In the race toward the 2020 election, the large number of female candidates has already broadened the scope of female power. Women’s voices—their causes, frustrations, anger—have never been amplified to this level or transformed into so much political capital. Political memoirs by female authors reflect this seismic shift, and here’s what a few of their voices have to say.
Perhaps the most-anticipated detail from Michelle Obama’s memoir is that she is not going to run for office. Her fans clamored for an announcement and read into the timing of Becoming, but instead, Michelle reflects on the sometimes glamorous, often frustrating role of FLOTUS. Her clashes with Washington took their toll but made her a powerful figure in U.S. politics. The domestic details of the First Family are interesting—the president has to pay for his own toilet paper!—but more captivating is Michelle’s rarely shared life before the White House, particularly when she was a new mother. With two small children and a husband who was often in the Illinois State Capitol, Michelle put her law degree toward public service in a way that stands apart from her husband’s legacy.
You probably won’t see Off the Sidelines gracing the front shelves of bookstore chains like some of the other, more flashily photographed titles on this list, as Gillibrand published it in 2014, before she had the national presence that she does now. Part profile-boosting memoir and part call to action for women, Off the Sidelines reads like Gillibrand’s answer to the question, “I want to make a difference and run for office, but how?” Full of sports language, she encourages women to support each other and take their seats at the table. She recounts changing a diaper on the New York governor’s conference table and facing sexually harassment from her congressional colleagues but withstood these difficulties to champion 9/11 first responders, LGBTQ soldiers and victims of sexual assault
Released two weeks before she declared her candidacy for president, Harris’ book is the well-timed stump speech of a campaign book we’ve come to expect from presidential hopefuls. Describing her upbringing and time as a prosecutor, Harris outlines nearly all of her policy platform and positions herself as the right counter to Donald Trump. She writes: “...we’ve seen an administration align itself with white supremacists at home and cozy up to dictators abroad; rip babies from their mothers’ arms… Americans know we’re better than this. But we’re going to have to prove it. We’re going to have to fight for it.”
A must-read before the 2020 election, Hillary’s book examines her second run for president with a gaze of—if not objectivity—distanced clarity. After her loss, she sees mistakes her campaign made, along with the factors that were outside of her control: Russian interference, sexist perceptions and a profound shift in the media landscape. What Happened is Hillary’s goodbye to her role as we know it in national politics. She writes of watching the Women’s March: “I wanted badly to join the crowds and chant my heart out. But I believed it was important for new voices to take the stage… I couldn’t help but be swept up in the joy of the moment and feel like the unmistakable vitality of American democracy was reasserting itself before our eyes."
Like Harris’, Warren’s campaign paints her as the fighter Americans need to take on the president in 2020. Both books contain countless fighting metaphors, but unlike with Harris’ one-issue-per-chapter approach, Warren doubles down on her strongest area: the economy. With a wry wit, Warren delves into economic history, policy and regulations and weaves her personal narrative throughout.
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