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With “On Her Trail,” John Dickerson has written a compelling and nuanced portrait of his mother, Nancy Dickerson, who was TV news' first woman star. A political correspondent for Slate, John Dickerson contrasts his own experiences as a journalist with his mother's life. She loved being glamorous (She was once named the best coiffed woman in America) but she also wanted to be known for her skills as a reporter. For her coverage of the news surrounding JFK's funeral, she was named “Woman of the Year” in radio. And she scooped everyone when she reported that LBJ had selected Hubert Humphrey as his running mate. (She savored the moment by saving 86 copies of an article in the New York Times that mentioned the scoop.)
There are plenty of details in Dickerson's book to interest Kennedy-watchers. (Nancy Dickerson dated Jack Kennedy when he was a bachelor and she was routinely mistaken for Jackie.) But most of all, the book is rich with details about the political and the powerful in the '60s and '70s as television news came of age.”
Jan Gardner, “Off the Shelf,”
Dickerson's depiction of the searing psychological neglect a child can feel when a parent appears to love a job more makes this book riveting in a horror movie kind of wayyou feel you should not be reading it but you cannot turn your eyes awayand painfully relevant to those of us who find it ever harder to free ourselves from the 24/7 work ethos.
Dickerson devotes significant space to his mother's career, describing how the young and popular Nancy moved from her girlhood days in Wauwatosa, Wis., to Washington Girl Friday, and the obstacles she overcame to become the first female news correspondent at CBS and “the No. 1 Great Society Hostess,” as The Washington Post described her in 1967, at her storied 35-room home in McLean. Dickerson recounts wonderful political snippets that make a reporter yearn for another time.”
Saturday dawned with chores aplenty. Yet there I was, still in bed, curled up with a thoughtful Christmas gift…John Dickerson’s 2006 book On Her Trail… A better gift about newsmakers and politicians he couldn’t have made. It’s an insiders look at the life of a pioneering American radio and TV newswoman, a woman hell-bent on being a powerful player on the political scene. Her son’s book reads like a thriller. Just one more page, I told myself, thinking about all I wanted to get done…OK, chores be damned. Just a few more pages, I said…. This is a remarkable captivating journey through historical events, into private parties and behind closed doors where the powerful met and schmoozed. Drinking and nightly partying were par for the course. Outsiders didn’t have a clue. But now you can. Just be prepared to lay aside your chores. ”
A memorable portrait of the woman and her career…a unique and authentic view of Nancy Hanschman Dickerson and [John] may indeed have created an indelible impression of her that will shape future studies of this phenomenal woman."
Beautifully observed and richly reported, a family tale with a twistbecuse it's written about the kind of family that normally wouldn't let secrets make their way outside the security fence. A tough and loving book by a gifted journalist.”
Anyone who was a big fan of Nancy Dickerson will hate John Dickerson by about page 40. But by the time you reach the end of this poignant, sometimes funny, but always wise and human memoir-biography, you will love them both. John for his insight and compassion, and Nancy for the price she paid to blaze the trail for Katie Couric and Greta van Sustren.”
John Dickerson’s biography of Nancy Dickerson is a raw and compelling portrait of his mother, who was, in a way, the Katie Couric of her time, the first woman to break into the all-male fortress of TV news, back in the dark ages of the 1960s. With On Her Trail John Dickerson has written more than a biography: it is a history of the timewith rich new stories about John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson; a social dissection of elite Washington; it isand this may be the most captivating part of the booka personal confession of life with a mother almost obsessively driven in her career.
Some may compare the book to ‘Mommy Dearest,’ but it is really ‘Mommy Lost and Mommy Found.’ In the first part of the book, mother and son somehow lose one other; but in the last part they find each other again on many levels.The book is a mix of sold reportorial digging with a son’s sometimes heartbreaking insights. It is bold, shocking at times, and brilliant.”
When John F. Kennedy’s casket returned from Dallas, there was only one woman in the entire Washington press corps: Nancy Dickerson. Before Barbara Walters, Diana Sawyer, and Katie Couric, the former schoolteacher from Milwaukee blazed a trail for women in national media. In this gripping family memoir, Nancy’s son John Dickerson describes both his mother’s breakthrough role in TV history and the dysfunctional drama of his family’s home. A missing chapter from women's history.”
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John writes with a touch of both humor and pathos…. A fascinating…portrait of a cultural icon who happened to also be a mom.”