education, poor judgment, Texas

Texas school official says teachers should offer books that have an “opposing view” of the Holocaust…

It’s a rainy morning in Germany, which means that my dogs will be waiting for their walk again. Since there will be a delay, I have time to write another blog post. This one is about the continuing descent of Texas into a straight up dystopian land. It’s not enough that Governor Abbott has signed anti-abortion legislation that deprives women of the right to make personal decisions about their own reproduction. It’s not enough that Texas politicians have called for women who have abortions to be executed, or that hospitals have forced a pregnant woman in a coma to stay on life support, even as she basically decomposes. Now, the dystopia is spreading to the schools.

Yesterday, I read about how a top administrator in the Southlake district had controversial comments about what kinds of books teachers would have in their classroom libraries. Gina Peddy, the Carroll school district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, was secretly recorded during a training session last week. According to NBC news:

“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” Peddy said in the recording, referring to a new Texas law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust,” Peddy continued, “that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”

WHAT? That was, I think, a brain dead comment if there ever was one. How do you share an opposing view of the Holocaust? I’d like to think Peddy simply misspoke, as we all sometimes do. I would hope she had a brain fart, perhaps brought on by the state of things in Texas today. It was certainly a thoughtless comment, though, and it doesn’t make me think too highly of the quality of education in Texas. Is it any wonder that so many teachers are leaving the profession when they not only have to deal with the whole COVID-19 situation, but they also have to contend with these kinds of intrusions on their teaching methods?

I read that this whole thing began when a fourth grade student brought home a book called “This Book Is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell. The girl’s mother objected to the book’s content and complained to her daughter’s teacher. When the teacher did not respond in a way that satisfied the parent, the battle over what kinds of books are appropriate intensified. Local officials investigated the mother’s complaints about the teacher and declined to intervene, but the Carroll school board overturned the decision and voted 3-2 to formally reprimand the teacher. That decision, of course, made other teachers feel threatened, since they figured the board would side against them if other parents decided to complain about books in their classroom libraries.

Evidently, there’s a huge controversy about what is being taught in Texas schools. Some Southlake parents have been fighting against new inclusion and diversity programs at Carroll for over a year. They are opposed to lessons about racism, history (that paints white people in a negative light), or LGBTQ issues. Some of the parents have incorrectly identified the “progressive” lessons as promoting “critical race theory”. That’s how the new law, Texas House Bill number 3979, came to fruition.

Texas House Bill number 3979 is supposed to encourage teachers to present multiple viewpoints of controversial topics. I’m sure the law was intended to address the concern that some people have that their children will be fed a political agenda that doesn’t align with their preferred views… or that white children will somehow be made to feel guilty for the fact that they’re white. Personally, I can understand why some parents worry about that. I happen to agree that no one should feel ashamed of who they are, particularly when it comes to things they can’t change. That includes so-called “privileged” people.

However… there are some subjects that are sacred. The Holocaust is one of those topics where there is no “other view”. There have been people who have denied that the Holocaust happened, or they try to present it in a way that is sympathetic to the Nazi movement. Make no mistake about it. The Holocaust was absolutely horrifying; it’s real; and it didn’t happen all that long ago. Now, more than ever, we must be aware of the danger that can come from turning a blind eye to what happened in Europe during the 1930s and 40s. It was less than 100 years ago… and frankly, whenever I see Donald Trump rally a crowd, I’m reminded a lot of how Hitler came to power.

When a teacher asked Gina Peddy how one might oppose the Holocaust, Peddy’s response was “Believe me. That’s come up.” Wow… REALLY?

There was a time when I considered becoming a school teacher. I went to a college that is very well known for producing outstanding teachers. Many of my friends are teachers. But honestly, after reading about some of the crazy stuff teachers have to deal with nowadays, I am kind of glad that notion went by the wayside. It seems like back in my day, parents trusted and respected teachers more than they do now. I have seen what goes in to making teachers, and what they have to do to be qualified to teach. They don’t get paid a lot in many places, even though their value is immeasurable and they are vital to human development.

I am pretty appalled that someone in the education system in Texas suggested that teachers should present opposing views to the Holocaust, even if that comment was made due to a massive brain fart. It really is embarrassing. And I can see why teachers are so concerned. One elementary school teacher said:

“Teachers are literally afraid that we’re going to be punished for having books in our classes. There are no children’s books that show the ‘opposing perspective’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposing perspective’ of slavery. Are we supposed to get rid of all of the books on those subjects?”

