Stories From California

Barack Obama - Leimert Park, CA

"We had Barack Obama in '95.
Nobody knew who he was exactly.
I thought his book was ok, but long and a bit dry
We had ten people, and sat in a little circle, and they got to ask questions.
He was very personable.
When he left that night, I had no idea he woud run for president."

James Fugate, co-owner of Eso Won Books


It was 1995, and a young community organizer from Chicago was touring the United States, reading from his book "Dreams from my Father". James Fugate from Eso Won Books in Leimert Park in Los Angeles was interested in the story of the book and the writer, who had gone to Occidental College just a few miles away. So Barack Obama came for a book signing into the jewel of a bookstore specializing in African-American literature, poetry. and history.

They treated Obama like they treated any author coming to Eso Wan Books, be it Maya Angelou, Spike Lee or Eddie Hart: offered a warm welcome, coffee, water, curious questions, and a conversation. Ten people came to that book signing, five of them were from the book store, a very intimate gathering - which Obama never forgot.

Eleven years later, a star in the Democratic party by then and promoting his second book "The Audacity of Hope" as well as his political ambitions - then U.S. senator Barack Obama told his publisher: "When we go to Los Angeles, if this small book store still exists, that wanted me when nobody else did, I go there. Even if they cannot put up a big event."

They did set up a big event at a different location. More than 900 people showed up. In front of all of them Barack Obama told the story of his first reading and thanked the Eso Wan Book team for doing what they do.

Check out this wonderful book store, a destination for anybody visiting Los Angeles. James Fugate will make you as welcome as he did Barack Obama.

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