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Books by and about 2012 presidential nominees
Do Not Ask What Good We Do
about Rep. Paul Ryan (2012)
The Path to Prosperity
by Rep. Paul Ryan (2012)
Ten Letters
about Pres. Barack Obama (2011)
A Life of Trial and Redemption
about V.P. Joe Biden (2010)
No Apology
by Gov. Mitt Romney (2010)
Young Guns
by Rep. Paul Ryan et al (2010)
The Path to Prosperity
by Rep. Paul Ryan (2012)
Promises to Keep
by Vice Pres. Joe Biden (2007)
The Audacity of Hope
by Pres. Barack Obama (2006)
by Gov. Mitt Romney (2004)
Dreams from My Father
by Pres. Barack Obama (1996)

Book Reviews


(click a book cover for a review or other books by or about the presidency from

What Obama Means:
For Our Culture, Our politics, Our Future
, by Jabari Asim

(Click for Amazon book review)


This book looks at Obama's 2008 campaign from a cultural perspective as opposed to a political perspective. It's written by an African-American cultural analyst and focuses on African-American cultural issues.

The "cultural perspective" includes African-American political figures, as one would expect--from Martin Luther King to Jesse Jackson, all the way back to Frederick Douglass--focusing on their relevance to voters' acceptance of an African-American president. But the "cultural perspective" also includes pop culture references--from Sidney Poitier to Will Smith--as well as non-African-American cultural figures--from Sarah Silverman's organizing "The Great Schlep" for Obama (a Florida Jewish grandparent get-out-the-vote effort), to an entire chapter on Saturday Night Live (the sometimes-political TV show).

The author's favorite cultural references are movie analogies: the author clearly adores movies more than political history. Besides the standards such as Denzel Washington and Spike Lee, there's an entire chapter dedicated to the movie concept of "The Magic Negro." That refers to the semi-psychic African-American movie character type who appears, for example, in Stephen King's "The Shining" (the telepathic cook); and in "The Green Mile" (the giant healer condemned to Death Row).

If you want to connect movies and popular culture to Obama's politics, this is the ideal book for you. If you want to understand the African-American population's view of Obama, this is a good book for you too. If you want to explore how Obama's policy choices affect the African-American community, well, this book is a bit thin, but there are plenty of books on that topic elsewhere.

-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief,,, July 2011 excerpts:  (click on issues for details)
Civil Rights
    Barack Obama: Many black disparities can be traced to legacy of Jim Crow.
Energy & Oil
    Barack Obama: Cellulosic ethanol more energy-efficient than corn-based.
Foreign Policy
    Barack Obama: Fundamental commitment to strong US-Israel relationship.
    Rev. Jesse Jackson: Reduce Zionist influence in American foreign policy.
Principles & Values
    Al Sharpton: OpEd: 2004 campaign made him President of Black America.
    Al Sharpton: Activist & catalyst in Obama camp, but not an adviser.
    Barack Obama: OpEd: Despite Obama, blacks still need focus on advancement.
    Barack Obama: Developed style & attitude based on exposure to pop culture.
    Barack Obama: Defensive about attempts to portray as sexually attractive.
    Barack Obama: Young supporters make parallels between Obama & pop stars.
    Barack Obama: 40 million viewers for convention nomination speech.
    Barack Obama: New Yorker cover: Islamic garb & fist-bumping Michelle.
    Barack Obama: 1970s: Teen basketball player & fan of Julius "Dr. J" Erving.
    Barack Obama: Described by fans as rock star; dismissed by critics as same.
    Barack Obama: OpEd: Unflappability comes from Methodist grandparents.
    Barack Obama: OpEd: Combines clergy oratory with intellectual eloquence.
    Barack Obama: OpEd: March 2008 "race speech" reminder of ongoing struggle.
    Barack Obama: March 2008 speech on race began with "We, the people".
    Barack Obama: Rev. Wright's sermon "Audacity of Hope" was radical optimism.
    Barack Obama: Evokes Lincoln's call to overcome irreconcilable differences.
    Barack Obama: Portrayed by GOP as "risky", implying alien and un-American.
    Barack Obama: "Obama Messiah Watch": Keep eye on media gushing hyperbolic.
    Barack Obama: Am I somehow responsible for fate of entire black race?
    Barack Obama: No contradiction as black voice & constituent representative.
    Barbara Jordan: 1976: First black keynote speaker at National Convention.
    Colin Powell: 1995: Polled 54% to 39% for president against Bill Clinton.
    Jesse Louis Jackson: Obama is first thoughtful black speaker since MLK.
    Jesse Louis Jackson: National co-chair of Obama's presidential campaign.
    Jimmy Carter: 1976: blacks in administration reflected support at polls.
    Joe Biden: 2008 primary: Obama is "articulate & bright & clean".
    John Lewis: 1963: Winning moments not evidence of lasting victory.
    John McCain: OpEd: Ads decrying Obama as "celebrity" misread "popularity".
    John McCain: Obama has eloquent but empty call for change.
    Lynn Westmoreland: Sept. 2008: Obamas are "uppity".
    Mike Huckabee: Joked at NRA talk about Obama ducking gunshots.
    Rev. Jesse Jackson: "Run, Jesse, Run" double meaning: campaign, & dodge attacks.
    Rev. Jesse Jackson: 1984 Rainbow Coalition: expand corridors of power.
    Rev. Jesse Jackson: Caught off-mike: Obama "talks down to black people".
    Barack Obama: enabled grassroots organizing.
Welfare & Poverty
    Rev. Jesse Jackson: Voice of the poor, the disenchanted, & the disillusioned.

The above quotations are from What Obama Means:
For Our Culture, Our politics, Our Future
, by Jabari Asim.
All material copyright 1999-2013
Reprinting by permission only.
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Page last edited: Oct 16, 2011