Barack Obama was a first-time author and rookie politician embarking upon his first run for public office. Hermene Hartman was the publisher of N’Digo, a magazine in Chicago aimed at upscale black readers. As Ms. Hartman tells it, she got a call from Mr. Obama in the fall of 1995 saying he wanted to come and talk. He wanted her to read his newly published memoir.
“Barack is a very focused, determined person,” said Ms. Hartman, who now considers Mr. Obama a friend. “Barack would go to people one by one and say, ‘Here’s my book, I want you to read it, give me feedback.’ For me, as a publisher, he wanted me to write about it. He would call me every week and say, ‘Did you read my book?’ ”