The Solidarity Dividend

The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee: A cover full of color blocks resolves as a diving board into swimming pool with a white boy jumping off the end and a black girl climbing the ladder.

“I’m a white male, and I am prejudiced.” In August 2016 on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, public policy expert Heather McGhee, answered the challenge presented by Garry, a caller from North Carolina. He asked, ”What can I do to change, you know, to be a better American?” The video went viral due to McGhee’s reasoned, compassionate response. Thanking the caller for being honest while acknowledging we all have prejudices, McGhee proceeded to offer advice including, “In order to be a demos that is united across lines of race and class and gender and age, we have to foster relationships. We have to get to know who one another actually is.” When McGhee’s book, The Sum of Us, was published, I was curious to learn more from her. After reading it, I especially appreciate McGhee’s insight into how the mentality of “us and them” was built and how we can break it down. 

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together describes how all ethnic and class groups suffer when racism influences government policy. McGhee researched the roots of economic disparity in the United States and explored causes and solutions from a perspective of unity rather than division. She argues that many problems with wage distribution, education, health care, housing, and environmental policy arise from the concept of a zero-sum game. When citizens perceive one racial group’s gain as another group’s loss, we cannot work for a common good. She documents how everyone loses out when racial hierarchy guides legislation. When public pools are filled with cement to circumvent enforcement of desegregation legislation, all the kids whose parents can’t afford private pools can’t go swimming. Using the concept of the public pool as a central metaphor, McGhee deconstructs how the US reached today’s level of political division and how American society can move forward, allowing all races, ethnicities, and classes to thrive. 

Of course, the idea of “what helps you, hurts me,“ goes beyond kids not being able to cool down in a pool in the summertime. The Sum of Us carefully traces trade union busting, healthcare access gaps, rising costs of public colleges, and the sub-prime mortgage crisis back to racial profiling. The resulting wage stagnation, benefit cuts, student debt, and foreclosures affected all racial groups.  

McGhee’s empathy raises The Sum of Us to a higher level than some other books I’ve read on similar topics. For example, as a self-proclaimed data nerd, she clearly explains the economics of the 2007-2010 financial crisis but then goes beyond the numbers to show, “what was risky wasn’t the borrower; it was the loan.” I gained understanding not only of the economics of the crisis, but the societal toll. Although predatory loan practices were initially targeted at low-income Blacks, later, the loans were pitched to everyone, regardless of their credit status. Many borrowers were eligible for prime mortgages but were manipulated to accept sub-prime mortgages because of the financial bonanza for the lender. McGhee presents this as yet another situation where racism eventually hurt everyone. 

McGhee has coined the phrase “Solidarity Dividend” for the benefits arising from communities collaborating across the racial divide. From minimum wage increases to investment in affordable housing development to improvement in air and water quality, the Solidarity Dividend boosts the economy while enhancing quality of life. “Getting white support to address those different levels of need, and to acknowledge the racism that caused these differences, is never easy – particularly when the zero-sum mental model turns every concession into a threat of loss,” McGhee writes. The Sum of Us demands to be read both for the well-researched documentation of the past and the message for our future.  

By the way, Heather and Garry, a disabled Navy veteran, built a friendship. Garry continues to work on understanding racism and realigning his own thinking. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Film Femme Phenoms

An Oscar award statuette.

by Cherise T.

The Oscars. The Super Bowl for film lovers and stargazers. Since the 94th Academy Awards and Women’s History Month converge this year, let’s highlight Oscar-winning women. The accomplishments of women in the film industry grow each year as crews’ diversity increases and acting roles encompass a broadened range of realistic characters.

Front and center for many a bibliophile is screenwriting. In 2021 with Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell (also known as Camilla in The Crown) became the first woman in 13 years to win for Best Original Screenplay. Fennell also produced and directed. Then travel back to 2007 when Diablo Cody won for Juno. To date, nine women have won in this category, but only five as solo writers; the other three being Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation; Jane Campion, The Piano; and Callie Khouri, Thelma & Louise.

For Best Director, 2021 also brought an Oscar to a woman, Chloé Zhao, for Nomadland (also a book). Only one other woman has won in this category, Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker. Only seven women in total have even been nominated.

