WASHINGTON – With an autobiography set for release in September, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., may be angling to develop a broader national profile.
Billed as deeply patriotic, Ellison’s 304-page memoir, “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” will take a “provocative look at America and what needs to change to accommodate different races and beliefs,” while touching on topics ranging from race and immigration to President Obama and the rise of the Tea Party, according to a book description posted on amazon.com.
Raised Catholic in Detroit by a social worker mother and psychiatrist father, Ellison converted to Islam in college. His religion came to the forefront during his first congressional swearing-in, in 2007, when he took his oath of office with a Qur’an once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
During his time on Capitol Hill, Ellison has become a cable news fixture, drawing acclaim and criticism for his fiery defense of liberal causes and focus on social justice issues. Because of his religion, he also has faced accusations about possible ties to Muslim militants and the Arab world.
Ellison’s staff did not make him available for an interview for this story. An advance copy of the book was not immediately available.
The Library of Congress does not track how many House and Senate members have written books, but Raymond Smock, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at Shepherd University and a former U.S. House historian, said he has a personal collection that numbers in the hundreds.
The autobiography or political manifesto has become a must-do on the checklist for any major party presidential aspirant, inside of Congress or out. For candidates, writing a book often is a quick way to snag media attention, pitch a narrative that drives home campaign themes and maybe even make a little money.
But some of the works reach only a limited audience. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s “Core of Conviction,” released during her 2011 presidential run, sold an estimated 3,000 copies.
Despite the occasional stumble, the allure of the autobiography remains strong for ambitious politicians, Smock said.
“Political biographies are still read by a substantial number of people,” Smock said.“If I was a politician, I would want to be able to get out my version of things and tell my story from my perspective.”
Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau. Twitter: @C_C_Mitchell