Journalist Rogak (Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart, 2014, etc.), who has profiled Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, rounds out her take on controversial TV personalities with a breezy biography of MSNBC anchor and political pundit Rachel Maddow.
Rachel, as the author chummily refers to her, has spoken candidly about herself in many print interviews, speeches, and talk show appearances, material that Rogak liberally mines. The result is a book so filled with quotations that it reads like a very long interview. Readers will discover that Maddow first came out as an undergraduate at Stanford, where she became “the most visible out lesbian on campus” and involved herself in gay and lesbian organizations. She also devoted herself to AIDS activism, choosing courses that would give her a rigorous background in public policy and health policy. A stellar student, she won a prestigious Rhodes scholarship that funded a doctorate program at Oxford, where she wrote a thesis on “HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons.” Returning to the U.S., Maddow continued activism and floated among menial jobs before she landed a gig at a local radio station, where “she was surprised to discover that the thing she enjoyed most was to provide her own spin on the topics of the day.” Rogak reiterates Maddow’s goal to “help people” by “disseminating information backed by knowledge and fact and tempered with concern and more than a little bit of humor.” In 2004, she graduated from the local station to the newly formed Air America, where she started as a “rip-and-read newsgirl” and ended with her own two-hour show. In 2008, MSNBC offered her an exclusive contract. Among Rogak’s revelations is Maddow’s love of making artfully crafted cocktails; her meticulous pre-show preparation, spurred by her fear of failure; and her reluctance to marry her beloved partner because of “qualms” about assimilating into the mainstream and losing her identity with gay culture.
Maddow’s own voice dominates a brisk, largely by-the-numbers biography.