After hanging up from my coaching call with my coach, I attended a Ladies Who Launch event in New Canaan last night to hear Jodi Kantor speak about her recent book publication The Obamas– the national bestseller she wrote that came out in January.
The book answers the questions: What happened to the couple we met in 2008? What is the effect of power? Jodi told us more about the process of writing the book and its aftermath than its content–by audience request. She said that every book has to answer a question that even the author doesn’t have the answer to.
I could have left right then and felt completely filled up. My coach, in our conversation prior to this talk, suggested I put my energies into personal subject matter for my next book and/or keynote. I loved everything she suggested, but didn’t feel like I knew where it would lead me. Then Jodi made that statement, and I felt as if the Universe was winking at me and saying, “See? You won’t know until you pursue it.”
Back to the stellar event–Jodi is a risk-taker. First, she had the courage to drop out of Harvard Law School to pursue journalism. After covering the Obamas for the New York Times, she took a leave of absence from that venerable institution in order to write this book. In retrospect it’s easy to see how much sense that all makes. But think of your own journeys and how uncharted the territory ahead can seem. Jodi’s choices were courageous.
She explained to us that The Obamas was an ‘embargoed’ book, meaning that NO ONE read it before the pub date. What happened after its publication stunned her as several reviewers condemned her for portraying Michelle Obama as another angry black woman.
One thing these reviewers had in common was that they had NOT read the book. Public opinion, including the front page of the NY Post, declaimed Kantor’s volume.
Then Jon Stewart (please, entertain yourself and watch his interview by clicking the link above) had Jodi on the Daily Show and congratulated and praised her for showing Michelle Obama as the moral compass of the administration.
Things started to turn around. But not before sensitizing Kantor to the awareness of how challenging it is to be written about. It increased her empathy for all public figures–where she also now found herself. “Very fourth grade!” she told us after reading the criticisms of her book that were unfounded.
I promptly bought a copy of The Obamas and am one hundred pages in already. It’s journalistically reported combining truth and juice, because the story is really interesting.
“People have a compulsive need for the truth,” Jodi told us. I’m very glad to have heard last night’s presentation, shook Jodi’s hand and now read her words.