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Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In


Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In

Vermont Senator and non-traditional presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ book, OUR REVOLUTION, serves a variety of functions: it is part autobiography, part tales-from-the-campaign-trail memoir, and part progressive manifesto.

He begins by describing his childhood growing up in a working class Jewish neighborhood on East 26th Street in Brooklyn, playing stickball and spending all year looking forward to summer camp. A politician known for his impassioned rhetoric, Sanders writes just as enthusiastically about parts of his childhood as major events that took place later in his political life --- such as denoting his impressive time of 4:38 in the mile race that got him third place in all of New York City when he was 18 and his 2:00 half-mile time in college, but only dedicating hardly half a page to his meeting with Pope Francis, who he calls “one of the great moral and religious leaders not only of our time, but of modern history.”

Every detail he gives about his personal story contributes to the reader’s understanding about how he arrived at his devoutly egalitarian political beliefs, such as how he noticed that ball games played in the Brooklyn streets were officiated just as well by children themselves as organized sports supervised by adults (subtext: authority shouldn’t meddle where it isn’t needed). Sanders is far more interested in communicating his progressive political message than his own story, feeling he is merely a piece within a larger movement. That is why the book that is in theory supposed to be about his life and campaign is titled OUR REVOLUTION.

"Sanders’ story is one of the most fascinating and unlikely in modern American history, and he tells it all with painstaking detail."

Tracking Sanders’ political life is captivating because he has ascended to national political prominence in the most unorthodox, improbable manner possible. He showed up to a meeting of the small Vermont fringe socialist party called the Liberty Union Party in 1971 just because a friend invited him and he thought, “Why not?” Constantly giving his opinion on every subject brought up in the meeting, the party members liked him and nominated him as their candidate for US Senate on the spot. He ran a completely outsider campaign and only garnered two percent of the vote, but he fell in love with discussing leftist issues and meeting voters on the campaign trail. He started running every time a seat was open: for Vermont governor (got one percent of the vote), Senate again (four percent), and then governor again (six percent; steady improvement!).

Then in 1981, miraculously, Sanders defeated the incumbent mayor of Burlington, VT, by a mere 10 votes and became a force to be reckoned with in the state, but while still very much being a political oddity. Never compromising his populist beliefs, he reached the US House of Representatives and eventually the Senate without ever joining the Democratic “establishment,” which is a curse word in the Sanders lexicon.

The inside look at his presidential campaign offers some fun anecdotes, such as the completely inexperienced Sanders team improvising as they went, the candidate learning to appreciate the art of the “selfie” from his interactions with his young audience at his rallies, and the campaign stressing over the prospect of Vice President Joe Biden entering the race. But his account of the race does not introduce much new information that would be surprising to anyone who followed the Democratic primary campaign. He concludes his campaign recollection by page 182, not even halfway through the 447-page book.

The remainder is a detailed progressive roadmap for how and why to continue the “political revolution” Sanders speaks of so often, providing reams of data and extensive explanations on issues ranging from climate change to universal health care. He includes a bar graph titled “Solar Employment Growth by Sector, 2010 and 2015” and a list titled “Top Ten Corporate Tax Avoiders” among countless other statistics. Again, this is meant to be “Bernie Sanders’ book,” but he would much rather discuss income inequality and youth unemployment than himself. Although unusual, this approach does provide readers with an understanding of how Sanders views himself as a public figure. He doesn’t campaign to get himself elected; rather, he sees himself as a vehicle for spreading progressive ideas to a larger audience. It started with him knocking on doors to Vermont log cabins in his first Senate race, and it continued with him winning 22 states and 13 million votes in a presidential primary.

Sanders’ story is one of the most fascinating and unlikely in modern American history, and he tells it all with painstaking detail. Written in his distinct speaking voice that leads the reader to assume he may have dictated a great deal of the book rather than typing or writing it out, OUR REVOLUTION serves as a candid, inspiring story about a politician who has stayed true to his principles despite decades of being told by Washington, DC insiders that he needs to fall in line. Although history will likely remember 2016 as the year Donald Trump dealt the Democratic Party their most shocking defeat ever, Sanders hopes it will also be remembered as the year a grassroots movement began to make politics less about money and more about the people.

Reviewed by Rob Bentlyewski on November 18, 2016

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In
by Bernie Sanders

  • Publication Date: August 29, 2017
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Politics
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250145007
  • ISBN-13: 9781250145000