Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Me and Hillary

MARCH 2 Today's post is provided by Kathleen Krull

By Kathleen Krull
          Night after night, as I sleep in San Diego, the women on my bookshelves consort.  Goddesses and warrior women, Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, 1970's feminist manifestos and classic novels by women, books on issues from periods to becoming a nun, biographies of women good, bad, ugly, and stunning…. books I just had to own, whether the money was there or not.  One could assume that my main interest in life is women’s history-- an assumption supported by Lives of Extraordinary Women, A Woman for President, Marie Curie, Wilma Unlimited, and others -- but it’s part of my broader focus on lives of the dead.
          One night, November 16, 2007, wide-awake and out to dinner with an editor in New York, I hatched what is possibly my oddest book, a picture book biography about someone alive, kicking, and in that day’s headlines.  After watching the presidential debate in Las Vegas the night before, I was so jazzed by how sure of herself she was: Hillary Clinton, surrounded on stage by men, articulating her positions with precision, plus poise to spare: "People are not attacking me because I'm a woman; they're attacking me because I'm ahead."
          To me she looked like a sure-fire winner, and that night I was thrilled to propose the first children’s book out there-- a book that would actually make money!-- about our possible first woman President.   Plenty of other countries have been helmed by women -- what is our problem?
          The next day, on the train to Baltimore, I remembered reading somewhere that she had originally dreamed of being an astronaut and that NASA had rebuffed her (no girls allowed, back in 1961).  Now I had a visual to work with, plus an opening line -- "Once there was a girl who wanted to fly" -- with a metaphor to convey the barriers she's overcome in her distinguished career.  Eureka-- Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight
          The question I am most often asked about this book is whether I’ve met Hillary.  I’d love to say we go way back - she did grow up in Park Ridge, Illinois, not far from where I grew up in Wilmette.  No, I haven’t met her, but in my research I blitzed through every book that’s been published about her (including Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary-- as if there were only 30).  I found more and more that girls AND boys could appreciate about her story, and the surge of excitement fueled me during the crash schedule to get the book out by 2008.
          By that time, of course, history had intervened with my dream of a woman president and a bestseller, not that I was complaining about President Obama, especially after he appointed her Secretary of State.  I got a letter from her praising the book and saying vaguely that she’d like to meet someday. 

This is how close we were

          Then, in 2009, by a fluke, I was literally a few feet away from her at a State Department function.  Perhaps we could have our special moment of connection at last.  She hosted the event-- witty and radiant--but her schedule that day was way harsher than mine, the weight of the world almost literally on her shoulders.  As she dashed out of the room for some world crisis and left the hosting to an underling, I nearly interrupted the formalities by blurting, “Goodbye, Hillary,” with a wave and a meaningful smile….

          But revising the book?  I’m in.  So how about it in 2012, HRC???


  1. Last year I saw a Tavis Smiley special on PBS about Hilary as Sec. of State--I think he followed her around for a week and her schedule was unbelievable. Often she was operating on only a couple hours sleep--what I really want to know is does she travel with her own hairdresser and make-up person? Obama definitely doesn't have to get up extra early to do his hair, but she does! I know it sounds like a funny thing to consider, but I couldn't help thinking that not only does she have to sound intelligent on that crazy schedule, but she's a woman so she has to look good too, or have nasty remarks made about her in the press. I heard her say she won't stick around for a second term as Sec. of State if Obama is re-elected because of the crazy travel schedule. I don't think she'll run for president again; personally I predict a teaching job at a prestigious university or perhaps running a private foundation.

  2. Very interesting comments. I often find myself describing our close encounter by way of her appearance-- which is all wrong, I know, I know. But she really was perky in pink - appealing and attractive - things we like but don't demand in our male politicians. And now-- working so hard, looking so haggard.... As for predictions, I'm obviously no soothsayer, but my feeling is that if the presidential opportunity came up again, she'd be there in a flash.

  3. I loved reading this book.
    I didn't know about her astronaut dream until this biography came along.
    And later, this blog will get the full story via Tanya Lee Stone, about the women who wanted to be astronauts, so far, far back - correct?
    Much looking forward to that.

  4. Polarizing as she ever was. Some of the Hillary comments on my husband's Facebook page, publicizing this piece, were so vitriolic that a few posters later apologized and/or removed their posts. On the other hand, got this by email: "I'd like to see Hillary run...I am SO frustrated with Obama! I think she would have handled the many problems the world faces with much more of a spine and commitment to principles..."

  5. Whenever we read bios in school, my kids are AMAZED if I let them choose to research a person who is still living! This book looks terrific. My favorite Kathleen Krull books: Wilma Unlimited, Abe Lincoln Tells a Joke, and The Boy Who Invented TV (I've blogged on the last two, and read Wilma just today in class!)

  6. Re: Kathleen's post on March 3 - Oh how I wish we could view that alternative universe where Hillary won. I do think your friend might be right! But polarizing she is... And the reason for that has to be more than just her own politics. Doesn't it?

    Also - I love the Hillary book for many reasons. It works so well on several levels, and for lots of ages.

  7. Thank you, Jan, Keith, & Roberta, for your posts. Margo, things (including her hair) are not looking good -
    OH, HILL NO - Obama's indecision on Libya has pushed Clinton over the edge
    On the other hand -
    Hillary Rodham Clinton: That "R" Is for "Resilient"