It was drilled into my head that summer reading is fundamental. I picked up three books to read this summer and ended up with one hit and two misses.
The 2 Misses
The first one I tried to read was ‘The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian,’ by W. Kamau Bell.
The chapter length book title should have given me a clue he may be trying too hard.
I needed to know why and how Chris Rock tapped him to host a show in 2012 on FX named ‘Total Biased.’ I loved the show which ran for a couple seasons. Now Kamau has a great show on CNN called ‘The United Shades of America.’ His very first episode is worth watching because he goes in and talks with the KKK on their turf. He’s a brave man.
Kamau’s book was interesting but it wasn’t going anywhere fast, so I put it down.
Then I picked up ‘Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It’ by Charlamange tha God. I don’t know much about him other than his role on NYC morning radio. I’ve never listened to him but I figured his celebrity had to be interesting to read about. Nope. Boring book. Put it down, too.
The 1 Hit
Then I picked up ‘Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.’ I’ve always wondered how and why he moved from comedy to the US Senate and I was curious how he got so good at grilling people in Congressional Hearings and Confirmation Hearings. Fortunately, he told me in the book.
I had experience in all this. I cut my teeth as a political activist in opposition to Gingrich, and to the growth of the right wing media, and to the G.W. Bush administration. Because I had been a satirist since I was a teenager, I had plenty of experience identifying hypocrisies and absurdities. I knew how to drill down into an argument to find the inconsistency that would reveal the underlying mendacity of the object of my derision. I had learned not to be afraid to speak truth to power. That’s what my books and radio show were about.
I never knew he had other books or a radio show.
Reading how he destroyed Betsie DeVos at her Confirmation Hearing is worth the price of the book.
This is a great book for learning how today’s government works from a guy who won his first political campaign by first losing by about 2000 votes. But, in an 8-month recount fight, he won by about 300 votes out of nearly 3 million casted in Minnesota in 2008. He also mentions how President Obama refused to lend any support to his campaign.
In very simple terms, Franken talks about how the government makes decisions on education, health care, gun rights, and a lot of other current issues. He says voters expect our legislators to create and pass bills that their constituents demand. At least that’s what Franken believes.
He talks about his days studying hard science at Harvard before switching majors to behavior science and how it prepared him for public service. He talks of his start in comedy and gives some amusing inside scoop of his 25 years on Saturday Night Live.
I was curious how he contains his comic self while working in his US Senate role. I wasn’t surprised to learn that it’s difficult for him to not crack jokes. He writes that this book gave him an opportunity to share some of the funny stuff he wanted to say and write, but was either warned not to or he fought with himself to listen to the angel on his right shoulder when the devil on his left shoulder was telling him otherwise.
If you’re looking for a fun, great read that is as up to date as the first few weeks of Spin Master DJ T-Rumps administration, please read this book. Franken does not bite his tongue and will have you chuckling through the entire read.