Thursday, November 1, 2012

The First Ladies

The Genre Reading Group met this past Tuesday to discuss books about the United State's First Ladies and the talk was lively!

First Ladies: An Intimate Group Portrait of White House Wives by Margaret Truman

"Fascinating. . . . First Ladies is a wonderfully generous look at the women who, often against their wishes, took on what Truman calls 'the world's second toughest job.' " --The Christian Science Monitor

Whether they envision their role as protector, partner, advisor, or scold, First Ladies find themselves in a job that is impossible to define, and just as difficult to perform. Now Margaret Truman, daughter of President Harry Truman and an acclaimed novelist and biographer in her own right, explores the fascinating position of First Lady throughout history and up to the present day.

With her unique perspective as the daughter of a First Lady, Ms. Truman reveals the truth behind some of the most misunderstood and forgotten First Ladies of our history, as well as the most famous and beloved. In recounting the charm and courage of Dolley Madison, the brazen ambition of Florence Harding, the calm, good sense of Grace Coolidge, the genius of Eleanor Roosevelt, the mysterious femininity of Jackie Kennedy, and the fierce protectiveness of Nancy Reagan, among others, Margaret Truman has assembled an honest yet affectionate portrait of our nation's First Ladies--one that freely acknowledges their virtues and their flaws.

Presidents and First Ladies of the United States by Doranne Jacobson
Covering each administration from Washington to Clinton, portraits and historical illustrations are combined with essays on the political and personal lives of every First Couple. These narratives are augmented by fact charts listing the highlights and achievements of the presidents and first ladies.

Commander in Chic: Every Woman's Guide to Managing Her Style Like a First Lady by Mikki Taylor

The nation’s major networks, radio stations, and newspapers call on Mikki Taylor not only to discuss the “Obama look” and its feverish impact on style, but to hear Taylor’s own smart advice on looking polished and pulled together. She’s been privy to Obama’s style philosophy as well as that of countless celebs through her longtime role as beauty and cover director at Essence magazine, where she collaborated with Obama’s team on fashion and beauty choices for prime photo shoots for the magazine.

Now Taylor is sharing the keys to the Obama look with her diary-like observations, tips, and Mikki-isms (her short, ultra-clever style aphorisms) for women everywhere. Mikki knows we all want to possess a signature look and a wardrobe of bankable pieces that allow us the kind of versatility where we never have to worry about what to wear again! Consider Commander in Chic as your personal style diary—one where you’ll find everything you need to know to possess great style—simply, effortlessly, and for keeps.

Cover-to-cover, the book is full of stunning photo-graphs that take the guesswork out of what works. Every chapter in the book shares the kinds of concrete information and inspiring style ideas that not only make getting dressed a fabulous experience, but define what will make you a woman to remember! Here is everything you need to know about style—from your glossary of high-performance hair products and “do how-to’s” to the best makeup finds and techniques to what you need to know to grow your nails long and strong to the most polished hues for all skin tones. In “The Gam Slam,” Taylor tells you how to work summer-pretty legs year-round—from how to keep them even-toned and satiny smooth to vein-free.

Mikki took great care in talking to the experts about what we need to know to manage our lives from the inside out—from our mental and physical health and wellness to the importance of self-nurturing. As a result, you’ll find guiding principles on diet and exercise for the various stages of your life—from age twenty and beyond. You’ll also find the critical information you need to know to nourish your well-being so you can continue to be the empowered woman you are called to be.

All in all, Commander in Chic is a gold mine of information that will inspire you—from head to toe, inside and out—on how to truly style, now and for years to come.

Dear First Lady: Letters to the White House by Dwight Young & Margaret Johnson

Following on the success of their recent collaboration Dear Mr. President, Dwight Young and Margaret Johnson join forces once again to produce this charming collection of correspondence to and from First Ladies during their time in office. A wonderful gift book for any American, Dear First Lady reminds us that ours is a great government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," which entitles us to make our views known to our leaders. Although some of these missives were written by the famous or the infamous, most are from ordinary Americans who wished to connect with their First Lady. Amusing, appealing, heartbreaking, and heartwarming, the letters appear as full-size facsimiles wherever possible so readers can see for themselves the substance and style of these intriguing exchanges.

Dwight Young annotates each letter with biographical and historical stories that illuminate the context and provide broader insights into the public and private lives of presidents’ wives. Richly illustrated with archival photography and images, Dear First Lady paints a fascinating portrait of American culture and a behind-the-scenes look inside the White House.

