Newsman Mark Whitaker details complex family in memoir

Tue Oct 18, 2011 1:47pm EDT
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By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After decades at the center of the media world, including jobs as Newsweek's editor-in-chief and his current position as CNN's managing editor, there was still one topic Mark Whitaker never covered: his own life.

Then, exactly one year after his father passed away, he woke up in the middle of the night and decided it was time.

The result, "My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir" published on Tuesday, details Whitaker's complex family history and upbringing, focusing on the ups and downs of his relationship with his bright but self-destructive father.

Whitaker's first book explores how growing up as the biracial child of the "doubly taboo" marriage between his white professor mother and black student father influenced his professional and personal path.

While Whitaker had long been hesitant to delve into the darker aspects of his family history -- and always resisted being boxed in by his racial background -- he realized that those very things contributed to his success as a journalist, husband and father.

"I wanted to prove myself on my own, both vis-a-vis my parents and my race," he told Reuters.

"But at the end of the day, you are formed by your racial identity, by who your parents are. The fact that I was ready to not only explore my past, but embrace the way in which my parents and my racial background and my family influenced me, in a way, was a sign of growing up."

Whitaker shares tidbits about the heroics of his French grandfather during World War Two, his father's alcoholism and womanizing, and his year spent at a middle school in France.   Continued...