Behind the Smile: A Story of Carol Moseley Braun’s Historic Senate Campaign

Jeannie Morris. Agate/Midway, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-57284-176-5

Braun, who became the first female African-American U.S. senator in 1992 (and the only female African-American U.S. senator to date), allowed Chicago-area sports journalist Morris (Brian Piccolo: A Short Season) close access to her campaign that year. This sympathetic but critical book recalls the inspiring effect of Braun’s story. When she started her run for the Senate, she was an obscure Illinois county clerk, but she became a star at the Democratic National Convention. Morris pays equal attention, however, to the scandals that marred Braun’s political career. Her 30-point lead fell precipitously in the campaign’s last few months after she was accused of Medicaid fraud for “laundering” money her mother earned while in a nursing home. Just two weeks before the election, female staffers accused Braun’s campaign manager—with whom she was romantically involved—of sexual harassment, but the story did not go public until after the election, which Braun won by 10 points. Her reputation was further tarnished by charges that her campaign had misplaced campaign funds. Morris briefly covers Braun’s subsequent political career: she lost a 1998 re-election bid to a no-name Republican, ran briefly in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, and then ran for mayor of Chicago in 2011. This is a gripping, fast-paced story, but since it comes more than 20 years after the events it describes, it will primarily be of interest to political junkies. (Oct.)