With presidential history a perennial best-seller, and interest in First Ladies growing as these influential women make ever more prominent contributions to the society and public policy, this rich volume holds limitless gift potential.

The Wilsons by Cass R. Sandak
A biography of Woodrow Wilson, with emphasis on his years as president, tells the story of the only president who had two first ladies: Ellen Axson Wilson and Edith Boling Wilson.

Edith Wilson: The Woman Who Ran the United States by James Cross Giblin
An informative and readable introduction to the life of an important First Lady. Giblin focuses primarily on the years after she became the wife of President Woodrow Wilson. He makes clear that throughout her lifetime, Edith Bolling Wilson succeeded in overcoming both personal and professional obstacles. Her marriage immediately put her into the country's political limelight and her strength and support for her husband were evident during the tumultuous times of World War I and its aftermath. Her role during his illness is clearly explored. The black-and-white line drawings that illustrate the text are marginal. For reports or pleasure reading, this simply written, well-organized volume captures this remarkable woman's personality and contributions to society.

Edith Bolling Galt Wilson by Alice Flanagan
Presents a biography of the wife of the twenty-eighth president of the United States, a woman who helped her husband manage the affairs of his office after he suffered a stroke.

The Girls in the Van: Covering Hillary by Beth Harpaz
The Girls in the Van is the ultimate press pass to Hillary Clinton's historic Senate run, following the first lady from the moment she dons a black pantsuit and a Yankees cap all the way to her historic victory. This book is a front-row seat in the press van as Hillary takes a "My Fair Lady" -style Yiddish lesson, invokes Harriet Tubman thirty times on a tour of black churches, and spends as much time explaining why she kissed Yassir Arafat's wife as she does justifying why she stays married to Bill. The Girls in the Van takes you on an unforgettable trip, from the ladies room at the Waldorf to the garden of the Clinton's Westchester home.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:  Discussion about The Girls in the Van brought to mind a great book I read several years ago called Women for President: Media Bias in Eight Campaigns by Erika Falk, which explores past women presidential candidates, objectivity in journalism (more often, the lack thereof), and political aspects of gender roles and expectations.

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts comes New York Times bestseller Founding Mothers, an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families–and their country–proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it.

While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts brings us women who fought the Revolution as valiantly as the men, often defending their very doorsteps. Drawing upon personal correspondence, private journals, and even favoured recipes, Roberts reveals the often surprising stories of these fascinating women, bringing to life the everyday trials and extraordinary triumphs of individuals like Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, Esther DeBerdt Reed and Martha Washington–proving that without our exemplary women, the new country might have never survived.

Sara & Eleanor: The Story of Sara Delano Roosevelt and Her Daughter-in-Law, Eleanor Roosevelt by Jan Pottker

We think we know the story of Eleanor Roosevelt--the shy, awkward girl who would redefine the role of First Lady, becoming a civil rights activist and an inspiration to generations of young women. As legend has it, the bane of Eleanor's life was her demanding and domineering mother-in-law, Sara Delano Roosevelt. Biographers have overlooked the complexity of a relationship that had, over the years, been reinterpreted and embellished by Eleanor herself.

Through diaries, letters, and interviews with Roosevelt family and friends, Jan Pottker uncovers a story never before told. The result is a triumphant blend of social history and psychological insight--a revealing look at Eleanor Roosevelt and the woman who made her historic achievements possible.

My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock
After losing her high-octane job as an entertainment blogger, Noelle Hancock was lost. About to turn twenty-nine, she'd spent her career writing about celebrities' lives and had forgotten how to live her own. Unemployed and full of self-doubt, she had no idea what she wanted out of life. She feared change—in fact, she feared almost everything. Once confident and ambitious, she had become crippled by anxiety, lacking the courage required even to attend a dinner party—until inspiration struck one day in the form of a quote on a chalkboard in a coffee shop:

"Do one thing every day that scares you." —Eleanor Roosevelt

Painfully timid as a child, Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated herself to facing her fears, a commitment that shaped the rest of her life. With Eleanor as her guide, Noelle spends the months leading up to her thirtieth birthday pursuing a "Year of Fear." From shark diving to fighter pilot lessons, from tap dancing and stand-up comedy to confronting old boyfriends, her hilarious and harrowing adventures teach her about who she is and what she can become—lessons she makes vital for all of us.

The Genre Reading Group's next meeting will be on Tuesday, November 27th at 6:30pm and the topic is "In Memoriam: Authors Who've Died Since 2000."  There is a display of eligible titles at the second floor reference desk but you are always free to research and select your own!  For more information, contact Holley at 205-445-1117 or

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