Nov. 8, 2016 started as such a hopeful day. I sprung out of bed, full of excitement, ready to take part in my first presidential election and a historical moment my feminist heart almost couldn’t handle — the election of the first female president of the United States.
Cut to that night. I sit on the couch in my college apartment with my roommates, downing vodka to counteract the sobering shock of the coverage we are seeing. As more states turn red, I try to convince myself it won’t happen, he won’t win. My roommates go to bed. I stay frozen on the couch, glued to the tv, feeling my world fall apart. When finally I’m able to string a thought together, only one comes to mind: what just happened?
So it's apt that Hillary Clinton’s post-election memoir examines just that — What Happened.
Reading her book was a cathartic experience, if masochistic at some points. To watch Hillary shed her public persona and the guard she has kept up for so long, to watch her let us in, was mesmerizing.
This is a woman I’ve spent my whole life looking up to. Her determination, her preparation and her fierce intelligence have fuelled my admiration.
She's a damn queen, if you ask me.**
I’ve always loved and respected Hillary Clinton from a distance. In What Happened, there is no distance. She closes the gap.
We learn that she loves Goldfish crackers, and why she stayed with Bill.
We learn about her struggles as a mother, a wife, a daughter and a woman.
In short, we learn her.
For most of us, this is the most intimate experience we will ever have with the first woman ever elected to represent a major party in a presidential election.
It is the closest we’ll get to sitting down at a wine bar with her, like a friend, and talking about how downright awful the world can sometimes be to women.
In What Happened, she is not Secretary Clinton, or Our First Lady, or our once-potential President. She’s all of those things, but she’s also just Hillary, a woman from Illinois who’s lived a full life.
To bear witness to that culmination of her personhood is exactly what I needed while living in Trump’s America.
I got to be angry along with her. I got to be sad with her. I got to laugh and feel true joy with her, and I got to be frustrated right beside her.
The funny thing is that she’s not bitter.
I would have expected some bitterness in a no-holds-barred post-2016 election memoir — that's probably because I would’ve been bitter — but she rose above that.
When Hillary discusses the election process, she admits her team's shortcomings. She accepts responsibility for the things she could have done better or differently or sooner.
And when she critiques the other side, she doesn’t unjustly claim a lack of fairness. She sets out on a 50 page, well-researched argument the likes of which would draw any jury to her side.
See the chapter on Russia. It will blow your mind.
Hillary returns to her roots as a lawyer to put forth objective arguments about our electoral process, and the responsibilities of the media and the world at large. And she does it with the consummate over-preparation, intelligence, determination, strength and wit that those of us who love her have come to expect from HRC.
This book gave me unexpected closure. It gave me hope. It gave me peace. And it re-lit the fire in my belly that is once again ready to fight against injustice. In typical Hillary fashion, what could have been a whine was a war-cry — and that is why she had my vote.
**Re: the Queen thing: By any metric, Hillary Clinton was among the most qualified candidates ever to run for president, and she lost that job to Donald Trump despite having won the popular vote. I'm not asking you to swoon with me if you're not feeling it, but I would challenge you to consider some facts.
Kelly Livingston is a freelance writer with a passion for intersectional feminism. After four years studying English and Anthropology at the University of Florida, she remains fascinated by the ways we can use writing to comment on and change our culture.