Ben Rhodes with Ayad Akhtar
A White House official during the Obama administration, Ben Rhodes in the years since has been co-host of Pod Save the World, a contributor for NBC News and MSNBC, and an adviser to former president Barack Obama. He also wrote the bestselling book, The World As It Is, a book which stirred commentary and conversation around the country. He makes this virtual return to Seattle for his newest, After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made (Random House).
“The assumption that America was somehow different from the rest of the world was an article of faith in his childhood, writes Rhodes. ‘In the span of just thirty years, this assumption would come crashing down,' he adds, undermined by the very thing that had heralded greatness: a robust capitalism that produced global inequality, undermined the working class, and encouraged official corruption. ‘To be an American in 2020 was to live in a country diminished in the world,’ he writes. With that diminution, other nations rose: Putin’s Russia, but especially Xi Jinping’s China … The author clearly shows that fear and self-censorship work in the U.S. as well as anywhere in the world. As for the pandemic and Trump’s failings there, the U.S. emerges as ‘a country that killed hundreds of thousands of people through our own unique blend of incompetence and irrationality,’ no model for anyone. It’s a stinging, and entirely well-founded, rebuke of a political strain that shows no signs of disappearing. A powerful synthesis of recent world history that should disabuse readers of any notion of American exceptionalism.” - Kirkus Reviews.
Joining Ben Rhodes in conversation this evening will be award-winning novelist and playwright Ayad Akhtar, making a welcome virtual return appearance after being with Elliott Bay last year for his much-acclaimed 2020 novel, Homeland Elegies. He is also the present president of PEN America.