Book Note: Government Girl

More properly, allow me to give you the full title: Government Girl, Young and Female in the White House by Stacy Parker Aab.

My expectations were high for this book, and they were met and exceeded. I must disclose that I know the author, so I know how willfully passionate, bitingly funny, and refreshingly joyful she is. I don’t know her so well, however, that I’d give her a pass (and a good review) just for having something published.

My mom saw the book on our table and asked what kind of degree an A.A.B. is. I was confused for only a moment, then realized that, looking at the cover art, and knowing my mom’s fascination with anyone’s attainment of degrees, the question made sense:

Aab is her name, not an obscure degree picked up at Oxford. Although she was at Oxford, you know.

In a book filled with the boldface names of the Clinton years—Vernon Jordan, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala, Monica Lewinsky, and, naturally, the Clinton Triumvirate—Stacy’s own story is the one that comes across most clearly and compellingly, no small accomplishment given how easily THE story could have eclipsed HER story.

One of my favorite moments comes when she recounts her trip to New York as a winner of a Glamour magazine contest. It evoked Sylvia Plath/Esther Greenwood’s magazine contest experience, but only inasmuch as it demonstrated how driven by happiness her life is in comparison to Plath’s.

Not that she skips through life oblivious to the weight of a thousand worlds on her shoulders. The book provides excellent insight into the way working in politics feels like working hundreds of feet below sea level in an unpressurized submarine, where having a system in place for sorting the communications director’s fan mail, and a Type-A overachiever in charge of running the system, is as mission critical as knowing where the guy with the football sleeps.

But it also showed how those Type-A overachievers, a phrase I use with much respect and admiration, as I hope to be one again some day, get in a place where they can even score a White House internship when they are only 18 and their parents aren’t maxed-out federal campaign donors.

And, it showed how even those kids, the ones who did Model UN and Girls’ Nation and debate, aren’t so risk-averse that they won’t commit fraud to tear it up in urban dance clubs before they turn 18.

Stacy’s exuberant embrace of political service, even in the face of the deeply disappointing scandals of the Clinton presidency, is what earns her Andrei Codrescu’s book-jacket acclamation:

Stacy Parker Aab’s journey of self-discovery makes for a delightful page-turner, a classic coming-of-age story that will inspire the young to take up public service.

A delightful page-turner would, in itself, be a remarkable accomplishment for a first-time author. Winning an endorsement from Andrei Codrescu is another. I agree with him, however, that Stacy accomplishes even more, writing a book that shows you just what you’d be getting into if you got involved in politics and public service, and exactly how rewarding it would be no matter how bad it got.

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