Imagine having to grade masses of papers, answer dozens of irate emails and phone calls, AND be concerned that the books you’ve chosen for your classroom library might be deemed controversial, even when the validity of the subject matter is not in dispute. Teachers definitely have a tough job, and this kind of situation only makes it tougher…

And once again, it makes me glad I don’t have to deal with this problem myself. I think if I had children, I would want them to be free to read almost everything. I grew up with parents who mostly let me read what I wanted. All it did was open my mind and make me love reading. I really think this new law is misguided, even if it was well-intentioned. This situation ought to be fixed as soon as possible, before more excellent teachers decide to change careers.

The district did apologize

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book reviews, politicians, politics, Trump

Reviewing Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House…

I finally got around to reading Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward’s 2018 book, Fear: Trump in the White House, even though I bought the book when it was first published. I still have a bunch of other books about former U.S. president Donald Trump that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I have a bad habit of buying books and letting them stack up, sometimes waiting to be read for years. But I also find reading about Donald Trump particularly difficult, mainly because I find him disturbing and depressing to read about, even if he is also kind of fascinating. I mean, it saddens me that so many people think he’s so great, but it also fascinates me that people don’t see what I can see so plainly.

This morning, after a concerted effort, I finished reading Fear, and I have Woodward’s follow up book, Rage, waiting to be read. I think I finally read Fear because there has been so much press about Woodward’s more recent book, Peril, which was published last month and is about the transition of Trump’s administration to Biden’s. I haven’t purchased Peril yet, but the reviews made it sound like a compelling read. I figured I should read the previous books before I get to that one. I did start reading a new book this morning, but it’s not about politics. I need to take a break after reading Fear. I guess the title was appropriately chosen.

So… on with my review…

Bob Woodward is an award willing journalist and associate editor who has worked for The Washington Post for 50 years. So far, he’s written at least 20 books that have been national bestsellers, and he’s shared in two Pulitzer Prizes. The man has quite an impressive pedigree as an author, as fourteen of his books have been on The New York Times bestseller list. Having just read Fear, I can attest to Woodward’s ability to write. Fear was easy to read and understand, and I never found myself skimming, as I did when I read John Bolton’s book, The Room Where it Happened. Bolton came off as kind of pompous, writing for himself and, more pointedly, his ego. Woodward, on the other hand, writes for his readers. That’s the kind of writing that is a pleasure for me to read.

Fear tackles the beginning of the Trump era. It’s mainly about Trump’s staff, and the lengths they went to try to “handle” him– harnessing the tremendous power Trump suddenly and surprisingly got when he was elected president. Woodward explains how staff members were chosen to work with Trump, as well as the difficulties Trump’s staff faced as they tried to deal with Trump’s overwhelming personality. Many of the people who worked in Trump’s White House were experienced professionals, particularly within the military. On the other some staffers were people who got jobs because of how they looked, or because they were friends of Trump’s… or because they were his relatives.

Steve Bannon gets a lot of coverage in this book, although Woodward was probably kinder to Bannon than he should have been. I always got the sense that Steve Bannon was a bit of a manipulative snake, but Woodward makes him seem more professional than he ever appeared to me in this news.

In straightforward, clear prose, Woodward uses his investigative journalist skills to uncover Trump’s early days in power. Woodward clearly tried to be impartial and often gives Trump more credit than he probably deserves. I can appreciate the attempt at trying to be fair and impartial, especially given the fact that Trump is the most polarizing president I have seen in my lifetime. It could not have been easy for Woodward to maintain such decorum.

I think Fear is a well-written and researched book, and I learned new things by reading it. However, I agree with some of the reviewers who mention that there’s nothing particularly “earth shattering” or deliciously juicy about Fear. The trouble is, Trump was so heavily covered in the press that a lot of what’s in Woodward’s book, while easy to read and digest, is stuff that was already in the news.

I probably waited too long to read Fear. If I had read it when it was first published, I might have gotten a lot more from it. I might enjoy Peril more, simply because it covers the end (hopefully) of Trump’s political career, when things really got weird. But, as I mentioned earlier in this review, I felt like I should read the first book of Woodward’s highly touted trilogy. I did learn some new things, and there were some entertaining passages about some of the interactions Trump had with some of his staff. I particularly enjoyed reading about Trump’s long suffering lawyers, who did their best to get Trump to take their advice rather than simply acting on impulse. Many of Trump’s staffers were the “adults in the room”, but they could never seem to get him to settle down and get to work. Most of them were always “putting out fires” and dealing with Trump’s tantrums.

