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  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Barack Obama: Invisible Man by the David Masciotra.

    On the night Donald Trump was elected President of the United States we posted to Facebook that "Hate won." A friend of someone we knew in high school, though not someone we know ourselves responded by saying that they didn't hate anyone and that it was unfair to say they did based on their vote. Though we try not to respond to exchanges such as this, we responded that we didn't know whether they hated anyone or not, nor did we care, but they had voted for someone who ran a campaign based on hate, hence hate won. They were okay with this response. It seems both fortunate and unfortunate to us that Barack Obama's presidency must exist as refracted through the administration that follows his. He only looks classier, more compassionate, and thoughtful in comparison, but his presidency also cannot be allowed to stand on its own. President Trump is hell-bent on erasing all of that which Obama accomplished, and so every thread, positive thread anyway, we associate with the last eight years is tied to their own unraveling with each and every passing day. It may be that this is the course of history, that presidents are inevitably tied to those who precede and follow them. All presidents and all of their actions tethered to the longer arc of history. And yet, the Obama presidency, and Obama the man, exist on a parallel arc as well. Obama is our first African-American president. Period. End of statement. We can choose to ignore just how unpredecented this was, or as Obama might even prefer, seek to understand his place in history based on his merits alone. To do so, however, is to ignore a story that is not only unique to the history of people of color in this country, but is wholly unique to our presidential history. And that is this: President Trump may choose to vigorously erase any sense that Obama was ever president, but as an African-American, the country's twisted relation to race means that Obama's accomplishments, not to mention his class, compassion, and thoughtfulness, were already ignored by much of the country. All of which brings us to the superbly moving, and terrifically thought-provoking, Barack Obama: Invisible Man by the David Masciotra. The book draws on the classic novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and argues that the country's obsession with race obscured what President Obama offered to the country: a president, who based on his race, upbringing, and work history, presented the country, his country, with a uniquely historic and timely figure that offered a path forward, a path that was ignored, and now has been squandered with President Trump's election. That President Obama is a reflection of where the world is headed, and America at its best, an amalgam of race, curiosity, decency, and intellect, and that few were better suited to take us there seems inarguable. That President Trump represents where the world was, and at its worst at that, toxic masculinity and patriarchy, a lack of racial, gender, and sexual  parity, isolationism, seems inarguable as well. That there is anyone we have personally read besides David Masciotra who is better equipped to tackle this topic is unlikely. But wIll many follow him. Surely. There's no more contemporary story than this one, and there are many voices we've yet to read or hear from. But is this the place, and the book, to start with? Absolutely. Will it change your life? Certainly.