Saturday, June 02, 2007

Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton (audio)

I honestly don't know if any woman in my life has had more influence on me than Hillary Rodham Clinton. I know that might sound extreme to some people, but for me, I spent the early years of my life desperately seeking a strong female role model. I was in high school during the first Clinton presidential campaign. I was disgusted by the fact that my friends now cared about nothing more than boys and makeup. I wanted something more and I needed to know that there were women in the world who did aspire to something more. And there was Hillary, and she was simply brilliant. I latched on to her and my feelings for her haven't faltered over the years. I'm not saying that she's perfect, it isn't a blind devotion, I'll acknowledge fault. She's human. But it is a sincere devotion. Because of her I realized there are strong, successful women, and because of her I became aware of the hatred most of this country feels for strong, successful women. Without a doubt, the main topic on my mind in the coming months will be her presidential campaign. Go, Hill, go!

But this is not a review of Hillary, but rather her book.

I bought it as soon as it came out, but then never got around to reading it. I decided to pick up the unabridged version at the library and listen to it during my daily commute for the last few weeks of my job.

I enjoyed the early parts, when she talks about her family and her college days. It's a side of her that isn't widely seen. You get a better understanding of her background and the basis of her beliefs. She's always been very involved and interested in the world. I also thoroughly enjoyed her description of meeting and falling in love with Bill Clinton. Again, this provides a solid foundation for why she made the choices she has made regarding their relationship. There's a part in the book when she describes how the people around her were shocked by her decision to marry him because she could do so much on her own, why would she choose to be this man's wife and move to Arkansas with him? She loved him, she loves him. She said when she met him they started a conversation and it has been going on ever since.

But once she gets to the part about Bill's political career and particularly his presidential career, I was bothered by the way the story becomes a strong defense for their every action. It made me sad, because I thought of how, in a way, her life, and in this case, her life story becomes nothing more than the act of defending her husband and often making excuses for his actions. (Here's the point where I should state that I am also a huge Bill Clinton fan, but still...) This is a woman who very much had to set aside her goals and aspirations for the dreams of her husband. During these portions of the story, I didn't feel like I was learning any new information. These were the same arguments that we heard when they were in office.

I did however like the stories about the work she did for international women's rights. I remember that time and how awesome it was that she was taking part in those trips and trying to make a difference.

Also, I began to get the impression that because she is still very, very much in the public eye, she can't provide a truly honest assessment of these events. She's still running for office. In many ways, parts of this book read as if they were excerpts from campaign literature.

It will be a long time before she's in a position to publish the honest story of what it was like to be the president's wife, especially a president such a Bill Clinton. She isn't in a position now to tell the full and accurate truth regarding her feelings and impressions. Maybe she'll be comfortable enough to share that story someday. And maybe when she does share that story, it will be accompanying her account of what it was like to be the first president of the United States.

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