Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose lifetime of public service was deemed, by millions of voters, not sacrifice or qualification enough to defeat an inexperienced braggart and sexual abuser for the American presidency (thanks, guys), has just released her latest political memoir, What Happened.
It’s already a bestseller for a reason. I’ll be buying it—I can’t not. In my lifetime as a lightweight political junkie, I’ve gone from hating Hillary to admiring her to adoring her. Last year—my God, how has it simultaneously already almost been a year, and been the longest year ever?—I voted for her. I swear to God the clouds parted. But I had not learned from what I knew about Hillary’s career that far, and did not anticipate the results of the vote. So I added dismay to the list, and wept watching her concede. Wept for her, yes, and so much for us.
If I parallel my own trajectory toward Hillary-voting with the commentary I’ve read since the 2016 primaries began, I can comfortably venture a guess regarding What Happened, though “sexism” is somehow something that not many sexists are rushing to acknowledge or discuss. Weird.
It’s going to hurt to read this book, but I’m going to do it. My pre-read recommendation, in total, is “read it” with me. We all should, particularly if we’re interested in our collective betterment, slash, in not letting a disaster of 45’s shocking nuclear-orange kind to happen again.
America: you screwed up, letting this woman go. She’s brilliant and capable and adamant, and somehow you actually said no to that. We lost, hard; that’s what happened. We need a major time out; we need to sit in the corner and think about what we did. What Happened is one necessary method of atonement.
And, spoiler: my post-read review, in total, is going to be “read it.” Almost two words too many, in my opinion. While for any other book, I’d consider it an egregious error, even a breach of honesty, for a reader to preemptively “review” a book, this one requires no more. From my vantage: we’ve forfeited the right to nitpick this woman’s work any longer.
We have reviewed Hillary to death. We did it for decades—told her what to wear, how to walk, what honorifics she should use, what causes she should support, when she should bake cookies, what the inflection of her speeches should be. We told her how to walk and what shoes to choose and how she should handle a bout with the flu. She could do nothing right.
She could not uncap hot sauce without being accused of inauthenticity. She could not get a haircut without being dragged by the multitudes for it. And somehow she took all of these presumptuous and wickedly biased reviews under advisement and accomplished incredible public service feats despite their absurd pressures: she achieved “Women’s rights are human rights,” a Senate seat, becoming Secretary of State, breaking boundaries left and right. And still she could do no right by us.
It’s going to hurt to read What Happened, no doubt. I’m preparing myself to open wounds; I’m readying myself for self-reflection. I have not even considered saying “no” to this title, though.
Damned if it isn’t just about Hillary’s turn to tell us what SHE thinks, what SHE wants, what HER vision was, what SHE wishes she’d done differently. We clapped at her like a bunch of feral, rabid, myopic manics, each and every time she opened her mouth; it is beyond time for her to be granted the space to clap back.
…If that’s what she wants to do. I don’t know yet—despite the leaked passages and vicious punditry already surrounding the release—precisely what Hillary’s answer to the question of What Happened? is. But I want to hear it. I want to receive it unfiltered. I want all of us to. She deserves a silent, listening, receptive audience. For once. She deserves, after the lifetimes of viciousness and vitriol and demands that we’ve directed toward her, to have the floor. Just for a moment. Just for a book, thanks.
Working women have their words translated, filtered, and deciphered constantly; Hillary suffered the offense on a scale like no other, and for a length of time that required almost superhuman endurance. I’m sure not preparing to parse her words now. It’s time that we dispense with that. She’s no longer running for office; we can no longer find ways to justify that abuse.
So, too, am I dispensing with all further outside book reviews; I no longer have the stomach to hear what (arrogant, needling, demanding) outsiders have to say of her. We had our turn. It was incredibly costly, that onslaught. We will never learn from What Happened, or be able to move forward from the bloody aftermath of it, if we keep talking over women like Hillary. The din cost us too much; it’s enough, now. Shush.
The best reader response to Hillary’s book will come through listening and hearing, not talking past it.
As far as this reviewer is concerned: Hillary, the floor is yours.