Earlier this month Ayelet Waldman sent around a note to authors asking for signed books to auction at an Obama-campaign fundraiser. This idea garnered almost 1,000 books and launched Books4Barack. Donate $250 or more through the web site and you would receive a mystery bag of 10 books, all in a canvas tote printed with the BOOKS FOR BARACK logo. (Several of the mystery bags will also be auctioned off during Alice Waters' September 26 Berkeley fundraiser, Vote with Your Fork, an evening of political gastronomy in support of Barack Obama, for which tickets are still available here. )
But today there is big news from Ayelet:
When the idea for books4barack first occurred to me, I hoped to raised two or three thousand dollars for Barack Obama's historic campaign. In my wildest dreams I never imagined that the figure would be close to $40,000. Thanks to all of you, this ridiculous project has been a resounding success. We've sold more baskets than we have books, a boggling feat, considering how many books are spilling out of boxes in my living room. We won't be taking anymore book bag donations, but we urge you to please consider donating anyway, even without the books. Writers, keep sending your books in. Please. We need lots more to fulfill the orders we already have.
The response had nothing to do with the idea, or with me, and everything to do with the historic candidacy of Barack Obama. All of us feel a profound sense of urgency. For the first time we can imagine voting not just against a person or a party (although, God knows, there's a lot to vote against), but for someone. For someone who demands of this country that we rise to his example. That we become our best selves.
Since our children were small, Michael and I have been telling them a story about America. We've been telling them that this complicated nation has a complicated history. That just as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, and the Wright brothers figure in its history, so do slavery, the Trail of Tears, and Korematsu v. United States. We've described our country's history as a heroic struggle for change inspired by leaders like Susan B. Anthony, Medgar Evers, and Chief Tecumseh. Because of their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of ordinary people, America left behind those ugly days, we tell our children, and today we live in a better place. We've told these stories with our fingers crossed behind our backs, because even as we celebrate progress, we think of Guantanamo Bay and Pelican Bay, and even as we celebrate change, we think of the fact that a woman still earns 77 cents to a man's dollar.
On January 21st, my family will be standing on the Mall where the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the speech that inspired generations, watching Barack Obama raise his hand and take the oath of office. At that moment, the America of our myths and stories will come true. At that moment, we will uncross our fingers, raise our hands to the sky and begin another story.