Anyway, according to Amazon, most people thought this was a good book. Some people thought it sucked. I didn’t think Fear: Trump in the White House was bad at all, but it could have been better. I did feel like the end of the book was a bit abrupt. I was reading about Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, deciding to resign from Trump’s service. Then, suddenly, the book ended, and I was knee deep in footnotes and sources. I do think Fear is a good reference for those who want to read more about Trump. There’s plenty of associated reading to be explored.

I think if I were giving this a rating between one and five stars, I’d give it a 3.5. I found it easy to read and mostly interesting, but I wasn’t too shocked or surprised by much of what I read. If I had read this in 2018, I probably would have had a slightly more favorable reaction to Fear: Trump in the White House. But in September 2018, I was about to move and had a lot of other stuff going on… and frankly, I remember not being able to bring myself to read a book about Trump, because I found him rather terrifying. I still do, to be honest.

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healthcare, politicians, politics, poor judgment

The COVID curse… Lora Reinbold, an outspoken conservative, comes down with the virus.

Several weeks ago, I read about Republican Alaska lawmaker, Senator Lora Reinbold, having an unusual problem. Reinbold represents Eagle River, Alaska, which is near Anchorage. The capital of Alaska is Juneau. Reinbold is not able to travel to Juneau, because it would require flying on Alaska Airlines, which is the only airline that offers flights this time of year between Anchorage and Juneau. Reinbold is not allowed to fly on Alaska Airlines right now.

Last April, Lora Reinbold, an outspoken critic regarding federal face mask mandates, got into an argument with Alaska Airlines staff at Juneau International Airport about the mask rules. Because of that heated exchange, which was captured on video and went viral, Reinbold has been banned from flying on Alaskan Airlines until the federal mask mandates are lifted. At this writing, they have been extended until January 18, 2022.

I’m sure a new meme is forthcoming…

Delta Airlines offers flights to Juneau at other times of the year, but is not offering them now. So Lora Reinbold’s choices are to either take a boat, or drive for two days, to get to the state capital. She has been excused from legislative sessions until next year.

Meanwhile, as she sits at home, stuck in Eagle River, Reinbold has now come down with COVID-19 herself. She announced on social media that she’s got the virus and has promised to defeat it. Below is a screenshot of her Facebook post.

Well… I do hope she can stay out of the hospital. But other outspoken conservatives before her have made similarly bold statements on social media and did not survive to do a victory dance.

And here’s a follow up posted 12 hours later. She paired this with a photo of a sweet looking golden retriever.

I hope, for her sake, she’s right… but I wouldn’t necessarily bet the farm. She might still “buy the farm”, if you know what I mean.

All of the photos I have seen of Lora Reinbold show her wearing what looks like some kind of plastic mask thingy. It does appear to cover her nose and mouth, but it’s made of a clear material, so her whole face can be seen. I don’t know if that type of “mask” is effective or not. I’ve never seen anyone else wearing them. I do remember last year, some waiters and waitresses at a restaurant Bill and I like had a sort of clear shield that covered the lower half of their faces. We visited that restaurant the other day and no one was wearing them then; they all had surgical masks.

I don’t know if the plastic mask Reinbold has been shown wearing does more or less than a surgical mask would. I have never had much faith in cloth masks and, in fact, have never worn a cloth mask myself. They aren’t allowed in Germany, anyway. I mean, you can wear one if you want to, but if you want to go into a shop or take public transportation, you have to use a medical grade mask. I have stated from the beginning that if I have to wear a mask, I prefer them to be masks I didn’t buy on Etsy. I also think that staying away from people is better than wearing a mask, especially when the isolation is coupled with a COVID vaccination. I also don’t know if Reinbold is vaccinated. It was not made clear in the articles I’ve read. Based on the screenshot below, I suspect she’s not been innoculated.

Oh dear.

I do think it’s interesting that after she made a big stink about wearing a mask on a plane and referred to the masks as “suffocating”, Lora Reinbold now has the virus. Now she has to put on a brave face to her public. She says she’s doing fine. I truly hope she is. Alaska hospitals don’t need another patient. From what I’ve read, hospitals in Alaska are having a hell of a time dealing with COVID patients.

