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Mark Whitaker's 6 favorite memoirs
The former Newsweek editor recommends the life stories of journalists Joan Didion, Joseph Lelyveld, and Helene Cooper
 
Mark Whitaker is a former Newsweek editor and author of "My Long Trip Home," a story of growing up as a biracial American.
Mark Whitaker is a former Newsweek editor and author of "My Long Trip Home," a story of growing up as a biracial American.
Pete Williams

Mukiwa by Peter Godwin (Grove, $16). This memoir by a white reporter from Zimbabwe is both a moving coming-of-age tale and a compelling chronicle of a black uprising against minority rule that ended up replacing racial injustice with a brutal reign of terror.

Growing Up by Russell Baker (Signet, $8). I remember watching my mother laugh out loud as she read the morning paper, and it was usually when she was reading Baker's columns. This funny, touching account of his Southern upbringing is foremost a tribute to Baker's own indomitable mother.

Personal History by Katharine Graham (Vintage, $17). After a career as a boss of journalists (including me), Mrs. Graham outdid us all when she investigated her own past. With brutal honesty, she tells how she overcame parental neglect, her husband's suicide, and her own insecurities to become one of the greatest publishers of the 20th century.

The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper (Simon & Schuster, $15). In this story of growing up in Africa, it is the blacks who are wealthy and pampered — until a savage coup shatters the sheltered world of Cooper and her Liberian family and sends Cooper fleeing to America and to a career covering the comparatively safe rituals of U.S. politics.

Omaha Blues: A Memory Loop by Joseph Lelyveld (Picador, $16). I loved this slender memoir not just for the poignant story of a lonely child born to a self-involved rabbi and a depressed mother but for its jazzy "memory loop" voice, as though The New York Times's former top editor were celebrating no longer having to conform to the paper's style book.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Vintage, $15). When I was working for my college paper in the 1970s, Joan Didion was the kind of hip and observant "new journalist" we all wanted to be. Yet nothing she ever wrote about the outside world was more memorable than this dispatch from the interior land of grief, following the sudden death of her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne.

Mark Whitaker's book, My Long Trip Home, is a memoir about growing up biracial and trying to understand troubled parents.

 

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