Father, you will also enjoy this book.
Patricia Sanders
My Long Trip Home chronicles growing up in a family of diverse cultures and attitudes towards life. Mark Whitaker's parents were fascinating individuals whose personal demons often got in the way of parenting. This book is filled with family drama primarily perpetuated by his father's alcoholism. Luckily for Mark, he and his wife Alexis were able to provide their own family with a home life that he never had with his parents.
A remarkable memoir on a university educated family, with Mark's grandparents history, that starts in the 1950's with Mark's birth and ends in the 1990's with his father's death. I admired the examination of the interplay between the family members and Mark's examination of his father that took so long to understand. The story led me to examine my relationship with my family members. I am highly recommending this book to everyone.
Ronald Steele
Mark Whitaker chronicles his mixed heritage, his efforts to reconcile his Black self-hatred through criticism of his Black father's lifestyle (accomplished, albeit with shortcomings), and his journey of a mulatto, which led him to become Newsweek Magazine's first Black managing editor, while assimilating back to the white side of his family, ultimately through marriage and adopting Judaism of his wife for his children.
I enjoyed reading this book, but it was slow the first half because he gave too much educational background information on his parents life. It gave a good understanding of what it is to be brought up by a white French mother and black American. Mark whitaker started his career with Newsweek as reporter, then editor. He then was Washington bureau chief at NBC and now executive vice-president and managing editor of CNN.
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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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