I don’t cheer for anyone getting COVID-19, even people who act like fools. Well… okay, maybe I did kind of smile when Trump got it, but that’s because I despise Donald Trump. I think Trump is dangerous and repulsive. But I recognize that even Trump has loved ones who would miss him if he died. I’m sure Lora Reinbold does, too. Aside from that, I’ve read that dying of COVID is a pretty awful way to go. I try hard not to wish suffering on others, even if sometimes I fail. I’m human… but the Golden Rule is still a good mantra. If I were sick and dying, I would hope most people wouldn’t cheer about it. I know a few people would, though. I’ve got my enemies.

What I do find concerning is the way people “laugh” about COVID. Below is a comment someone left for Senator Reinbold. Notice that she got “laughing” reactions. I don’t understand why people are so shitty. It appears that the people who “laughed” are liberal types… I guess it just goes to show that assholes come in all political flavors.

She’s a human being who just lost her mother. That’s not really a laughing matter, is it?

I do hope Lora Reinbold recovers and is able to stay at home. And I hope if her “get well soon” recipe works, she’ll share it and help save some lives. However, it’s my guess that she may be in for a tough time… I have some friends who have had COVID. At least a couple of them had to spend time in the hospital. We’re all about ten years younger than Lora Reinbold is.

I like to hear about people getting over COVID-19, especially since while some of us are sick from COVID, we’re all really sick of COVID. So count me among those who hope that Lora Reinbold gets well soon, even if she did make an ass of herself at the airport. I don’t blame her for hating face masks. I hate them too. I hope someday, they are no longer necessary. I do my best to stay out of situations that would require me to wear them for long, including flying on airplanes. Bill has to go to Poland next month. He invited me to go with him, but it would require flying, and I just don’t know that I want to deal with that, even if I would enjoy seeing Warsaw.

I do think that the situation with flying isn’t going to improve as long as masks are required. Many people keep saying they’re “not a big deal”, but clearly they ARE a big deal to some folks. There’s been a noticeable uptick in bad behavior in airports and on planes since the masks became required. So obviously, not everyone is okay with wearing them. And while I cooperate with the mandates myself, I can understand why some people feel the need to fight them, even if I don’t condone violence or bad behavior. What I’m saying is that I get that the masks suck, and I think it should be okay to say that without being “corrected” by the PC police. At the same time, COVID sucks more… and we’re not going to get past this shit until people cooperate.

I don’t think Lora Reinbold’s approach to COVID is a particularly smart one, but it’s her life. I don’t know that Ivermectin and vitamins are going to save her, but we’ll see what happens. Maybe she has a super excellent immune system… or maybe she got a less dangerous variant… or maybe she’s going to be lucky. Time will tell. I hope the other conservative pundits who want to publicly declare their superiority over COVID will take note. Maybe they shouldn’t say it out loud. At this writing, several conservative radio show hosts have mocked COVID and later died of the virus. It’s way past time more people started taking this seriously. COVID is not a joke.

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politicians, politics, Trump

Trump is gearing up for another go at being POTUS… I can’t stand it.

The above photo is a screenshot that is enough to inspire nightmares. On another note, I doubt Trump ever had a physique like that one. He’s the Eric Cartman of world leaders.

Last night, as I struggled to fall asleep, I read an article about how Donald Trump is chomping at the bit to run for president again. The idea of another four years with him running the White House is enough to give me anxiety induced indigestion. I really hate the idea of it. But I am not surprised he’s gearing up for another run, since he’s a malignant narcissist who can’t lose with dignity. And he doesn’t seem to know when the party is over and it’s time for him to go home.

I know there are still many people in the United States who would dearly love to see Trump run and win again. Lots of people I grew up with– many of whom are, pardon the expression, total rednecks– feel like Trump is the one president who didn’t ignore them and spoke up for their needs. What they don’t seem to understand, though, is that Donald Trump actually disdains people who are just “plain folks”. They seem to think Trump would invite them over to his house for a well done steak covered with ketchup and watch football and pitch horseshoes with them, or something. That’s not the case at all.

Donald Trump disdains people he thinks of as “losers”, and that would certainly include people who aren’t wealthy, well-connected, or very good looking. At the same time, he’s threatened by people who are winners. He would rather those people work to elevate him, rather than congratulate them on their own successes and encourage them to keep succeeding. Unless, of course, he can somehow parlay their successes into something he can use for himself and his agenda.

