Books & Literature

Book Review: Joe Biden: American Dreamer, by Evan Osnos

POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY: The new biography of President Joe Biden by National Book Award winner and New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos.

An interesting read but overly one-sided.
4

Photo credit to Michael Stokes.

Evan Osnos’s biography is brief but covers what makes Joe Biden tick in a political sense. The narrative is largely sympathetic to Biden. Osnos has written for The New Yorker since 2008, covering American politics and foreign affairs. In 2014, he won the National Book Award for nonfiction for his first book, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China. He has also written another book on Biden entitled Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been chasing his goal of becoming American President for decades, with his first tilt at the position way back in 1988. He was first elected to the Senate at the tender age of 29, first ran for President in 1988 at the age of 46, and his success in the 2020 election made him the oldest president ever at 78 years. Despite his age, Biden has demonstrated progressive policies, including making Kamala Harris the first-ever female Vice President and choosing Pete Buttigieg for Transportation Secretary, the first openly gay person confirmed to a Cabinet post.

Osnos successfully combines an up-close and personal journalistic style with a broader analytical view drawn from research and interviews with his subject and dozens of others. He presents Biden’s career as thoroughly grounded in an understanding of the suffering and difficulties of others, gained through his own personal tragedies rather than marked by the sense of entitlement displayed by so many male politicians. Mere weeks after becoming a senator in 1972, his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash while his son Beau died from a brain tumour in 2015. Given the shambles Donald Trump left behind, it can only be positive that Biden’s background would suggest he knows how a distressed and despairing population and nation can be assisted towards recovery.

If readers are looking for depth and a wide range of opinions, they will be disappointed. While the author praises Biden for his recognition and willingness to face his limitations or missteps, one finds almost nothing in the book from his opponents or detractors. This biography, running only 177 pages including notes, feels as if it were rushed out to capitalise on the election victory.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Distributed by: Bloomsbury
Released: 5 January 2021
RRP: $35.99 (Hardback)

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