Books by Susan Eisenhower

Released: Nov. 1, 1996

A sentimental biography of a First Lady best remembered- -perhaps unjustly—for her hairstyle. As Hillary Clinton's constantly changing hairstyles may reflect a search to define herself in her White House role, Mamie Eisenhower's stubborn loyalty to the famous Mamie bangs may reflect the loyalty to friends and family that was her outstanding characteristic. That, at least, is how granddaughter Eisenhower (Breaking Free, 1995) sees her. As the author describes Mamie, she was a wife and mother who ``was right for the 1950s . . . an era when the postwar nation was busily engaged in raising its children and rebuilding.'' Lively, charming, and ``rotten spoiled,'' Mamie Doud was one of four daughters in a very comfortable, if not wealthy, Denver family. Married at 19, she began a successful 50-year career as Dwight Eisenhower's wife. She learned discipline and self-control and made homes for him in two barren rooms in Texas, in a vermin-infested house in Panama, and, of course, in the White House. She was a skilled hostess and a tactful helpmate, enhancing the very important social side of her husband's army career but never interfering in his professional duties. Enduring the death of their three-year- old son, her own sometimes problematic health, plus prolonged separations when Ike was assigned overseas, Mamie behaved with dignity and discretion, even when rumors of an Eisenhower romance with his driver, Kay Summersby, flew across the Atlantic. There was no such romance, says the author, who also scotches rumors that Mamie was an alcoholic. Much information for this biography comes from family papers and letters, but even with these privileged documents, the Mamie who inspired a half-century of devotion from her famous husband never comes to life. For readers who are Eisenhower buffs and can fill in the great historical and personal gaps that mar this I-remember- Grandma chronicle. (65 b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1995

A cautious, halting memoir of love between a prominent American and a high-ranking Soviet at the end of the Cold War, and the dramatic political context of their relationship. Eisenhower, chairman of the Center for Post-Soviet Studies and granddaughter of our 34th president, recounts the early years of her relationship with Roald Sagdeev, former head of the Soviet space program. The two met in 1987, when Eisenhower attended a conference in the USSR, and they married in 1990; their courtship coincided with widespread upheaval in the Soviet Union, as well as a period of unprecedented transformation in US/Soviet relations. This is no match of ideological opposites; despite Sagdeev's Party membership, he is closely associated with prominent dissident Andrei Sakharov and highly critical of Mikhail Gorbachev for moving too slowly with perestroika. Eisenhower effectively interweaves their romance with a narrative of Soviet and American political events from 1987 to 1991, which directly affected the couple's relationship, determining what they could say to each other on the phone and even in person (they were being spied on by both sides) and whether they could get visas or support from government officials. The book is encumbered by Eisenhower's often stilted, distant writing (for instance, she characterizes an experience that must have been wrenching as merely ``regrettable''), as well as her reluctance to divulge intimate details; at one point, for example, she simply calls a farewell to Sagdeev ``one of the most difficult partings I can remember,'' making no attempt to describe it. She also has a tendency to flatter family members (Dad says ``Wow'' when she reveals her marriage plans; her kids from her previous marriage are models of politeness when Sagdeev moves in)—not the sort of practice that inspires confidence in an autobiographer's honesty. A compelling story, but not self-disclosing enough to have the emotional weight it calls for. Read full book review >