Best Costume Design boasts many female winners. Edith Head was nominated 35 times and won eight. For total Oscar nominations and victories, she is surpassed only by Walt Disney. Her winning films are The Heiress, Samson and Delilah, All About Eve, A Place in the Sun, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Facts of Life (not available), and The Sting. For more recent winners in 2018 and 2019, check out the work of Ruth E. Carter in Black Panther and Jacqueline Durran in Little Women.

Best Supporting Actress has been won more than once by only two women: Dianne Wiest for Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets over Broadway (not available) and Shelley Winters for The Diary of Anne Frank and A Patch of Blue (available through interlibrary loan). Last year’s winner was the first for a Korean actress, Youn Yuh-jung, in Minari.

Now for the star power that is Best Actress. Katherine Hepburn was nominated 12 times and won a record-setting four: Morning Glory (available through interlibrary loan), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond. Meryl Streep has been nominated a record-setting 17 times for Best Actress, winning twice for Sophie’s Choice (available with an HCLS library card on Kanopy) and The Iron Lady, and nominated four times for Best Supporting Actress, winning for Kramer vs. Kramer. Frances McDormand became a triple champion in 2021 for Nomadland. She also won for Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

If you’re a fan of the Academy Awards, enjoy, and be sure to check out these and other noteworthy Oscar winners in the HCLS catalog.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

Home is Where the Library Is: The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

A woman dressed in a bright yellow dress walks while reading through a grand lobby with well-lit doors and windows behind her.

by Cherise T.

I have a favorite photo of my kids where my son is wearing his baseball cap backwards and my daughter is wearing a poncho as a skirt. Today, my son’s visors often still point in reverse and my daughter never misses the opportunity to transform an article of clothing into something original and extraordinary. 

Where, you ask, was this photo taken? In front of the New York Public Library, the revered Fifth Avenue building guarded by two marble lions. A library with an eight-room apartment on the mezzanine.

Having never read a novel by the popular historical fiction author Fiona Davis, I was attracted to the plotline of The Lions of Fifth Avenue, not only because of my love for libraries but because I have entertained the fantasy of enjoying unlimited access to stacks and stacks of books. Deep, dark stacks with first editions and handwritten notes by famous authors. One of my favorite books in the HCLS collection is The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems because I can sink into Dickinson’s creative process and believe, for phrases at a time, that I am sharing a word journey into an otherwise fathomless mind. 

Told through the dual lenses of 1993 and 1913-18, The Lions of Fifth Avenue reads both as historical fiction and mystery. The plot weaves the interconnected stories of a family with a deep multigenerational connection to the New York Public Library. In 1993, Sadie Donovan strives for an ever more significant leadership role as an NYPL librarian and curator. In 1913, Sadie’s grandmother, Laura Lyons, aspires to be a journalist in a society where women’s professional opportunities were limited. Whereas Sadie works at the NYPL, Laura actually lives there in the apartment reserved for the family of the superintendent of the NYPL, who happens to be Laura’s husband, Jack. Laura and Jack live in the apartment with their children, Henry and Pearl. Both Sadie and Laura walk up the same steps and pass the same stone lions, and they face parallel hurdles in their careers and their romantic relationships. They share devotion to family and an insatiable attraction to investigation and knowledge. And Sadie and Laura contend with the theft of treasured library materials, setting them up as witnesses and suspects. 

Although the protagonists of the novel are fictional, the framework has historical roots. At one time, NYPL superintendents resided in the library, and the first superintendent who lived in the Fifth Avenue building raised children there. True as well is the unfortunate fact that rare books have been stolen from the library over the years. Fascinated by NY’s architectural landmarks, Davis writes novels revolving around different city buildings including the Barbizon Hotel, Dakota apartments, Chelsea Holtel, and Grand Central Terminal. Her writing has a real feel for New York City, and the plot twists in The Lions of Fifth Avenue make it a page turner. Climb the stairs between the lions, settle in to live in a library for a bit, and see if you can solve a few mysteries. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

The cover has the author and title in black and white lettering against a sea green background.

by Cherise T.

