Title: Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.
Synopsis: Four-time mayor of Washington, DC, Marion Barry, Jr. tells his shocking and courageous life story, beginning in the cotton fields in Mississippi to the executive offices of one of the most powerful cities in the world.
Known nationally as the disgraced mayor caught on camera smoking crack cocaine in a downtown hotel room with a mistress, Marion Barry Jr. has led a controversial career. This provocative, captivating narrative follows the Civil Rights activist, going back to his Mississippi roots, his Memphis upbringing, and his academic school days, up through his college years and move to Washington, DC, where he became actively involved in Civil Rights, community activism, and bold politics.
In Mayor for Life, Marion Barry, Jr. tells all—including the story of his campaigns for mayor of Washington, his ultimate rise to power, his personal struggles and downfalls, and the night of embarrassment, followed by his term in federal prison and ultimately a victorious fourth term as mayor. From the man who, despite the setbacks, boldly served the community of Washington, DC, this is his full story of courage, empowerment, hope, tragedy, triumph, and inspiration.
Author: Marion Barry, Jr. A tribute to Marion S. Barry, Jr. March 6, 1936 – November 23, 2014
Author: Omar Tyree
CH: Omar Tyree is a New York Times best selling author with an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Work in Fiction. Welcome to my blog, Omar.
CH: Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read this book.
OT: Marion Barry Jr.’s autobiography, Mayor For Life, is his only full account of his very long, detailed and oftentimes, controversial life written in his own words.
CH: Do you think it was painful for Marion Barry to revisit some of the situations that changed his life?
OT: Of course, it would be painful for you, me or anyone else to revisit the sour moments of our lives and publish them all in a book for other people to read, discuss and ask you about.
CH: Since the book span is his entire life, did he leave out any stories that he wanted to include?
OT: I don’t believe he left out many stories that he wanted to include, because he made sure to add them all in the editing process. But he surely left out stories that he didn’t want in the book. And that was his publishing prerogative. It’s his book.
CH: Marion Barry, Jr. wanted to get “his story” out to the public and not the “media’s story.” Do you think he portrayed himself, the good and the bad, as he lived his life?
OT: Yes. Marion Barry Jr. did a hell of a job in being very forthright about his life. So this book is a solid read to understand him, the good, the bad and the great.
CH: So many memoir writers work on their book for years and years. How long did it take to write this book?
OT: It took us 11 months to record and write his book. But Mayor For Life is not a memoir of his reflections. This is an official autobiography of his entire life, or as much as we were able to publish in one book.
CH: Take us through your writing process. Did he just tell you about the events in his life or did you have an outline?
OT: There is no way in this world that I would tackle anyone’s book without an outline. As a professional journalist, I definitely used my journalism training and skills to execute and complete the book. That’s actually why he hired me. I presented an outline on the first day we met to discuss the book.
CH: The book begins with his mother having big visions and instilling them in him. Do you think these ‘big visions’ made him continually aspire for more throughout his life?
OT: Definitely. Even this book was a “big vision” of his, and now we’re talking about it. So once again, the man delivered.
CH: The media wanted to dwell on the ‘crack mayor,’ but Marion Barry Jr. did so much more. Can you elaborate a little on his accomplishments?
OT: Actually, I believe the book was written to be read first, and then discussed. So I would rather folks read the book about him in his own dialogue, than for me to paraphrase 90,000+ words. And I apologize for that, but I think Marion does it better.
CH: What made you decide to co-author with Marion Barry Jr.?
OT: The man is an icon and I get a chance to put my name on the book and work with him on it. That’s what writers dream about. Particularly, journalistic writers like myself. I love to have assignments that people actually care about.
CH: Have you co-authored any other autobiographies or memoirs?
OT: You have to be selected by someone who you would want to write a book with, and I’m negotiating now with Cicely Tyson, but on an autobiography, not a memoir.
CH: What advice would you give someone who is starting to write their memoir?
OT: You have to know that other people would be interested in reading your memoir. They are usually written by people who others highly regard for their thoughts. Oprah Winfrey would be perfect for a memoir. People love to listen to her on almost any subject. But will they listen to you? So make sure you put something on the table that people would really sit up and pay attention to.
CH: When I have talked to DC residents, they all say the same thing, ‘Marion Barry was always there for them and they would always be there for him.’ Do you think this is why the people kept nominating him for office? (When he died, he was on the D. C. Council for Ward 8.)
OT: Exactly. An elected official’s job is to do what’s needed for the people who voted him or her in, right? Well, that’s what Barry did and that’s why the people continued to vote for him. It’s as simple as that. And they loved him for his humble relatability, too.
CH: Marion Barry Jr. had a great amount of help with this book, such as Zane, Charmaine Parker of Strebor Books, politicians, and friends. Do you think, he could have published this book without so many people behind him?
OT: Not without Zane behind him, because she secured the deal to publish the book; and brought me in to do the job and her sister Charmaine to edit. I suppose Barry could have found another publisher, writer and editor, but you would still need those people in place to interview, write, edit and publish your book. So no, a non-writer cannot produce a quality book without the professionals being involved. That’s like producing a movie with no directors, screenwriters or cameramen, and you’re doing everything on your own. Barry didn’t have time to do all of that. He was still a Councilman for Ward 8.
CH: What is next for you, Omar Tyree, as an author?
OT: First, to continue working Marion Barry Jr.’s book and establishing his legacy nationally. He wanted a movie deal on his book too. Then I look forward to publishing a hot new novel and hopefully working with Cicely Tyson on her book. But it’s all about Marion Barry Jr.’s book right now. There’s still plenty of work to do with it!
CH: For my readers, is there a website for this book?
OT: More important than a website is to simply buy the book. So go to Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com and show your authentic support for the man by supporting his published words on his life and his 50 years of service to the people.
CH: For my readers, where is the book sold?
OT: Everywhere hardback books are sold. This man has a major publisher behind him. So all you have to do is ask for it, and every bookstore will have it or order it for you. If you don’t ask for it, then the bookstores will assume that you don’t want it.
CH: Any closing remarks?
OT: One of the oldest racial jokes around is: “The best way to hide something from black people is to put it in a book.” But when Barry showed up, people bought his books by the hundreds. I just wonder what they will do now without having him there to sell it to them.
CH: For more on Omar Tyree’s books and career, view his website at www.OmarTyree.com
Note: Photos are compliments of Omar Tyree and the Internet.
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