Author of Green and former chief blogger for Barack Obama
Photo credit: Tamar Steinberger
About Sam Graham-Felsen
Sam Graham-Felsen knows firsthand how an authentic story can forge connections, strengthen convictions, and change lives. As the chief blogger for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Graham-Felsen crafted personal narratives about everyday citizens to create and mobilize a powerful grassroots movement. His strategy changed the game of politics, raising hundreds of millions of dollars and mobilizing millions of volunteers. In addition to his career in politics, Graham-Felsen worked on the cutting-edge of digital media strategy, consulting for organizations including the American Red Cross, the US Olympic Committee, and National Geographic.
The insights he gained while on the Obama campaign inspired Graham-Felsen to write his debut novel, Green, which tackles race, privilege, and inequality in America through the story of a life-changing friendship. Based on his childhood in Boston as a white student in a mostly black school, Green is a painfully hilarious coming-of-age novel with a sharp and timely take on racial identity, school segregation, and adolescent anxieties.
A versatile speaker, Graham-Felsen has spoken at colleges, universities, political conventions, and Fortune 500 companies. He draws on his memorable experiences, from his unique Boston childhood to his time on the campaign trail, to deliver lectures that encourage, inspire, and challenge audiences to empathetically explore race and class in America.
Graham-Felsen has worked for Frontline and The Nation, and has been featured in major media like the New York Times, Newsweek, Mother Jones, Buzzfeed, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Bloomberg TV. A Boston native, he has also worked as a peanut vendor at Fenway Park. He graduated from Harvard University, where he was a columnist for The Harvard Crimson, before receiving his MFA from Columbia University.
The Power of Stories: From Obama to Green
Before becoming a novelist, Sam Graham-Felsen was the chief blogger on Barack Obama’s historic 2008 campaign. He shares some of his most memorable experiences helping to build Obama’s unprecedented grassroots movement, and explains how the campaign helped shape his understanding of race and class in America and ultimately inspired him to become a fiction writer. He also explores the promise and limitations of electoral politics and how he came to believe that literature can be a vehicle for lasting change.
Growing up Green: The Search for Identity and the Value of Diversity
Sam Graham-Felsen reflects on his childhood experiences that inspired his novel, Green. Growing up in Boston in the 80’s and 90’s, Graham-Felsen was one of the few white kids in his public elementary and middle schools. What did he learn about identity, inclusion, and empathy from his experience of being, temporarily, in the minority? Graham-Felsen explains why his sixth-grade year was the most valuable educational experience of his life, and why he believes diversity is crucial for personal growth.
Finding Your Voice – In Fiction and Beyond
We’ve all heard the old maxim: “Find your voice.” But does everyone have a voice and is there even such a thing as “finding” it? Drawing from his experiences writing Green and teaching fiction at Columbia, Graham-Felsen shares his thoughts on the craft of fiction writing – and in particular, how to create a narrative voice that grips and moves a reader. This talk is intended for both those who hope to pursue a career in fiction and those who don’t. To Graham-Felsen, “finding your voice” is about radical openness, the willingness to test, flop, and fail, and ultimately, the courage to assess where your strengths and energies lie. This talk is as much about the process of self-scrutiny and discovery as it is about the craft of fiction.
Praise for Sam Graham-Felsen
Praise for Green
[Green] poignantly captures the tumultuous feelings of adolescence against the historical backdrop of a racially segregated city and country.— Library Journal (Editors' Fall Pick)
Superb . . . a memorable first novel . . . [replete with] wonderful characters, fully realized and multidimensional.— Booklist (starred review)
Sam Graham-Felsen has pioneered a new genre: free-stylin’ social realism. If Balzac were a hip-hop artist, he might have produced a novel like this one. Green is a coming-of-age story—not only of a boy but of our country, showing us the messy adolescence of a person, and a culture, grappling with difference, injustice, and the potential human beauty of ever-blurring boundaries.— Heidi Julavits, author The Folded Clock
Astounding . . . I’ve rarely seen an author nail a time and a place with such gorgeous accuracy and heartbreaking hilarity. The strength of Sam Graham-Felsen’s voice can lift up entire worlds.— Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
Though it raises serious questions about race and inequality with a poignancy that took me aback, Green is also funny and beautifully written, without a word out of place, and somehow managing to be both true to its young narrator’s voice and bracingly intelligent in its depiction of a brutal societal impasse. I enjoyed this more than anything else I’ve read in ages.— Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
Green is a fierce and brilliant book: comic, poignant, perfectly observed, and blazing with all the urgent fears and longings of adolescence, a glorious story about the subtle complexities of loyalty and friendship that courses with deeper themes of societal expectations, social injustice, and the nature of belonging. By the time I reached the closing chapter, I was so invested in the fate of its characters that I could hardly bear for it to end. It absolutely knocked me out.— Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk
Books by Sam Graham-Felsen
Media About Sam Graham-Felsen
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- Sam Graham-Felsen travels from New York, NY
“Green is a fierce and brilliant book: comic, poignant, perfectly observed, and blazing with all the urgent fears and longings of adolescence, a glorious story about the subtle complexities of loyalty and friendship that courses with deeper themes of societal expectations, social injustice, and the nature of belonging. By the time I reached the closing chapter, I was so invested in the fate of its characters that I could hardly bear for it to end. It absolutely knocked me out.”—Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk