The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, has released the first volume of his memoirs. Ever since the books were announced, anticipation has run high and it’s no doubt going to be a bestseller. Within the pages, he’s already started to reveal his growth into the person that would become President and people are listening.
A Promised Land “tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.”
“I’ve spent the last few years reflecting on my presidency,” the former president said. “[With this book,] I’ve tried to provide an honest accounting of my presidential campaign and my time in office: the key events and people who shaped it; my take on what I got right and the mistakes I made; and the political, economic, and cultural forces that my team and I had to confront then—and that as a nation we are grappling with still.”
Wife Michelle’s memoirs, and blockbuster tour, were released last year to great acclaim. Inside the pages of her tome, she too reflected upon her and her husband’s years in the White House – but giving more of a personal account of how the whole transition left her feeling.
“I understand the people who voted for Trump,” she mentions in the Netflix special that accompanied the book. “The people who didn’t vote at all, the young people, the women, that’s when you think, man, people think this is a game. It wasn’t just in this election. Every midterm. Every time Barack didn’t get the Congress he needed, that was because our folks didn’t show up. After all that work, they just couldn’t be bothered to vote at all. That’s my trauma.”
As the previous occupants of the White House, no doubt the Presidency inflicts its own specific type of trauma and lessons and both of the power couple have shared how the whole experience forced them to grow and change in many ways. It’s a specific LGBT take on growth that is being highlighted by many in Barack’s latest book.
During his earlier years, Obama shares that he was someone who also casually dismissed LGBT people, despite the fact that one of his aunt’s was a lesbian that had a partner. He gives further insight into how he wished he’d been more compassionate as a youth towards her.
“I grew up in the 70s, a time when LGBTQ life was far less visible to those outside the community, so that [grandmother] Toot’s sister (and one of my favorite relatives), aunt Arlene, felt obliged to introduce her partner of 20 years as ‘my close friend Marge’ whenever she visited us in Hawaii.”
“And like many teenage boys in those years, my friends and I sometimes threw around words like ‘f*g’ or ‘gay’ at each other as casual put-downs – callow attempts to fortify our masculinity and hide our insecurities,” the President shared freely.
“Once I got to college and became friends with fellow students and professors who were openly gay, though, I realized the overt discrimination and hate they were subject to, as well as the loneliness and self-doubt that the dominant culture imposed on them. I felt ashamed of my past behavior – and learned to do better.”
Though his great aunt Margaret Arlene Payne passed in 2014, her partner Margery Duffey survived her and said this of the rarely mentioned connection to her famous relative outside of a small mention in the obituary.
“He was in the place of the relatives, which is what he was for her.”