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The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama Hardcover – January 20, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (January 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038552501X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385525015
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist and broadcaster Ifill offers a stellar analysis of the black political structure and its future in American politics. President Obama is featured but does not dominate the text; Ifill focuses more intently on such figures as Rev. Jesse Jackson and Newark, N.J., mayor Cory Booker, as well as Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. As a reader, Ifill is professional, authoritative but never stuffy, impassioned but never biased. Listeners will be rewarded by a well-researched, well-narrated take on the implications of President Obama's election on the strongholds of African-American political power. A Doubleday hardcover (PW Daily, Jan. 16). (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From School Library Journal

Former New York Times reporter Ifill explores the role of race, racism, and identity politics as played out in the 2008 election, offering striking criticism and intriguing insight as to how one can examine these ideas in light of Barack Obama's presidential victory. As narrator, however, Ifill is arguably less successful. She has the intense, assertive, projecting voice of a news reporter, which can get tiresome, and a significant number of page turns can be heard throughout. Though the subject matter will impress and provoke political junkies and lay readers alike, some may find Ifill's performance overwhelming. [Audio clip available through www.highbridgeaudio.com; includes a bonus interview with the author.—Ed.]—Lance Eaton, Peabody, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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I enjoyed the audio version of Ms. Ifill's book.
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Gwen Ifill makes a real good point in writing this book.
Tellmeasecret
Breakthrough is a great book that is well written.
Paul D. McLemore Sr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on February 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Obama presidency --- less than a month old as this is written --- is already generating a tsunami of commentary, appraisal, praise, criticism, advice, warning and general can-we-really-believe-this wonderment.

The voices producing all this punditry come overwhelmingly from white observers. In this wide-ranging book, TV journalist Gwen Ifill (remember her as moderator of the 2008 vice presidential debate?) gives us a much-needed perspective from the black community itself.

Some of her conclusions may surprise you. There are, for example, sharp generational divisions within the black community over what the election meant and what it may mean for our political future. Race still looms as a major issue in American politics. A huge step forward has indeed been taken, but where the path leads and who will blaze it are unanswered questions.

The major theme of Ifill's book is the deep psychological and tactical division between the older generation of black civil rights activists --- those who endured the fire hoses, the attack dogs, the beatings --- and the newer crop of young black political hopefuls who want to build in their own way on what their elders accomplished. The younger group reveres and respects what the pioneers did, but their own objectives are quite different. The situation is nicely summed up by a quote from Michael Steele, the Maryland politician just elected chairman of the Republican National Committee: "This generation is less interested in having a seat at the lunch counter and more interested in owning the diner."

This amounts, in Ifill's phrase, to a "redefinition" of black politics and politicians.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Few public figures are better positioned to write a book on race and politics than Gwen Ifill (b. 1955). As the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, for thirty years the affable and articulate journalist has reported on the sweeping changes in American politics that culminated in what she calls the "Obama effect." As an African-American woman she has also lived this story. The professional and the personal collided with this book, which was released on Inauguration Day (January 20, 2009), when critics charged her with promoting and in turn benefiting from Obama's election.

Obama is only the "leading edge" of radical changes that have redefined the role of blacks in American politics. Today, for example, there are over forty black city mayors. In 2008, 43% of white Americans voted for Obama, an incredible figure when you consider that John Kerry received only 41% in 2004. But there are barriers and boundaries everywhere you turn in this house of mirrors. Obama did his best to run something like a "post-racial" campaign, but Ifill shows that American society remains far from color blind.

Ifill's book is almost entirely anecdotal. She devotes one chapter each to four "case studies" of the new generation of black politicians-- Obama, Artur Davis, a congressman from Birmingham, Alabama; Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey; and then Deval Patrick, mayor of Massachusetts.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By CaseyR on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ifill's take on politics in the current age of Obama examines the past, the present, and hints at the future. The breakthrough, she argues, did not happen overnight but rather was the outcome of many long struggles fought by individuals in politics, from the civil rights movement up to recent years. Ifill examines both young and old members of politics who have made breakthroughs in their own right, and leaves one thinking about how race will continue to play out as a factor in politics. Without pressing a singular opinion throughout the book, Ifill presents interviews and quotes from others that establish ground from which one can form their own opinions and ideas. The book is insightful and interesting, capturing a topic that would surely intrigue anyone living in the age of Obama.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Larry Zieminski VINE VOICE on August 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
Gwen Ifill's book is a very well written look at the current state of African-American politics. It highlights the current crop of black leaders and shows how they view themselves and their place in American politics. The most interesting aspect of the book is the apparent division between the civil rights era leaders and the current leaders, who view their roles differently. While Obama's election is a pivotal moment in race relations in America, the book doesn't really focus on him alone, but rather uses his election as a mirror for the other black leaders in the book. How do they view Obama? What does his election mean? What does that mean for their political future?

As a white male, I was very uninformed on this subject, but thankfully I can speak a little more confidently on the current generation of black leaders and what they stand for.
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