Some time ago, I remember seeing a cartoon posted on social media depicting Trump sitting at an old fashioned soda counter next to a small child. In the drawing, Trump looks “fit” and muscular, and leans over to a boy wearing a pro-Trump t-shirt. The caption was, “Don’t worry kid, we’re coming back.” It depicted Trump as this old fashioned, all American, God fearing, heroic, great guy, who loves children, families, and the American way. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is, Donald Trump is just a con man with racist and “rapey” proclivities. He’s always been that way, and he will always be that way. He’s a narcissist, and they don’t change, nor do they do anything that isn’t strictly for them, and their agenda. That’s what makes him a disastrous failure as a “leader”. Moreover, I don’t see Trump getting that close to anyone who hasn’t made his dick hard. He is reportedly a germaphobe, and I strongly doubt he has much affection for children, even ones who wear pro-Trump t-shirts. He especially has disgraceful attitudes toward girls.

Recently, I read that Donald Trump is being asked not to publicly declare his candidacy for the presidential run in 2024. This is because people are afraid he will upset the midterm elections. Many voters are still reeling from the shit Trump did when he was in office, and I think Republicans are hoping they can somehow sway those people to vote red again after another year with Biden at the helm. A lot of people don’t like Joe Biden, and I think Republicans are hoping for more time to show that Biden isn’t a good president. But Trump is probably not going to listen to the powers that be in the Republican party. Why? Because he’s a narcissist, and narcissists don’t listen to other people. They do what they want, other people and their needs be damned.

Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George, gets it.

I also think that many Republicans secretly realize that they have created a monster in Donald Trump. He will not stop interfering in politics, now that he’s gotten a taste of the power that comes from being president. It will probably take his death to stop him. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who apparently is also eyeing a bid for the White House, used to champion Trump, and Trump championed him. But now, Trump sees DeSantis as a threat, and is trying to psych him out of a presidential run by calling him a loser. Frankly, I would absolutely hate to have DeSantis as president, either… but I do think this situation is an example as to why people should never have trusted Trump. He has no honor and no loyalty, and he does not care about anyone but himself. Trump doesn’t support his supporters. He thinks of them as chumps.

In fact, Mike Pence’s former coronavirus advisor, Olivia Troye, made a video last year slamming Trump. In that video, she noted that he was much more concerned about being re-elected than preventing deaths from the pandemic. According to Troye, Trump said:

“…maybe this Covid thing is a good thing… I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people…”

Of course, Trump and Pence both claimed that Troye was just a “disgruntled former staffer” who wanted to say bad things about Trump. But what about the time Trump referred to America’s military war dead and injured as “losers and suckers”? This from a man who didn’t do his part in Vietnam, due to “bone spurs”… and yet, many people in the military still think Trump is “da man”. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I have up close and personal knowledge of how many people in the military become indoctrinated to the cause and their leadership, especially when the leader is a Republican.

I read another article about Melania Trump’s former press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, who is now throwing the Trumps under the bus in a new tell-all book. I haven’t decided if I will read her book, since I hate to give money to someone who fully supported the Trump regime and is now very much a hypocrite. I may decide to read the book, simply because it may have some truth in it worth revealing. Like it or not, Grisham was privy to a lot of “tea” during her stint in the White House. And she has publicly said, “I am terrified of him running for president in 2024…” Grisham says that it would be all about revenge if Trump were to run. Grisham further states that she believes if he won, Trump would push “some very draconian policies” shaped by his base.

In other words, he would not have to worry about re-election, so we could all look forward to Trump becoming completely unhinged, and feeling totally emboldened to act like a crazed monkey throwing shit at the masses. It would be a disaster. Human rights and any policy devoted to decency, cooperation, and democracy would go down the shitter. I would expect a lot of people to become disabled and/or die, too, because of more gun violence, disease caused by public health and health system failures, and irresponsible health choices associated with poorer safety and wellness. Trump is not, for instance, a leader who encourages people to take care of themselves and other people. He encourages people to be selfish, irresponsible assholes, like him.

But people love junk food, and lots of people love Trump, because he is the political equivalent of junk food. He’s a “hamberder and fries” to the “grilled turbot and steamed vegetables” of more liberal candidates. Which isn’t to say that I would want the “tofu and bean sprouts” of an extremely left wing candidate, either. I support moderates, and candidates who have everyone’s best interests at heart. I support leaders who care about other people, not just half-cocked, drunken uncle types, who only care about fat wallets and their own sexual gratification.

Trump supporters see Trump as being for their brand of “freedom”, which is all about their individual liberties– except for when it comes to private health decisions made by pregnant women. They don’t want the government dictating how they spend their money, what they wear on their faces, or if they get a vaccine to protect themselves and their communities against a deadly novel virus. They want to ignore all of the dangers of today and live their lives as if it was still 1955, and women were barefoot and pregnant, people of color “knew their places” in society, and conservative white men were on top of things. It really is nauseating if you think about it for long and you have any sense of decency.

