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Lonely At The Top was a top ten best-selling Amazon Kindle Single. Buy the memoir here.
The Baltimore Sun
“When she was 12 years old, Christina Lewis Halpern was caught in the collision between great good fortune and terrible luck.” Read the full feature here.
Harper’s Bazaar interview
“…Lewis Halpern examines two parallel lives: her own and that of her father, Reginald Lewis, the head of food conglomerate TLC Beatrice…” Read more here.
The Very Short List:
“Christina Lewis Halpern’s searching new memoir, Lonely at the Top is exceptional…” (read the full review)
Baratunde Thurston, author, “How To Be Black:”
“We’ve heard many stories of black achievement in America and the sacrifices made by previous generations to make that possible. But less common is the story of that sacrificial generation’s children, some of whom were born into success and wealth. Their experience is at once a common and foreign mix of doubt, pride, shame and protectiveness associated with the involuntarily burden of their parents’ legacy. Christina Lewis Halpern is the voice of this less documented generation and Lonely At The Top offers a relatable and eye-opening window into her family, racial progress in America and just what success really is.”
Paul Steiger, Editor-in-Chief, Pro Publica; former Managing Editor, The Wall Street Journal
“Christina Lewis Halpern’s memoir takes us into a rarefied world. Her father, Reginald Lewis, dragged himself up from his childhood on an unpaved street in East Baltimore to Harvard Law to being owner of a billion-dollar global food conglomerate and one of the world’s richest black men. She grew up brilliant, beautiful and privileged in Paris and New York, never quite sure whether her Harvard College admission resulted from her own scholarly achievements (substantial), her race (she’s a two-fer, with a Filipina mother to go with the black father), or her dad’s ability to donate a building to the law school. Disclosure: I knew Reg Lewis in my role as the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal and, more than a decade after his untimely death (he 50, she 12), encountered daughter Christina as a highly promising young reporter and writer at the paper. This lovely work shows that promise being fulfilled before our eyes. Through interviews of his contemporaries, she learns how he parlayed bluff and pluck, brains and luck to push himself into the vanguard of young black men clambering through a narrow window of opportunity opened by the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It proves easier for her to understand him than to learn just who she is and wants to be. But she makes a good start, and takes us along for the ride, anecdote after anecdote, some playful, some painful. We feel her frustration tinged by guilt when her mom interrupts her graduation good-byes with friends to drag the whole family blocks away for photos in front of dad’s building. Earlier, we see her flirt with a couple of strapping law students as she seeks directions near that same building. They start going on about how wonderful Mr. Lewis was and then refuse to accept her assertion that she was his daughter. This is the start of the narrative arc of her 20s, in which she works hard, struggles even, to make her way in journalism, from the Stamford Advocate in Connecticut to the Journal and beyond, but fails to give herself credit, ascribing her success to luck. Then she hits that moment of revelation: “It is now painfully obvious that I will never be confident like my father. But that’s ok. I think writers are supposed to be insecure.” Writers. Yes. She is a writer indeed, and as this slim work shows, a good one getting better by the day. She will be heard from.”
Reginald Lewis–who died in 1993 when his daughter, Christina, was only 12–was the first black American to build a billion-dollar business. He was an impossibly confident, charismatic, and exacting man who studied his way out of segregated east Baltimore, and into a world of affluence dominated by whites. Lewis earned everything he got in life, except perhaps the one thing that set him on his path to success: admission to Harvard Law School. Family legend has it that Reginald literally talked his way into Harvard though an affirmative action program. It is this conundrum that leads his now-grown daughter–a former Wall Street Journal reporter–to interview his surviving friends, colleagues, and professors for insight into her father’s legacy, and his influence on her own sense of self. Along the way, she reveals fascinating tidbits about her life growing up black in the predominantly white world of New York’s wealthiest and most successful. The experience left her wondering where she truly belonged. In Lonely at the Top, Christina explores her deep-seated self-consciousness and feelings of worthlessness with unabashed and poignant honesty. —Paul Diamond