Cover Image: From the Corner of the Oval

From the Corner of the Oval

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This is a memoir of Beck Dorey-Stein's time in the White House.  From the day to day things that she encounters, to trips on Air Force One with the President,  this is her story and I highly enjoyed it.
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Beck Dorey-Stein's account was out of this world and left me longing for the days with Obama in the Oval Office. Hilarious and fun account that left me wanting more.
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I did not have a chance to read this book, but it is effecting my feedback rating.  I am giving books 5 stars that I haven't read to improve my feedback rating.  I am not recommending the book for my classroom or students since I have not read the book.  There needs to be a better system of leaving feedback for books not read.
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It's 2011. Rebecca "Beck" Dorey=Stein was a woman without a full-time job, that is until she saw a post on Craigslist for a Stenographer's job. Come to find out they were hiring for the Stenographer pool that follows the most powerful man in the United States of America-- President Barack Obama.

Many wacky things happen to Beck while traveling with the WH Press. She meets some of the most powerful people in politics and because she is such an extrovert gets herself in some jams that most people don't seem to mind. The book is fast-paced like a sprint through the halls of the underground Whitehouse corridors. There is a lot of relationship building, political highlights, and name dropping in this book. I found the book to be a good look into the WH during the Obama Era and into Dorey-Stein's own life. I did get a little annoyed at times with Dorey-Stein's failure to see that her relationship with "Jason" a man 10 years her senior and a "higher up" in the White House would make her job suffer in the long run. I guess that we all make some choices that backfire on us in life that we end up learning from.

The book is written well, is filled with humor, stress, happiness, and compassion from President Obama through his speeches that Ms. Dorey-Stein transcribes. There are also some really good stories about Dorey-Stein's friendships at the WH, and relationships with her family. I enjoyed reading From the Corner of the Oval.
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I really enjoyed the behind the scenes workings of the White House. I gifted a copy to my cousin who works for a NGO in Washington DC.
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Beck Dorey-Stein is a former White House stenographer who tells all about her time working next to greatness in her memoir From the Corner of the Oval. Beck falls into this job after a temporary position at a school in Washington D.C. finishes. She is working several part time jobs when she comes across a Craigslist add for a stenographer. It isn't until she interviews for the job that she discovers it is working at the White House. From 2012 to 2017, she is part of the team that records every speech, every interview, and every press briefing that President Obama conducts. She travels with the White House staff all over the world for meetings with international leaders and to small towns in the United States for meetings with everyday Americans. She details what it is like to fly on Airforce One and travel in protected motorcades and stay in hotels guarded by Secret Service agents. She also shares a great deal about her personal life and how she spent those years meeting new friends and how the job affected her relationships.

Unfortunately, Dorey-Stein isn't particularly likeable. In fact, there were several times she was downright unlikeable. It is obvious she tries, but like the one-dimensional female character in a 2-star YA novel, she fails. She describes herself as unsophisticated out of place in a way that sounds like whining like insincere insecurity. Granted, some of the staff sound pretty awful with one even criticizing her orange blazer: "Bright colors are for senior staffers." It makes me wonder, do they also say "On Wednesdays we wear pink."? Even still, rather than coming off as an underdog, she just sounds pathetic.

Dorey-Stein also recounts how this time is filled with her participation in a despicable affair. For part of it she has a boyfriend, but for all of it the man in question has a girlfriend or is engaged. It is annoying to read about how flat-out stupid she is with this guy, a senior staffer. I know we all do dumb things when we are in love, but nothing about this guy is redeeming or romantic, no matter how hard she tries to write it that way. He constantly leaves her miserable and she just keeps going back for more. It made me want to scream at her "Get. It. Together, girl!" Through it all she is surrounded but so many inspiring people; smart, strong women and men who are busy making a difference and all she can see is a pathetic high school romance with a jerk who is probably a sociopath. That is pretty hard to like.

She bemoans her lot in life after one particularly rough night of overdrinking and fighting with this man and finds herself envying my friends with their full nights of sleep, their unfractured hearts, their focus on what actually matters. Then grow up, figure it out, and be better! On numerous occasions she describes how one drink after work leads to several more which always lead to more bad decisions. It is embarrassing. She tells these stories like she thinks she is Carrie from  Sex in the City, but she really isn't. And she really shouldn't.

An aspiring writer during this time, she shares her writing with several people who all tell her how great a writer she is, but of course she doesn't believe it- no matter how many times over and over  she reports people telling her she's great. It almost sounds like a humblebrag the way she goes on and on about it. A couple of different times she mentions that people ask her when she's going to quit her job and be a writer. She even quotes one friend calling it a "shit job" and suggesting she quit and start writing. First of all, it sounds like a pretty amazing job to me. I'm sure every day isn't a day at Disneyland, but traveling the world? Interacting on a regular basis with President Obama? Meeting inspiring people at every turn? That sounds like a dream job.  And secondly, why does she have to quit to be a writer? There are plenty of writers with day jobs and it sounds like she has plenty of downtime to devote to her writing, if only she could stop going out to bars late into the night, getting wasted like a college sophomore every time she has a free moment, and squandering her time and energy on a useless man who doesn't even care about her.

