I’m both a reader and organizer of the Politics 4 the People Book Club – so this club is near and dear to my heart! I’m particularly moved by our latest selection. Thank you Cathy Stewart for introducing us to “I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War” by Jerome Charyn. It’s a lovely book, chock full of vignettes–tragic, funny, and ordinary–that you could imagine Abraham Lincoln experiencing.
This book has given me a window into the heart and soul of Abraham Lincoln, a beloved figure in US history. On the face of it – this may seem like an odd statement, since the book is not factual. It’s a novel. And in a magical way, it’s autobiographical! I also thank you Cathy, for introducing us to Charyn. I think the book speaks to the author’s character as much as it does Lincoln’s. It is likely that you can find a sense of an author in every book they write. But I particularly thought about that, with this book. I really look forward to meeting Mr. Charyn on our conference call. Here we have a colorful glimpse of Lincoln, not as an icon, an abstraction, an untouchable, but instead, how he just might have been in the world, A kind, decent man – a man with integrity and great ambition, with an abundance of human frailties and flaws, In his inner most thoughts, how could he not have imagined himself with Ann Rutledge, as he did? This was as real as it gets. To me, this is not a neurotic Lincoln, and not a liberal man. He’s a down to earth working man who does what he sees needs to be done. He is touched by the other. He makes mistakes and he owns up to them. The author brings Lincoln to life whimsically, irreverently, and always with respect. He questions – actually he throws out the window – the worn out label “Honest Abe” along with all the homilies that have kept Lincoln away from us and long buried in his grave, a one-dimensional figure. A common and extraordinary man, yet so untouchable to us, the common men and women who love and admire him from afar, with this book, we get up close and personal! So again, thank you! June Hirsh is an organizer with IndependentVoting.org. She lives in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.