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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, July 13, 2003

These Female Authors Think -- and Write -- Like Men

We live in a brave new world, where American women are theoretically equal to men. We can vote, own property and pursue any occupation. However, much of women's energies still seem devoted to home and hearth, food and family.

In these two biographies and a novel, three intrepid women invite us along as they roll the dice in the high-rolling parlors of politics and money. These are women who think and write like men.

Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton (Simon & Schuster, 2003).

OK, let's get the Bill issue out of the way immediately. No, Hillary does not reveal what she really thinks about Bill's fatal attraction to other women. Nor does she admit that she stays with him for any reason other than love and a commitment to keeping her family unit intact. She doesn't mention any further political ambitions.

That said, she does tell us of a well-heeled young Methodist girl from the Chicago suburbs who went away to Wellesley a Goldwater girl and four years later stood at the graduation podium, elected by her peers to speak, passionately urging peace and social activism.

As a law student at Yale, it was love at first sight with a tall, handsome and vital Rhodes Scholar named Bill Clinton. Upon graduation, Hillary worked as a member of the Nixon impeachment staff and then turned down lucrative Wall Street and D.C. offers to follow Bill back to his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., where he pursued his goal of becoming governor and she taught law school.

Living History is rich with details of the political and social events of the past 50 years. Hillary was not just a political wife; she was a participant. She did what it took to get into a position to influence policy in the areas of health care, childcare, and education. She built a network of other accomplished and dynamic women, and as first lady, she expanded her contacts to both male and female leaders throughout the world. And of course she got herself elected as a United States Senator from New York.

Not bad for a tomboy from Illinois who still considers her greatest accomplishment to be her daughter Chelsea.

Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor (Miramax, 2003).

One of the women Hillary met and admired in her travels was Queen Noor, the wife of King Hussein of Jordan.

Having always equated Noor with Princess Grace of Monaco (beautiful young blonds whisked away to become royalty in exotic foreign lands), I was surprised to discover that she is Arab-American, born Lisa Halaby in Southern California, and she earned a degree in architecture and urban planning at Princeton University before meeting the thrice-married charismatic king through her well-connected father.

Hussein had become king at age 17 after the assassination of his grandfather (which he witnessed) and a one-year reign by his schizophrenic father. When Halaby married Hussein at age 26 (he was 41), she immediately became stepmother to his eight children, as well as a Muslim and queen of a country at the epicenter of the Middle Eastern conflict.

If you're looking for a romantic memoir loaded with personal revelations, don't read this. It is a hard-nosed account of many years in the center of strife and is ultimately rather heartbreaking, though informative.

Good Faith by Jane Smiley (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003).

Jane Smiley has set previous novels in the male worlds of farming, horse racing and academia.

Now she tackles 1980s get-rich-quick real estate development.

Whenever I peruse the real estate ads, I see lots of female agents, but when I read about big new developments, it's the men calling the shots. Smiley either has some personal experience as a developer or has thoroughly researched the subject, because she immerses the reader in details, from planning to zoning boards to finance.

Her setting is an unspoiled town in rural New Jersey. Enter Marcus Burns, a high-rolling and extremely self-confident former Internal Revenue Service agent who knows all the angles and has decided that Rolling Hills is a close enough commute to the Big Apple to become a profitable weekend resort.

It doesn't take long for the locals to be drawn into Marcus' questionable money schemes, and of course things go downhill quickly. This tongue-in-cheek peek inside big-stakes real estate development is intriguing and enlightening.

Pam Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.