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AHS grad lands Obama endorsement

Ashland High alum Nathan Harris' debut novel, "The Sweetness of Water," has earned praise from former President Barack Obama and book club selector Oprah Winfrey .(Photo by Laurel Sager)

Less than four weeks after his debut novel, “The Sweetness of Water,” became an Oprah’s Book Club selection, Ashland High graduate Nathan Harris received another prominent endorsement Friday when President Barack Obama included “Sweetness” on his annual summer reading list.

The 44th president of the United States made Harris’ historical fiction offering one of 11 books on the list, which he released to his 129.7 million Twitter followers a little after noon Pacific time Friday. Within two hours, the tweet had 17,800 likes and 2,400 retweets.

“While we were still in the White House, I began sharing my summer favorites — and now it’s become a little tradition that I look forward to sharing with you all,” read the tweet. “So here's this year's offering. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.”

Winfrey, who has 43.1 million Twitter followers, named “Sweetness” the latest Oprah’s Book Club selection June 15 during a live, remote “CBS This Morning” appearance alongside Harris.

Published by Little, Brown and Company, “Sweetness” has received rave reviews from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly and many others. On Friday, the Kindle edition ranked No. 1 in Black and African American historical fiction on Amazon.com.

Harris’ book tells the story of two freed slaves, brothers Prentiss and Landry, who go to work for a grief-stricken Georgia farmer soon after the conclusion of the Civil War.

Harris attended Briscoe Elementary and graduated from Ashland High School in 2010.

After graduating from AHS, and then the University of Oregon in 2014, Harris moved to San Francisco, where he wrote much of the novel during off hours when he wasn’t working to support himself.

Harris later accepted a fellowship at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin, where he lives today. He hired an agent, Emily Forland at Brandt & Hochman, in 2019, and that summer signed with Little, Brown. Forland told Publishers Weekly that the deal included a “nice, substantial advance” for world English rights.

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.