When a novel is set in the reader’s hometown, appreciation for the story and characters extends beyond the book’s contents. When a novel is set somewhere new to the reader, that place is no longer foreign and unknowable. Literature expands memories, builds connections, creates new journeys, and fosters empathy.

Books by veterans, about veterans, and regarding veterans’ friends and families offer diverse perspectives of consequential events and everyday perseverance. Veterans can, perhaps, find shared experiences. For non-veterans, there are bridges to understanding. Ben Fountain’s depiction of experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is unforgettable. To some, an NFL halftime show featuring Destiny’s Child would be entertaining but to this story’s young Iraq War Army soldiers, it’s terrifying.

The cover depicts two soldiers, weapons drawn, seemingly patrolling a desert area with mottled orange sands and sky and a yellow sun at the horizon.

In his debut novel, The Yellow Birds, Iraq War veteran Kevin Powers takes on the burdens veterans face when they return home. Private John Bartle struggles to understand his own behavior in Iraq, as well as his debts and responsibilities to superiors and fellow soldiers. Veterans may relate to Bartle’s emotional efforts to move forward with his life beyond the battlefield. Readers who have never been in the military become immersed in Bartle’s psychological conflicts. He feels surrounded by death as he fights to survive both in Iraq and back home in Virginia.

The cover depicts a white cloud against a deep turquoise sky, with a field rising to a hill in the foreground and just the upper floor and chimney of a house depicted behind the hill, with the United States flag flying in front.

Short story collections offer multiple viewpoints of war in one volume. Siobhan Fallon’s You Know When the Men are Gone focuses primarily on the family left behind, particularly military spouses in Fort Hood, Texas. The stress on these characters exceeds loneliness. Their attempts to cope with deployments are seen in actions as seemingly mundane as a shopping trip to the PX or as drastic as abandoning one’s spouse.

The cover depicts a soldier in fatigues, cap and boots with his duffel bag on the ground beside him, in what appears to be an airport or other waystation with a concrete floor and white tiled walls.

National Book Award winner Redeployment by Marine veteran Phil Klay deftly presents the outlooks of men who entered the military from varied backgrounds. The stories are heavy but often humorous as Klay addresses the absurdities inherent in active duty as well as in the abrupt return to civilian life as a veteran. Often disturbing, the situations encompass violence and PTSD but also forgiveness and compassion.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

Thinking BIG for Small Business: Class and Resources

Neon sign with a bright blue oval encircling the word OPEN in red.

by Cherise T.

The #1 Riskiest Scam According to Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland

Wednesday, Sep 22

11 am – 12 pm; online

Employment scams were already the riskiest scam in both 2018 and 2019, according to Better Business Bureau’s Risk Index report. During 2020, the growth of this dangerous breeding ground skyrocketed, largely due to the influx in work-from-home scams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An estimated 14 million people are exposed to employment scams with more than $2 billion lost per year, not counting time or emotional losses. Join BBB to learn why you’re more vulnerable than you think, how to spot the red flags, and tips for saying no to employment scams while you’re on your job search.

Registration required at hclibrary.org > classes & events. Check regularly for more business-related classes and presentations.

Presented in partnership with Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Maryland, bbb.org.

Small Business Resources at HCLS

The how, when, and where of work evolves over a lifetime. Priorities involved with earning a living change depending on whether the employee is a student, parent, family caretaker, or senior. Some careers accommodate a work-from-home model; others require laborers on the front lines. An employee may want to operate within a traditional organization or a small startup. Some have the entrepreneurial spirit to make the rules and create their own dream vocations.

Without a doubt, the pandemic has affected how people work and refocused their goals. HCLS supports the education and provides the resources sought by job seekers at all stages of their careers. Recent events have inspired bad actors, so HCLS is offering an employment scam class in conjunction with the Better Business Bureau, as well as on-demand classes on its YouTube channel. Select the Resume and Career Skills playlist for information on resume building, cover letter writing, social media presence, apprenticeships, certifications, interviewing, and salary negotiation.

Every September, the U.S. Small Business Administration celebrates National Small Business Week. Explore the tools to prepare, launch, manage, build, and protect a small business on HCLS’ Small Business Resource portal.

