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Reflections by Women Writers

edited by Susan Morrison

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-145593-3
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

An exploration of Hillary Clinton by 30 leading contemporary female essayists.

Even though Hillary is one of the most dissected public figures in American life, this volume is a worthwhile addition to what Morrison calls—quoting Walter Shapiro, the Washington bureau chief for Salon—“Hillary Studies.” The editor assembles a thoughtful collection penned by writers who represent a wide range of the ideological and cultural spectrum. Among the stellar cast are Katha Pollitt, Ariel Levy, Susan Orlean, Roz Chast, Daphne Merkin, Elizabeth Kolbert, Lionel Shriver and Lorrie Moore. Much is made of Hillary’s fashion sense, as well as why it has become such a hot topic. Morrison smartly includes the Washington Post’s fashion critic, Robin Givhan, who caused a storm this summer when she wrote a piece examining Hillary’s rare display of cleavage on the Senate floor. Givhan defends her position by arguing that fashion reflects a public persona—even if it doesn’t reveal who a person is, it at least reveals who they would like to be. Exactly who Hillary is provides the primary focus here, along with the question of why more women aren’t celebrating a female presidential candidate, and why so many find Hillary to be such an inauthentic, calculating figure. The writers also grapple with other questions regarding gender: What does it mean if the first female president of the United States is presumed to have achieved the position largely riding on her husband’s coattails? What’s the significance of a female president in a time when so much about the role of women in American society is subject to debate? Each essay is well-written and approachable, even if they occasionally devolve into navel-gazing.

A sharp, important book sure to become increasingly relevant.