Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

When the White House Was Ours

by Porter Shreve


Loosely based on Porter Shreve’s own childhood, When the White House Was Ours is the atmospheric and captivating story of a family’s struggle to stay together against great odds.

It’s 1976, and while the country prepares to celebrate the bicentennial, Daniel Truitt’s family is falling apart. His father, Pete, has been fired from yet another teaching job, and his mother, Valerie, is one step away from leaving for good. But when Pete lucks into a crumbling mansion in the nation’s capital, he makes a bold plan to start a school under his own roof where students and teachers will be equals.
Replete with the wry humor, human insight, and cultural resonance that characterizes Shreve’s critically acclaimed fiction, When the White House Was Ours will be a joy to anyone whose family has lived through an idealistic time and ended up in an era of compromise.

Format: Paperback
ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780618722105
ISBN-10: 0618722106
Pages: 288
Publication Date: 08/12/2008
Carton Quantity: 24

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Loosely based on Porter Shreve’s own childhood, When the White House Was Ours is the atmospheric and captivating story of a family’s struggle to stay together against great odds.

It’s 1976, and while the country prepares to celebrate the bicentennial, Daniel Truitt’s family is falling apart. His father, Pete, has been fired from yet another teaching job, and his mother, Valerie, is one step away from leaving for good. But when Pete lucks into a crumbling mansion in the nation’s capital, he makes a bold plan to start a school under his own roof where students and teachers will be equals.

Replete with the wry humor, human insight, and cultural resonance that characterizes Shreve’s critically acclaimed fiction, When the White House Was Ours will be a joy to anyone whose family has lived through an idealistic time and ended up in an era of compromise.

Additional Assets

Porter Shreve

Porter Shreve was born during the Lyndon Johnson administration, grew up in Washington, D.C., and has attended three presidential inaugurations: Carter ’77, Clinton ’93, and Clinton ’97. In the 1970s his family started an alternative school called Our House Is a Very, Very, Very Fine House, and some of When the White House Was Ours is loosely based on that experience. Shreve’s first novel, The Obituary Writer, was a New York Times Notable Book, and his second, Drives Like a Dream, was a Chicago Tribune Book of the Year. He lives with his wife, the writer Bich Minh Nguyen, in Chicago and West Lafayette, Indiana, where he directs the creative writing program at Purdue University. Read More



In this absorbing and sharply observed novel, Porter Shreve offers rare insight into the anxiety that goes hand in hand with idealism. His thirteen-year-old narrator is a worried yet wonderful guide through this story of an imperfect family and an imperfect nation struggling to become their better selves.

—Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Madeline is Sleeping and Ms. Hempel Chronicles

Porter Shreve does what few writers can-- he casts a spell, bringing you immediately and completely into a world you won't soon want to leave. This is a humane, tender and intimate story about what it means to be a family, to be idealistic in an all too pragmatic world.

-- Joe McGinnis Jr., author of The Delivery Man

WHEN THE WHITE HOUSE WAS OURS is as good as it gets. Porter Shreve tells the story of the Truitts, a most unusual displaced family who come to Washington, DC from the Midwest to start an alternative school in a white house. They arrive about the same time Jimmy Carter, the man from Plains, comes to another White House with a credo about trust. The end result is a tale of sheer delight—beautifully told in perfect pitch.

--Jim Lehrer, Host of “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and author of Eureka and The Last Debate

Porter Shreve has always had a keen feel for a story and an instinct for what is interesting in the world. He is a wonderful and accomplished young writer.—Lorrie Moore, author of Birds of America

[Porter Shreve's] narrative nicely counterpoints Daniel’s coming-of-age story with the bewildering, and even endearing, goofiness of this memorable time in his—and the country’s—growing up.
Kirkus Reviews

[Shreve] tells smart, inventive, sociologically intriguing stories, and his latest is a fun-to-read novel with great relevance and charm . . . The coming-of-age element is irresistible, as is the impossible dream of an anything-goes school, and what a wild and crazy extended family Shreve has created in the age of free love and Watergate.
Booklist, ALA

The political backdrop is perfectly played, as is the bittersweet nostalgia that makes the book and its freewheeling gang irresistible.
Publishers Weekly