Online resources are available 24/7

Looking for advice for creating contracts? Visit Gale LegalForms.

Confused about licensing and permits? Maryland OneStop Portal link has answers.

Need funding to start a business? Explore a multitude of organizations and agencies.

Visit or call our branches for one-on-one assistance with job applications and small business research.

eResources for Small Business Owners

Get FREE tools to write a business plan, launch your business, grow it, manage it, and protect it. From researching the market to selecting a name to obtaining permits, funding, hiring, networking, and more, all that you need is available with an HCLS card and an Internet connection!

AtoZ Database: Research companies nationwide and find employer contact information.

LearningExpress Career Preparation Center for job-related exam training and employment search skills.

Peterson’s Test and Career Prep includes both test prep and job skill assessments in addition to a resume builder.

Gale Courses & LinkedIn Learning offer training for employers, employees, and business owners. Refresh and expand your computer skills with lessons and video tutorials.

As always, our instructors and research specialists are just a library visit or phone call away! Please contact us or visit your local branch if you have questions about classes and events, online learning, or research databases that can help you with your small business needs.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Two Big Books

A line drawing in yellow depicts an old-fashioned square microphone and a bed. Black lettering says, "Gmorning, Gnight! Little pepe talks for me & you"

By Cherise T.

What fits in your pocket, can be read in short bursts, and explodes with wisdom and inspiration? Gmorning, Gnight!: little pep talks for me & you and Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change. These can be challenging times for mustering emotional strength and sustaining a prolonged attention span. In terms of meeting these challenges, both are big books. 

Fans of Hamilton may recognize the author of Gmorning, Gnight, Lin-Manuel Miranda. With more than three million followers on Twitter, Miranda inspired many fans with his brief awakening and bedtime messages. He joined forces with illustrator Johnny Sun to publish this volume of spirit-raising tweets. Miranda wisdom includes, “Gmorning! No exact recipe for today. Gather all available ingredients and whip yourself up something delicious,” and “Gnight. Don’t wait until low power mode. Close your eyes. Close all unnecessary apps. Recharge.” A theater person with universal appeal, Miranda and his notes are irresistible. “Good night. You are perfectly cast in your life. And with so little rehearsal too! It’s a joy to watch. Thank you.” This title is available at HCLS also as a print book in Spanish, as an eBook in Libby/Overdrive and as an eAudiobook narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. 

A salmony-pink cover has simple black types and grey lines

Keep Moving grew out of a series of social media posts by the poet Maggie Smith. Smith was struggling with personal and professional self-doubt during the collapse of her marriage and subsequent divorce. She thought readers might find her journey significant to their own lives. “Keep moving” was her daily admonition and cheer to herself, and because her messages resonated, the number of her Instagram and Twitter followers grew exponentially, hence the idea to create a book.  It is available through HCLS in hardcover and in Overdrive as both an eBook and an eAudiobook read by the author.  

Smith gained international attention with her poem, “Good Bones.” Written in 2015, the poem was not published until the week of the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016. Readers connected deeply with the poem in the aftermath of that tragic event. Because of how widely it was shared, “Good Bones” was often referred to as the poem of 2016, and it was later published in a book of the same name. The poem’s popularity surges again during times of crisis, such as the current pandemic. It begins: 

Life is short, though I keep this from my children. 
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine 
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways, 
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways 
I’ll keep from my children. 

The short notes and essays in Keep Moving reverberate with sorrow, joy, empathy, and fortitude. The author conveys that she’s with the reader struggling to start her day and she’s not going to leave that person behind. Together, Smith and her readers will find a way to persevere and grow. “Trust that everything will be okay, but that doesn’t mean that everything will be restored. Start making yourself at home in your life as it is. Look around and look ahead. KEEP MOVING.” 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Tools & Tips for Job Seekers

Ad for Gale: Peterson's Test and Career Prep shows a young Black woman engaged

By Cherise T.

Rely on hclibrary.org as your job seeker support system. Our excellent databases and classes can assist in your job search and career development, including Peterson’s Test and Career PrepYou may be familiar with the Testing & Education Reference Center and have used its tools or maybe read about its resources. Renamed “Peterson’s,” this database has so much to offer on your job search journey. 