In the end, this book was a self-indulgent exercise in sensationalism with the sole purpose of becoming a published author. We want to learn about life working in the White House, not about her ridiculous social life. The content of her occupation is fascinating, but Beck? Not so much.
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White House stenographer back in the days of President Barack Obama, Beck Dorey-Stein has some stories. As part of the press bubble who traveled with the President and attended interviews and speeches from the Oval Office to magnificent venues around the world, she was there, part of the team responsible for recording and then typing every word for posterity. 

Beck is not your typical Washington D.C. insider. She never really wanted to be a part of the inner White House circle. She just wanted a full-time job with benefits that payed her rent, as opposed to the string of part-time jobs she struggled with in order to survive. When she applied for the job of stenographer, she didn’t know what it was she was getting into. But she passed the interview, she got trained, and eventually she found herself on Air Force One. 

From the Corner of the Oval is the story of her time in D.C., her time working in Obama’s White House, her time traveling the world protected by the Secret Service, her time with her friends and lovers. As she learns to navigate the tricky social rules of the job, she grows in confidence and finds her voice, even when she needed it to answer the smack talk from the next treadmill, where President Obama was running. 

Beck is extremely open in her writing, laying out her thoughts and emotions bare for all to read. It can be difficult to read at times, as she bleeds over the page, talking about the affair she had with a coworker and how it turned into self-loathing as she burned through the relationships with her boyfriend and other trusted friends. Not just an insider’s look at the White House, From the Corner of the Oval is also a memoir of a woman in her 20s, making friends, drinking, dancing, running, making mistakes, and asking forgiveness. 

I listened to the audio book for this, and that was an interesting experience, as it’s read by the author. The book is beautifully written, but at times her narration suffered from the same lack of emotional distance as the book itself does. I enjoyed the book, but I think with some time, distance, and maturity, it could have been a stronger narrative and more powerful story. As it is, the almost stream of consciousness closeness that Beck has to her story makes it feel like she’s reading her journal entries, which are sometimes flippant and sometimes profound. 

If you’re wanting a serious peek into Obama’s Presidency, then you might be put off by her emphasis on her personal relationships and experiences. But for those looking for a lighter look at the White House, for those who want to remember what it’s like to be 26 and relatively free of encumbrances, then this is an exquisitely written book, and you should give From the Corner of the Oval a read (or a listen!). 

Galleys for From the Corner of the Oval were provided by Random House Publishing Group through NetGalley, with many thanks, but I bought the audio book myself, thanks to Audible.
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This book was great! I really enjoyed the perspective and stories! The cover is really inviting and I enjoyed the writing style!
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Fascinating look behind the scenes at the white house. Well written and fun!  It reminded me of sex in the city political version.
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I am sorry for not reviewing fully but I don’t have the time to read this at the moment. I believe that it wouldn't benefit you as a publisher or your book if I only skimmed it and wrote a rushed review. Again, I am sorry for not fully reviewing!
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From the Corner of the Oval left me feeling a bit nostalgic, but mostly for the Obama administration. Part peek into the world of White House reporters and part dating / friendship / twenty-something life in DC, this memoir was a good mix of politics and quarter-life crisis. You won't get the gossip about Barack & Michelle, but you will get the gossip on coworkers dating coworkers and the drama that inevitably occurs when spending too much time with your coworkers. 

