Harvard professor, Washington power broker and former Gore 2000 campaign chair Donna Brazile's life might make for a pretty entertaining Hollywood movie if an actress could be found gutsy enough to take on such a complex and intimidating leading role. From humble blue-collar Louisiana beginnings as one of nine children, Brazile went on to organize voter registration drives, marches to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr., and ultimately national political campaigns. In her memoir Cooking With Grease, Brazile shares candid perspectives on her employers and causes. And while Mike Dukakis and Dick Gephardt fans will be pleased to know their men are included, it is the insights on the charismatic preacher/activist/presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and Al Gore, whom Brazile insists won the controversial 2000 election, that make this a must read for devotees of modern political history. Her accounts of being backstage in the Gore camp shed valuable light on the tense political climate of that year's election and post-election recount mess in a way that only a select few from either the Bush or Gore campaigns could legitimately offer. Still, none of the candidates shine quite so brightly in this book as the author herself. Washington is, after all, operated, with a few exceptions, by moneyed white men and for a black woman from a humble background to succeed requires determination, a quick wit, and a powerful intellect. As Brazile climbs the political ladder, those qualities come in to sharp relief. But while Cooking With Grease is inspirational, and Brazile really ought to be auctioning the film rights if she hasn't already done so, it doesn't preach, inspiring by example rather than exhorting the reader to follow Brazile's own course of action. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
Brazile's lifelong love affair with politics culminated in September 1999, when she became Al Gore's presidential campaign manager. She was also the first African-American woman to head a mainstream national presidential campaign. Both achievements are the subject of this lively, sometimes moving memoir. After joining the Dukakis campaign at age 21, through wise strategy choices and sheer ability, Brazile carved out a place at the table with the primarily male, white, middle-aged political elite. Her colorful observations about the high-profile politicians she met (black and white) are often entertaining, although she tries not to slam the door on potential future campaign positions. Bill Clinton "had the mind of six men..."; Rev. Jesse Jackson "was brilliant in terms of politics and he was a master of manipulation when it came to the media." Yet for all the insider look at the Gore campaign, the book's strength is Brazile herself, a self-described "abrasive Black woman." And while some may find self-serving her penchant for distancing herself from the Gore campaign's mistakes, readers will respond positively to the loving description of her Louisiana roots, her remarkable sense of purpose and her fierce loyalty to friends and family. Being a black woman informs all of Brazile's experiences, and readers get an invaluable glimpse of what it is like to be who she was, where she was, during one of America's most tumultuous political moments.
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