Looking for a job is a full-time pursuit, so you will be thrilled to know that 24-hour access to Peterson’s requires only your library card (Do you need one?). Once logged in, select the “Explore Careers” tile and dig in to all the available and FREE information. Click on “Get Started,” then explore “Find a Career” or “Career Advice” or “Create a Resume.

The “Find a Career” section is especially useful, with a series of aptitude assessments that lead to recommended career paths. Complete all four – Interests, Values, Personality, and Workplace Preferences – to discover the most complete view of how your interests and skills mesh with different career paths. Once an assessment is completed, Peterson’s links to the job aggregator site Indeed.com with relevant current job posts. 

Peterson’s will direct you to Career Matches by subject, including education; finance; health science; IT and computer science; human services; science, engineering, and mathematics; government, military, and public administration; business management and administration; marketing and sales; law and public safety; arts, media, and communication; agriculture, food, and natural resources; hospitality and tourism; transportation, distribution, and logistics; manufacturing and manual operations; and architecture and construction. Using the assessment results, Peterson’s calculates an individualized job fit. 

Career Advice” includes a virtual career library of online instruction. Access this area for advice on changing careers, transitioning out of the military, acing an interview, and negotiating a salary. You can use modules for constructing a resume, pursuing an effective job search, and writing a strong cover letter. 

Under the “Create a Resume” tile, you can find nine sample resume templates that you can save to your device or in your Peterson’s account. You can choose to import your resume or even to publish your resume publicly via a Peterson-generated URL address. Check out the cover letter formatting assistant as well. 

Remember to explore our class calendar. We post new classes on a regular basis. Upcoming events include Mastering the Elevator Pitch and Interview on Wednesday, January 27 and Networking or Not Working on Tuesday, February 9 and Thursday, February 11. Networking and Not Working provides a total of four hours of in-depth job search skills personalized to attendees’ needs. HCLS also provides drop-in online help in filling out job applications. Twice a month, you may register for a small group session to answer job application questions and address job search concerns. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

By Cherise T.

Do you miss browsing our library shelves? Settling into a cozy chair to explore a stack of books and deciding which to check out and take home? Filling your bag with books by new authors, DVDs for that sitcom your daughter thought you’d love, CDs by a band you’ve been hearing on the radio? If so, Howard County Library System’s Bundle Bags will bring you joy, information, and entertainment. Especially with the colder weather setting in, a bag of library materials prepared just for you will brighten the day. Think about snuggling under a blanket with a new book, immersing in a compelling period drama, laughing at a romantic comedy or dancing to energizing music. Whether you want to challenge yourself and learn to knit in time for holiday gift giving or bake a great pie using recipes from a gorgeous cookbook, there’s a Bundle Bag for you. 

Save time assisting your student with a homework assignment by requesting a Bundle Bag. Just imagine, a bag filled with books about trucks, colors, and shapes. Or maybe your child is ready to add chapter books to his reading journey. Our library staff is skilled in selecting children’s and teen books ranging from educational to inspirational, from sports to fantasy to classics. The next time a family member complains of running out of things to read or watch, be reassured that help is on the way. 

Destress throughout your daily activities with some holiday music. We’ve got a Bundle Bag for that. Always wanted to try a romance novel? We’ve got a Bundle Bag for that. Relax into an audiobook about your favorite movie star or escape with a thrilling mystery. Explore true crime accounts. Check out a British television series. With a bag filled with materials, you may just find your next favorite book or movie.  

Easily complete the form for a Bundle Bag on our website. There are five age categories ranging from infant to adult. Request books or CDs/DVDs, or both. For each category requested, a library research staff member selects six items. Choose up to five categories for a total of 30 items. After selecting the bundle contents, complete the form by entering a pickup date and time as early as the second library business day and up to two weeks from the date of form submission. Bags may be picked up at any of our six branches. With one trip to the library for contactless pickup, bring home everything from board books for your grandson to Oscar-winning films for you.  

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Bundle Up

Book Theater

By Cherise T.

Nature setting in bluish tint. Trees, clouds, horizon.

