STARRED REVIEW
July 2018

Reflections from a former White House staffer

By Beck Dorey-Stein

Recent Wesleyan grad Beck Dorey-Stein swore she would spend no more than three months in Washington, D.C., a place she calls “an ego swamp of a city.” Then she lands a job as a White House stenographer, a position she didn’t even realize existed.

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Recent Wesleyan grad Beck Dorey-Stein swore she would spend no more than three months in Washington, D.C., a place she calls “an ego swamp of a city.” Then she lands a job as a White House stenographer, a position she didn’t even realize existed.

From the Corner of the Oval is Dorey-Stein’s effervescent memoir that recounts spending five wide-eyed years traveling the world on Air Force One, producing transcripts of President Barack Obama’s press conferences and speeches. She joins a team of D.C. insiders who hopscotch the globe, from Senegal to Tanzania to Stonehenge, all in service to their country and to the man they call POTUS.

“The people who make the president look good on these trips often look terrible and feel even worse,” Dorey-Stein writes. “It is degrading and embarrassing and awkward when a twenty-two-year-old advance person scolds you for disappearing to the bathroom, and when you’re so hungry you eat three bags of stale cookies in front of a vanful of trigger-happy photographers. Civility takes a backseat to survival as you chug water, throw elbows and down half a bottle of Advil. You work through the pain to keep up with the action. Ballets are full of bloody slippers.”

Yet the few chosen to serve the president also form intense bonds, and they get a front seat to history. Dorey-Stein and her colleagues bear witness to the White House response to the tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. She forms a tight band of friends within “the Bubble”—her name for the president’s cliquish traveling entourage—and she begins an ill-fated romance with a magnetic yet noncommittal senior staffer.

Dorey-Stein offers a generous, vivid portrait of what it’s like to work at the epicenter of power when your job is to stay out of the spotlight. She navigates heartbreak, career indecision and friendship like virtually every 20-something. But unlike other young women, she does it all in the shadow of the White House.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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From the Corner of the Oval

From the Corner of the Oval

By Beck Dorey-Stein
Spiegel & Grau
ISBN 9780525509127

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