Mad­dow tra­verses the po­lit­i­cal di­vide

The Morning Call (Sunday) - - BOOKS - By Ca­role Claps

Be­fore star­dom hit, Rachel Mad­dow had lots of grow­ing up — and com­ing out — to do.

Lisa Ro­gak’s well-re­searched “Rachel Mad­dow: A Bi­og­ra­phy” de­tails Mad­dow’s life from grow­ing up in the con­ser­va­tive town of Cas­tro Val­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, as the youngest child of Elaine and Robert Mad­dow to be­com­ing the pop­u­lar su­per­star po­lit­i­cal pun­dit for MSNBC-TV on the Emmy Award-win­ning “The Rachel Mad­dow Show.”

As a fresh­man at Stan­ford Univer­sity, she de­cided to re­veal her sex­u­al­ity in the most public way pos­si­ble, via an ar­ti­cle in the col­lege news­pa­per, which made her the most vis­i­ble les­bian on cam­pus. One catch: She hadn’t yet told her par­ents, who were very Catholic (two of Rachel’s ma­ter­nal aunts are nuns). When the news hit, they were hurt; there were tears and there were fears of Rachel go­ing to hell. In the end, they just wanted her to be safe and even­tu­ally, came around. Mad­dow cur­rently has been in a 20plus-year re­la­tion­ship.

This bi­og­ra­phy fo­cuses on a re­mark­able woman who knew ex­actly where her des­tiny lay, who was de­voted to AIDS ac­tivism and was bright enough to be in­vited to study at Ox­ford where she was awarded a doc­tor­ate af­ter com­plet­ing her the­sis on HIV/AIDS and Health Care Re­form in Bri­tish and Amer­i­can Pris­ons.

Af­ter re­turn­ing to the United States, Rachel con­tin­ued her in­volve­ment with projects that sa­ti­ated her ac­tivism while mov­ing be­tween jobs, in­clud­ing a stint as a DJ on a lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion. Dur­ing that time, there were thoughts she would some­day take a job with the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, and she be­gan putting out feel­ers to con­tacts about work­ing there.

Then a his­tory-chang­ing event hap­pened that would al­ter the di­rec­tion of her life and ca­reer for­ever — 9/11. She de­cided ra­dio would be the best place for her at this time be­cause she felt she could help to ex­plain things clearly to lis­ten­ers. From there she blasted her way onto the na­tional stage with a stint on Air Amer­ica, at that time the only all-pro­gres­sive talk ra­dio net­work. Peo­ple no­ticed. MSNBC-TV came call­ing. And the rest, as they say, is his­tory.

With the suc­cess of “The Rachel Mad­dow Show” reach­ing its 12-year mark, and its host show­ing no signs of slow­ing down, and with a cur­rent work sched­ule that would take down lesser mor­tals, does she ever think about leav­ing MSNBC-TV and maybe do­ing some­thing else?

Not this lady. “I have the best job on earth. I think help­ing peo­ple un­der­stand what is go­ing on in the world and what is go­ing on in your coun­try is a no­ble thing to do. I have found some­thing I think I am good at.”

If you love pol­i­tics and a well-writ­ten story, Lisa Ro­gak’s “Rachel Mad­dow: A Bi­og­ra­phy” is just the book for you.

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