If you’re like me, you really miss live theater. The Playbills. Waiting for the curtain to rise, the actors to appear. Entering another world. Audiobooks can offer a similar exhilarating trip. Recently, some audiobooks go beyond one or two readers. They offer a whole cast of performers who immerse you in the books’ texts like only a theatrical performance can. Publishers have started to invest in larger ensembles of characters. These audiobooks provide a different experience from the written word. 

Those of you who have listened to the Harry Potter series on audio are already familiar with Jim Dale, the award-winning British actor with the unique ability to create special voices for all of Rowling’s Hogwarts characters. Dale has talked about children recognizing his voice at McDonald’s and asking him to order a burger as Dumbledore. It’s the rare audiobook narrator who can convincingly perform multiple characters on his own, but Dale can. If you haven’t heard Harry on audio, I recommend giving the series a try. 

The largest audio cast to date belongs to the Lincoln in the Bardo recording. In his first novel, George Saunders, an acclaimed speculative short story writer, brings us an otherworldly vision of President Abraham Lincoln mourning the death of his 11-year-old son, Willie. We meet Willie’s fellow cemetery spirits who linger between death and rebirth. One of the protagonists is voiced by Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation fame and another by David Sedaris, the bestselling humor essayist. (Sedaris’s audiobooks are wonderful too as he reads his own works.) There are 166 performers in all. Although it’s fun to see how many voices you can recognize – Ben Stiller! Julianne Moore! – I recommend exploring the full cast list to enjoy the complete experience. 

Daisy Jones and the Six is a novel that takes the form of an oral history of a fictional 1970’s rock band. The members of The Six embody sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Author Taylor Jenkins Reid even pens lyrics for the group’s hit songs. Now, what if you could hear the oral history? You can, in the amazing audiobook. Jennifer Beals of Flashdance and The L Word fame is the voice of Daisy, a character loosely inspired by Stevie Nicks. There are 21 cast members on this audiobook, and they bring the chaotic world of recording, tours, and relationships to life. 

If you’ve not explored the joys of audiobooks, give them a try. On free book promotion sites such as Goodreads and Book Riot, you can find reviews specifically of audiobooks. The readers are as unique as the books themselves, so don’t hesitate to give different voices a try. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

Understanding Hillary

Orange-red toned photographic image of a young woman, Hillary Rodham, in her 20s.

By Cherise T.

An alternative Hillary universe is one many of us have contemplated often since 2016. Sittenfeld’s Rodham offers ample facts within the reimagined history to satisfy both political junkies and historical fiction lovers. The writing is solidly engaging, creating a Hillary that in many ways I felt I knew. 

The story opens possibilities that actual events have not allowed. Have you wondered about Hillary’s personal thoughts regarding Bill Clinton and his behavior? The mix of true historical figures and close-enough stand-ins urges the reader to think about the complicated decisions we all have to make in our lives. The links the author constructs between Hillary’s childhood, family, and education and her choices of relationships and political ambitions are fascinating. Unfortunately, speculation into the sources of her policy opinions is too limited. (The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power is a wonderful nonfiction study of Hillary Clinton’s years as Secretary of State for those readers seeking more insight into her diplomatic actions. Authored by a journalist who travelled with Clinton, Kim Ghattas, the book provides Ghattas’s unique perspective as a Lebanese immigrant to the United States.)

Sittenfeld previously reimagined another political couple in American Wife (also available in eaudiobook). Said to be modeled after the story of Laura and George Bush, that novel includes intimate details of the couple’s life that made me feel uncomfortably privy to private, personal thoughts and actions. In Rodham, the storytelling and background research is again so good that I believed I was getting to know Hillary beyond her public persona. She’s a notably different personality than the protagonist in American Wife because Sittenfeld supplies the dialogue, settings, thoughts, dreams and even clothes that put the reader right beside Hillary. Rodham tells Hillary’s story with just the right amount of flashback and linear chronology to appeal to both those fiction readers who want a plot twist and those who crave a character study.

I’m fantasizing about a future author book talk with Hillary Rodham Clinton in conversation with Curtis Sittenfeld.

Rodham is also available from HCLS as an ebook and eaudiobook from OverDrive/Libby, and as a book on CD. There is a short waiting list for the physical book, but you may reserve it.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.