A startling new memoir about race, class, and the U.S. meritocracy

As a general principle, very rich people don’t write very honest books (most of the time, they don’t even write their own books), or very interesting ones. But Christina Lewis Halpern’s searching new memoir, Lonely at the Top (just out, as an Amazon Kindle Single), is exceptional in those respects, and quite a few others.

Lewis Halpern was 12 years old when her father, Reginald Lewis, died of brain cancer. Reginald had grown up in segregated Baltimore, graduated from Harvard Law School, and become the richest African-American of his (or any previous) generation. But what in Reginald’s character accounted for his phenomenal success? And how much of that success (and, by extension, his daughter’s) was due to affirmative action? These are difficult, impolitic questions, and Lewis Halpern—who interviewed her father’s professors, his contemporaries, and members of her own family—doesn’t provide easy or expected answers.

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A startling new memoir about race, class, and the U.S. meritocracy