Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What Happened - Hillary Rodham Clinton

What Happened
Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Publication Date: 9/12/17
Pages: 512
Genre: Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Duh. 
Date Completed: 11/24/17

Summary: Clinton reflects on the 2016 campaign and what led to its surprisingly outcome.

What I Thought: I planned to post this review yesterday, but, ultimately, decided I needed another day to think about what I wanted to write. In our fraught political times, writing anything about Clinton feels like stepping into a minefield. She is a polarizing figure and I know nearly everyone has some sort of strong opinion about her and her place in our political zeitgeist. However you feel, though, you must admit she is an influential and historic figure. She has blazed a trail for women in our country and taken a beating along the way - some of which she brought on herself. 

I don't want to dive too deeply into my own thoughts on Clinton, but I do think we have lost our nuance in talking about her. She is imperfect, of course. She has made mistakes and they have played out on the national and international stage. She has made powerful friends and enemies. She also has had an incredible career and advanced a lot of important work. We have to stop seeing her as exclusively evil or exclusively good. She is complex, as are we all. 

This book, Clinton's take on the 2016 election and its catalysts, has gotten a lot of flak in the media. There are so many who remain eager to criticize every move she makes, even now as a private citizen. I think much of that negativity stems from an inability to see Clinton as a real human with depth of emotion and thought. She is wonky and cautious and old-fashioned in some ways - all qualities with which the public at large has a hard time connecting. 

Many have complained this book is just Clinton griping about her loss and blaming others. I didn't find that. She does address the variety of causes which led to her loss: Russian interference, Jim Comey's unusual breaches of FBI etiquette, sexism, etc. She also admitted to her own faults freely and readily. She is, of course, going to view the whole thing through her own lens of experience and knowledge. It's obviously a biased book, as is any memoir. However, I do think she accepts more responsibility for the outcome of the election than she is given credit for. 

Clinton is more "real" in this book than any of her others, most of which I have read. She has clearly let her guard down in a new way, which makes the book not only more enjoyable to read, but also more informative about who she is as a person. 

I started reading this on November 9, exactly one year and a day since the 2016 election. It was a total fluke of timing; I simply happened to be next on the library reserve list and get the book that day. As Kevin fell asleep beside me, I began to read about Clinton's experience at Inauguration Day 2017 (it's the first chapter). I was flooded with memories of laying the exact same spot a year previously and weeping, feeling unable and unequipped to get up and go teach in this new, unexpected world. Feeling the tears returning, I had to switch to reading something lighter before I could sleep. Those first couple chapters - about the Inauguration and election night - were the hardest and most emotional to read. 

This past year has certainly been a whirlwind. I think we will look back on this book as a helpful guide to a moment in time. It's an examination of what led us here and how things could have been different. It's a cautionary tale, but also one of human faults and failings. It's not going to be for everyone. To those of you tired of hearing from or about Clinton, you don't have to read it. It's a total choice. I, for one, am glad I did. 

P.S. For a great, thoughtful conversation about the Clintons, I recommend listening to the November 10 episode of With Friends Like These. It's one of the better conversations I've heard on the subject I've heard recently. 

Quotes I Loved:

  • "It is hard to be a woman. You must think like a man, act like a lady, look like a young girl, and work like a horse." (from a sign in Hillary's house)
  • "This kind of work isn't glamorous. Buy my experience with CDF convinced me that this is how you make real change in America: step by step, year by year, sometimes even door by door. You need to stir up public opinion and put pressure on political leaders. You have to shift policies and resources. And you need to win elections. You need to change hearts and change laws." 

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yeah, possibly.
Other Books By Hillary Rodham Clinton: An Invitation to the White House / Living History / Hard Choices

A Reduced Review: Hillary Clinton's reflections on the 2016 election are both a cautionary tale and a story of human faults and failings. 

No comments:

Post a Comment