Penguin Random House

The Trailblazers Who Happen to Be Friends & ‘Renegades’

There have been many books I’ve wanted to add to my overflowing shelves. Renegades: Born in the USA by President Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen has been at the top of the list since the announcement of its release. 

The book is a candid, revealing, and entertaining dialogue that explores everything from their origin stories and career-defining moments to our country’s polarized politics and the growing distance between the American Dream and American reality. 

In the introduction, Obama says, “Over the years, what we’ve found is that we’ve got a shared sensibility about work, about family, and about America. In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys trying to understand this country that’s given us both so much. Trying to chronicle the stories of its people. Looking for a way to connect our own individual searches for meaning and truth and community with the larger story of America.”

“On the surface, Bruce and I don’t have a lot in common,” Obama continues. “He’s a white guy from a small town in Jersey; I’m a Black guy of mixed race, born in Hawaii, with a childhood that took me around the world. He’s a rock ‘n’ roll icon. I’m a lawyer and politician — not as cool. Over the years, what we’ve found is that we’ve got a shared sensibility about work, about family, and about America.”

Renegades: Born in the USA is an extension of discussions shared while recording the hugely popular Higher Ground podcast at Springsteen’s home in Monmouth County. The two share ideas on topics such as race, marriage, fatherhood, and masculinity. 

Obama and Springsteen tackle these issues in an unflinching way. Springsteen explains, “There were serious conversations about the fate of the country, the fortune of its citizens and the destructive, ugly, corrupt forces at play that would like to take it all down…This is a time for serious consideration of who we want to be and what kind of country we will leave our children. Will we let slip through our hands the best of us or will we turn united to face the fire? Within this book you won’t find the answers to those questions, but you will find a couple of seekers doing their best to get us to ask better questions.”

I found their exchanges poignant and honest, with a dash of good humor. It felt like I was sitting at the table with them sipping on my cup of coffee. There are a lot of extras packed in this book, too. You’ll find rare and exclusive photographs from the authors’ personal archives, handwritten lyrics from Springsteen’s catalog, and Obama’s never-before-seen annotated speeches. It’s a truly beautiful book. 

More than anything, Renegades: Born in the USA will make you reflect and be a willing participant in the betterment of society and that’s good enough for me. 

Renegades: Born in the USA drops tomorrow, October 26, via Crown (an imprint of Penguin Random House).