Madison Park

by Eric L. Motley, Walter Isaacson

On Sale: 2017-11-14

Price: $24.99

Book Summary

Welcome to Madison Park, a place of self-determination, hope, and the American dream. And meet Eric Motley, raised in this remarkable Alabama community founded by freed slaves, a place that taught him everything he needed to know on his journey to becoming Special Assistant to President George W. Bush at the Oval Office.

About the Book

Welcome to Madison Park, a small community in Alabama founded by freed slaves in 1880. And meet Eric Motley, a native son who came of age in this remarkable place where constant lessons in self-determination, hope, and unceasing belief in the American dream taught him everything he needed for his journey to the Oval Office as a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.

Eric grew up among people whose belief was to “give” and never turn away from your neighbor’s need. There was Aunt Shine, the goodly matriarch who cared so much about young Motley’s schooling that she would stand up in a crowded church and announce Eric’s progress or his shortcomings. There was Old Man Salery, who secretly siphoned gasoline from his beat-up car into the Motley’s tank at night. There were Motley’s grandparents, who bought books for Eric they couldn’t afford, spending the last of their seed money. And there was Reverend Brinkley, a man of enormous faith and simple living. It was said that whenever the Reverend came your way, light abounded. Life in Madison Park wasn’t always easy or fair, and Motley reveals personal and heartbreaking stories of racial injustice and segregation. But Eric shows how the community taught him everything he needed to know about love and faith.

This charming, engaging, and deeply inspiring memoir will help you remember that we can create a world of shared values based on love and hope. It is a story that reveals the amazing power of faith in God and each other. If you’re in search of hope during troubled times, look no further than Madison Park.


In this beautifully written book, Eric Motley shares his personal odyssey of grace and gratitude. This is a memoir about love---love of family, community, literature, language, and ideas.

The roots Eric L. Motley traces in his hometown of Madison Park, Alabama, a place founded by former slaves not long after the Emancipation, serve as a powerful reminder of the shaping influences that family, faith, and community have in African American lives---so, too, the love of mentors, neighbors, and teachers who nurture those lives in the crucial years of their development. In the personal odyssey of this remarkable black Renaissance man, in whom a passion for learning was cultivated at a young age and through whom others have been touched from the Deep South to the White House, we find inspiration in the history that binds the citizens of a place across generations and hope for every child, whatever their birth, blessed to be raised among those who see education not only as a value but as a vital spark to be shared.

In writing as clear as water, Madison Park tells a moving story of hope: how members of a small African American community in Alabama joined together to enable a young man with no “worldly advantages” to realize his potential, even beyond their---or his---imagination.

As a 1970s first-grader, Eric Motley was dubbed a “turtle” because of his poor reading skills. Two decades later, he became the youngest appointee in George W. Bush’s White House. In this compelling memoir, Eric shows how his life trajectory was shaped by the self-reliance instilled by his grandparents---but also the timely support of a close-knit community of mentors and supporters. Whatever attributes we ourselves bring to the table, our networks propel us further.

Eric Motley has crafted a beautiful volume, an inspiring tale of family, community, determination, and hope. His is a deeply moving and deeply American story. The lovely prose brings to life those who raised him and taught him and opened doors for him, as well as those who tried to keep those same doors firmly shut. The book is sharply observed and utterly engrossing. Once I started, I could not put it down.

Motley, executive vice president of the Aspen Institute, writes with charming flair about the dedicated individuals who shaped him throughout his life. Born into a hardworking family of limited means, Motley was raised in Madison Park, Ala., an African-American community established by freed slaves. Though the story is grounded by the portraits of people Motley knew, Madison Park slowly emerges as the main character. Motley's lean descriptions reflect his quiet, modest upbringing: 'Most homes were small wood-framed houses.... Most families owned a couple acres of land, with their house close to the road and what lay behind designated farmland.' With the strength of his community supporting him, Motley accomplished much, earning his Ph.D. in international relations and later working in the White House as special assistant to George W. Bush. His story is inspiring, but it often reads like a list of anecdotes featuring people from his life he wishes to thank, and personal topics such as romantic relationships are quickly glossed over. Nonetheless, this book will leave readers nostalgic for a place most have never visited and willintrigue those interested in how faith can strengthen community bonds. Agent: Larry Kirshbaum, Waxman Leavell. (Nov.)

Motley (executive VP, Aspen Inst.) could have contented himself with a memoir of starting from a poor, rural, and segregated community in the Deep South to academic scholar and special assistant to George W. Bush. Yet his story here centers on the hopes, aspirations, and work of the community of Madison Park, AL, and begins with the character of the grandparents who raised him and the nature of Madison Park itself, from its 1880 founding by former slaves to the friends and family whose strength molded him. An active faith is an integral part of his community. Motley imparts that he did not earn his place solely through his considerable efforts, noting the sacrifices of the people who placed great hopes in him. Motley closes with his painful decision to sell his family home--which threatens to cut ties with his hometown--and his reconciliation with his mother, which succeeded in strengthening those bonds. VERDICT Motley's account can be interpreted in a number of ways, but what shines through in any reading is the story of a remarkable yet humble life.--JW

In Motley's autobiography, he reflects on his upbringing in Madison Park, Alabama, a small community founded by freed slaves in 1880. He gives readers a ride through our complicated modern history, writing eloquently about race relations, community, family, patriotism, politics, and, foremost, the faith that ties them altogether. This same faith led him from a small, rural town all the way to Washington D.C., as a special assistant to President George W. Bush. Like life, Motley's story is filled with humor, evil, highs, and lows. This is no textbook. It is written with the kind of authenticity that makes readers feel as if they are sitting across a table from a good friend who is spinning a long, engaging yarn. While the content is appropriate for teens and older, probably older readers can better appreciate the epic scope of the story.

A wry, nostalgic memoir of the aspirational African American community where he grew up, recalling its quirky neighbors and feisty pride amid the tensions of racially charged Alabama.

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780310349631
  • ISBN 10: 031034963X
  • Imprint: Zondervan
  • On Sale: 2017-11-14
  • Pages: 304
  • List Price: $24.99
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication Date: 2017-11-14
  • Trim Size: 162.000mm x 236.000mm x 25.000mm
  • Weight: 543.000gr
  • Category 1 : SOCIAL SCIENCE / Discrimination & Race Relations
  • Category 2 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / General
  • Category 3 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Political
  • Category 4 : SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Rural