But first, if you haven’t yet, you owe it to yourself to read his previous releases. Dreams from My Father, published in 1995, documents his parents’ meeting, his childhood in Honolulu, all the way up to his college years before moving to Chicago and attending Harvard in 1988. Barack Obama proved to have a unique way of weaving his own memories into a candid perspective on life, earning him the review of “best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician” from Time magazine. So when 2006’s The Audacity of Hope was announced, many of us were expecting a similar follow-up. But while it wasn’t the memoir format many readers expected, it did offer unique insight into his perspective on issues of culture, policy, and the human condition.
Four years after his presidency, there’s so much more about his story we want to know. Did his confidence ever waver during his grueling campaign trail? How does he measure his success against the American public’s expectations in his first term? How did he balance being a father, husband, as well as President? Did his duties to the office put a strain on his marriage?
We may finally see answers to these questions and more. His new memoir, titled A Promised Land is set to release on November 17th. The widely-anticipated book will cover his early political career leading to his victory in 2008, up until the end of his first term. And if you have been following the buzz surrounding this release, you will notice press calling it a “first volume” of at least a two-volume planned series. So there’s more to come.
If it seems like it took a very long time for this to be released—that’s because it did (Clinton’s My Life was released three years after his presidency, Bush’s Decision Points a mere two). So what took so long? Two reasons: he insisted on writing it himself without the help of a ghostwriter, and most of the writing was done during tumultuous times that didn’t allow him to simply sit back and enjoy retirement. Even with the Presidency behind, his work was far from finished as many Americans still relied on him as a source of leadership and direction.
Obama shed some light on its contents via an online statement Thursday: “I’ve spent the last few years reflecting on my presidency, and in A Promised Land 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.”
At a whopping 768 pages, A Promised Land is the most highly anticipated presidential memoir ever. The Obamas inked the deal in 2018 with publisher Crown, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, who ordered 3 million copies for the US first edition print. In a time of unprecedented loss in business, booksellers and publishers welcome A Promised Land as an opportunity to bring in much needed revenue. Judging by the success of his previous books —7.5 million copies sold (and that’s just in North America), all signs point to beating that record.
But the anticipated success of Barack Obama’s new memoir also brings its own set of challenges. As you recall in our last newsletter PSA, the printing industry has been hit hard with complications from the pandemic. There’s a nationwide paper shortage, many printing facilities have shut down, and the ones that haven’t barely get by with a skeleton crew. Add in social distancing regulations to every step of production and order fulfillment and it’s a perfect storm for extended delays. Crown Publishing is outsourcing some of the printing to factories in Europe with less restrictive guidelines in order to offset these setbacks.
Unfortunately, for now a book tour will have to wait. With Covid cases making a recent surge, a national circuit of appearances and book signings is simply unfeasible. In the meantime though, be sure to watch the new episode of “The Oprah Conversation” streaming on Apple TV Plus on Tuesday, November 17th at 9am EST. Host Oprah Winfrey will sit down with the former president for a discussion on his triumphs, doubts, and everything in between that went into writing A Promised Land.