However, I struggled to finish this memoir because I was much more interested in what it was like working as a stenographer (a fascinating career choice, to be honest) and what it was like working with the Obama administration. Instead, I found myself reading about dysfunctional relationships, hangovers, and the pettiness that comes with being a woman in your 20s. I can't help but wonder if Beck Dorey-Stein will think differently about putting this book out there when she's nearing 40 and (hopefully!) feeling more secure with her life choices.
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Wonderful read about young professionals in the obama white house and the experience of working through some the landmark events. Also, just a perfectly written personal story of growing up and the author finding her path during your twenties.
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I really enjoyed the work part of the novel. I felt that personal life, outside of the White House felt forced and a little contrived even for a memoir.
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Beck Dorey-Stein takes the reader along on her journey as a stenographer in Obama's White House. Less of a political tell-all, this memoir is more of a coming of age story in this Sex and the City-esque book with a fast-paced political setting. I loved learning how Dorey-Stein became the stenographer, the mechanics of the job, her friendships with other staffers, and her struggles with who she wanted to be. There was a perfect amount of name drops and I loved the little bits about other staffers that will have readers googling and trying to figure out who she was writing about. A good chunk of this book chronicles her affair with a married staffer that I got pretty sick of long before it was over. I hated how he was hurting our Beck and it was getting repetitive. Overall, it was a really fun read that I've recommended and gifted already! It is great for readers that are interested in the behind the scenes of the White House and those that are more interested in romantic exploits and coming of age in DC. It would be great to read with friends or a book club because there is a lot I found myself wanting to talk about throughout!
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Definitely a very interesting book. I enjoyed the light read, although at times it was slow. I really wish I knew more of who they were talking about for some of it!
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I was interested in hearing about working in the White House from a younger, Washington outsider. I was not at all interested in the angst, drinking, and sex with coworkers. I did not finish this book. That said, it was popular enough that my library did purchase a copy.
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I had great expecations of this book. It was just an ok read. The author speaks about "Jason" quite a bit. To me she seems fixated on this person. Could have done without that part of the book. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the ARC of this book. Although I received the book in this manner, it did not affect my opinion of this book nor my review.
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Beck Dorey-Stein is struggling to make ends meet after college.  She is living in D.C. and working all sorts of odd jobs to make ends meet.  She had an interview from a Craigslist ad, that she actually blew off because of her job at Lululemon.  That opportunity was actually a job for a stenographer's position on Barack Obama's White House.  They gave Beck a second chance to interview and before she knows it, she is traveling the world on Air Force One and juggling her relationships outside the "bubble."  With the eye of an expert people-watcher and the fresh perspective of a youthful  professional Beck becomes a witness to the history that was the presidency of the 44th president. From the Corner of the Oval.  From the tragedies and triumphs, she was part of it all.  From early morning gym encounters with President Obama to encounters with the Vice President affectionately called "Uncle Joe" Beck lays it all out there.  When you put it all together you have a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the most famoust empoyer in the free world - The President of the United States.

From the Corner of the Oval is one of the best non-ficction books of the year.  I would say it is part political memoir and part chick lit novel.  You get all of the cool behind the scenes information (like what snacks are served on Air Force One) along with a young woman torn between two men. (For the record, one of those men was a big giant douchebag).   But you also get an author who has such a talent for the most interesting observations, like:
"We are a team of professional stalkers, a congregation of believers who have followed this man around the world several times."

"After nearly a year at the White Hous, my morning entry ritual can be reduced to an assembly line of sounds - " 


I think one of the things that I was pleased to read about was how the staffers were very familial like.  Maybe familial is not the right word.  They celebrated birthdays, they hung out together during the downtimes of their trips.  They may have consumed a lot of alcohol, but they still did their jobs.  And did them well.  They played pick-up basketball or went for runs on the streets of whatever city they were in at the time. Not everybody in the White House are cutthroat polticians.  It really made From the Corner of the Oval a fun and engaging read.  One last thing that I liked - I liked and respected how honest was at her own contributions to her relationship failures.  She took total and complete responsibility for her actions.  Yes, one of the men in her life was a giant douchebag, but she was not without fault and she owns that.  Rare to see such honesty in a memoir.

Bottom Line - While I feel that From the Corner of the Oval Office is so much more than just a poltical novel, it is a book about a staffer who served at the pleasure of one of our country's most popular presidents.  If you let the "politics" of her boss prevent you from reading this book, you are the one losing out.  I promise.

Details:
From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein
On Instagram
Pages: 352
Publisher: Random Hous Publishing
Publication Date: 7/10/18
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". . . POTUS grabs my attention when he says the narrative of history is long, and 'We just try to get our paragraph right.' Life is short and this world is big. Get your paragraph right. And if you're not sure what's right, write."

Beck Dorey-Stein had the opportunity to work in the White House as a stenographer during Barack Obama's presidency. There are so many moments in history where I have found myself wishing I could have been a fly on the wall, just to witness. Beck actually was a sort of fly on the wall during the making of this moment in history. 

It was fascinating to get this unique perspective into former President Obama's time in the Oval, however, it would be misleading though to pretend that this is all the book is about. Ultimately, this is a coming-of-age tale. The reader has the opportunity to follow Beck's personal journey as she gains confidence in who she is and who she wants. It's actually very inspiring and ends up being a tale with whom many will relate.
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3.5 stars rounded up. Dorey-Stein's writing is SO easy to tear through, I think I finished this book in under a day. It was that compulsively readable. Also, there's that saying, "never meet your heroes." Dorey-Stein gave me the opportunity to vicariously meet one of mine by writing about Barack Obama and her interactions with him. It was extremely gratifying to read that he was exactly how I envision; clever, funny, and not above interacting with the people lower on the power totem pole. The reason this isn't truly 4 stars or even 5 is because I felt like there was way too much emphasis on Dorey-Stein's relationship with a more senior staffer. I think her writing deserves better than that, because she deserved better than him. He sounded like the ultimate D.C. fuckboy and it's unfortunate that she wasted time and energy on him when their affair occurred (no judgment girl, I've been there with non-D.C. fuckboys), and then MORE time and energy on him for the majority of this book. I would love to see what she does in the future with focusing on deeper topics. 

Thank you to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for the ARC!
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