A screenshot from the insurrection on January 6. If Trump comes back, I expect more of the same.

I read this morning that some of the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 are starting to get their punishments for trying to overthrow the government. One story was about a guy from San Antonio who got sentenced for 45 days in jail for traveling to DC, being part of the mob, and spending twelve minutes in the Capitol building. The guy hadn’t actually engaged in violence or vandalism, but the judge noted that he’d made a conscious choice not to respect the results of the 2020 election. These folks were cheered on by Donald Trump. He encouraged them to riot in his name. I only hope that some of the people who were involved in the January 6th rioting get a clue and cast their votes differently in 2024. I don’t think the United States can survive another Trump presidency.

I truly do get being conservative. I understand wanting to vote Republican. But PLEASE– let’s find someone to run who is not a complete sociopath. Let’s find someone with a conscience who cares, on some level, about other people. It’s true that most politicians are a bit narcissistic, but Donald Trump is narcissistic on an epic scale. We can, and should, do much better than voting him in again. It’s time for all decent people to pull their heads out of their own asses, open their eyes, and see beyond the bullshit. Vote for people, not parties.

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book reviews, politics

Repost: A review of First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies

This review appeared on my original blog on July 18, 2016. It’s posted here as/is.

I’ve never been one to follow politics too much.  They don’t interest me as much as they probably should. However, like most Americans, I’ve been exposed to politics despite my best efforts to avoid them.  Some time ago, I decided to read Kate Anderson Brower’s 2016 book, First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.  I see on Amazon.com that this book was released in mid April, just a few weeks after Nancy Reagan’s death at age 94.  She was obviously still living at press time because Brower refers to Mrs. Reagan as if she’s not dead.  Nancy Reagan, along with several other first ladies, gets plenty of airtime in Brower’s book. 

I was surprised by how interested I was in reading about America’s modern first ladies.  Brower has an engaging writing style and includes a lot of information about Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama.  She showed how important and stressful the job of First Lady can be and illuminates how each of the First Ladies highlighted in her book tackled the role. 

Brower also includes some fun tidbits about relationships between First Ladies.  Some of her descriptions are more flattering than others.  I was surprised by how much regard Brower seems to have for Lady Bird Johnson, a First Lady who served before I was born.  I was less surprised by how Nancy Reagan is described.  Brower paints her as a woman who was extremely devoted and overprotective of her husband, yet something of a bitch to most other people.  Barbara Bush was apparently much beloved among White House staffers, while Michelle Obama evidently can’t wait to move out of the White House.

While I did mostly enjoy Kate Anderson Brower’s book, I do have one major criticism.  This book is not written in a chronological manner, so the First Ladies’ stories are mostly presented in a hodge podge way.  Sometimes it felt like I was rereading passages I had already read.  I think that had she presented each First Lady in her own chapter, it would have been easier to keep everyone’s stories straight. 

I also felt like it took too long to get through the book.  I’m a fairly speedy reader, especially when I’m reading something interesting.  It took me a few weeks to finish First Women.  This book could have used another round or two with an editor for streamlining and clarifying. 

Overall, First Women is a somewhat entertaining read and I did learn some new things about life in the White House, as well as gained some insight into some of the women who have served as First Lady.  But, even though it took me awhile to get through the book, I was kind of surprised when I finally hit the end of it.  It didn’t seem like Brower really summarized anything, so when the end of the book finally came, I was left thinking “That’s it?”

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Kate Anderson Brower.  She is apparently a well-regarded author and previously published The Residence, which was a bestseller.  Others who have read The Residence claim that First Women includes too much repeated information from the first book.  Since I haven’t read The Residence, I can’t be sure if that’s true.  However, having read follow up books from other authors, my guess is that there’s truth in the claim that some information is recycled.  So I would recommend that anyone tempted to read First Women after having read The Residencegive it some time.  Although I know many authors rehash things in subsequent books on similar subjects, it can feel like a rip off when that happens.

For me personally, First Women was a decent read because I’m not a trivia geek when it comes to U.S. Presidents and their wives (thus far).  Those who already know a lot about First Ladies of the 20th and 21st centuries may find this book a little too pedestrian.  And again, I do think that this would have been a stronger book had the First Ladies been presented in a more linear way with less redundant information.  I think I’d give it 3.5 stars.

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