Published by Spiegel & Grau
Publication date: July 10, 2018
Genres: Debut, Memoir, Non-fiction
It may sound like fiction, but it’s fact: Beck Dorey-Stein answered a Craigslist ad and got a job working as a stenographer at the White House. She was there for Barack Obama’s second term as president and in her memoir From the Corner of the Oval she shares her experiences of being the least important person in the room, but the one who gets to hear everything.
From the Corner is addictive reading because not only is it about Stein’s job, it’s about life as a 28-year-old in an insular world where you are on-call 24/7 while probably still hung over from way too much drinking the night before. Because you’re in a tightly wound, highly stressful atmosphere, and seeing the same people over and over. Friends and family fall by the wayside, but you get to go to Stonehenge and Petra for free. You travel in luxury, but can’t afford a D.C. apartment on your salary. It’s an upside-down world of contradictions but if politics are your thing, it’s well worth it. Which was not quite the case for Dorey-Stein, who had little interest in politics. For her it was a much-needed job that turned out to be an adventure beyond anything she imagined.
This is not a political memoir, in the same way Dorey-Stein is not a political insider. The book is an interesting blend of inside scoop about how the White House works and the trials and tribulations of coming-of-age, with all the pain of roommates, no money, and relationship problems. So, while I was in awe of her interactions with someone like Barack Obama, I was appalled over her personal choices. Maybe I’m just an old lady, but repeatedly sleeping with one senior White House staffer despite his having a ‘serious’ girlfriend and the self-control of a rabbit, is not good. I wanted more for her!
The mix of political and personal in From the Corner may skew more towards the personal but it doesn’t negate everything else Dorey-Stein shares or her unique perspective. It was, at times, difficult because the White House now is the antithesis of what it was then, but she even sheds light on the change, which she witnessed in her last days on the job. All in all, this is a fast paced, entertaining, and interesting book.
Clarification: I didn’t read the book I listened to it which I highly recommend. Dorey-Stein narrates and she has a great voice and a snarky, humorous attitude.