Who is Nate Marshall? Chicago poet reviews Barack Obama’s memoir

Olivia Olphin November 18, 2020
Who is Nate Marshall? Chicago poet reviews Barack Obama’s memoir
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Who is Nate Marshall? The poet recently reviewed Barack Obama’s new book and memoir, A Promised Land, for the Chicago Tribune and appeared on the 11th Hour show with Brian Williams on MSNBC to talk about it.

Following Marshall’s rather scathing critique, many Obama supporters are making their feelings about Marshall loud and clear on Twitter. Keep reading to find out just what Nate Marshall thought of Obama’s new book.

Who is Nate Marshall?

Nate Marshall is an assistant professor of English at Colorado College. He is also a writer, poet, rapper, playwright and editor of The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry In The Age of Hip-hop. Marshall is originally from the South Side of Chicago.

He has won multiple awards including the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s award for poetry book of the year, as well as the new writer award from The Great Lakes College.

He has said his writing “tends to consider themes of blackness, urbanity, and community”.

Marshall’s writing has taken many forms over the years but he is best known for his poetry. He has published a number of collections of poems, including Finna and Wild Hundreds, the former being released in August.

Marshall’s partner, Alison Rollins, also works at Colorado College, as lead teaching and learning librarian. She is the author of Library Of Small Catastrophes, published in September 2019.

Why is Nate Marshall in the news?

Barack Obama’s new book and memoir, A Promised Land, came out yesterday, 17 November. He also released a playlist of 20 songs that have helped him through his two terms as president. These included tunes by The Beatles, Beyonce, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Jay-Z and more.

Nate Marshall wrote a review of the book in the Chicago Tribune and was also invited on to the 11th Hour show with Brian Williams on MSNBC to discuss his thoughts on the memoir.

In his Chicago Tribune review he wrote: “The presidential memoir so often falls flat because it works against the strengths of the memoir form.”

He accuses Obama of writing the book not to inform but to defend: “Rather than take a slice of one’s life to lay bare and come to a revelation about the self or the world, the presidential memoir seeks to take the sum of a life to defend one’s actions.”

He also states Obama is ‘over-considering every detail”.

However, Marshall does show some admiration for Obama, albeit a tad back-handed: “The Obama that shines through the text is certainly brilliant and analytical, but with little philosophical or ideological heft.

“Time and again, it seems when Obama is successful it is precisely this ability to find common ground that shines.”

However, to many the review felt more like an opinion piece than a review of the book. Marshall even states it is hard to separate the two: “It seems any review of [Obama’s] work is as much about the man as it is about the book.”

Twitter reacts to Marshall’s review

Since his article was published, Twitter users have rushed to criticise Marshall’s review of Obama’s memoir:

Some Twitter users have also questioned Marshall’s ability to articulate his own argument:

Some users have even taken this further and accused Marshall of writing a bad review of Obama’s book purely out of jealously:

One fan is also blaming MSNBC for proliferating one view as representative of a whole community:

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Olivia Olphin is an English Literature graduate and a film and literature fanatic. She has many years of reviewing experience, recently working as accredited press for the London Film Festival. She has also written widely about culture and sex education, as well as LGBTQ+ and women's issues.