Hillary Clinton's 'What Happened' is a Piece of Literature that Demands to Be Taken Seriously

By: Steve Hladik

On September 12th, Simon & Schuster published What Happened, the latest memoir from Hillary Clinton that recounts the aftermath of her loss of the 2016 election to Donald Trump (that sentence still doesn’t seem real.)

Clinton at a book signing, photo via  Slate

Clinton at a book signing, photo via Slate

For many, the book was highly anticipated. Some are hoping for a tell-all about what really went down behind the scenes during all of those months of campaigning, or perhaps some previously unheard secrets or stories that could further tarnish Trump’s reputation (as if this book even needed to do that), or for some, where Clinton finally accepts her role in her own defeat.

Well, considering this reader is only in the beginning sections of the book (which provides inspirational quotes and an endorsement of watching Gilmore Girls, which everyone should do) I cannot tell you exactly what this book fully offers, but for those hoping for the former, Clinton does acknowledge her shortcomings and mistakes, and her own role in her campaigns failings.

But for all the reasons people want to read the memoir, not many seem to be stating perhaps the most important, and obvious reason of all: that this book is a firsthand account of the first woman to run for The President of the United States of America.

 For all the coverage surrounding the Trump-bashing (she does) and Comey-blaming (she does), whether she will address her email scandal (she does) or whether she will humbly own her own failures (once again, she does), no one seems to be celebrating the release of this book for the simple fact that it is the first of its kind, a book about the first female to run for Commander in Chief written by that very woman.

To chalk up the dismissal of Clinton’s memoir as a legitimate or important piece of literature is to go right back to where we started from, one of the many reasons were reading this book in the first place: misogyny. Since 11/9, this country’s dialogue about misogyny has grown and improved vastly. We are seeing more and more conversations spark up about the treatment and equality of women in our society, and particularly in our culture, it’s being addressed everywhere. The day of Trump’s inauguration literally brought upon the largest protest gathering in the history of America. So then why does no one want to hear the story about what got us into this mess, from the woman who tried so desperately to save us from it?

Since the election, we’ve simultaneously have been celebrating Clinton while also trying to relegate her to the shadows, asking her to bow out gracefully and quietly. We cry along with Kate McKinnon as she plays a misty-eyed, shattered Clinton singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on SNL, just days after her loss, but anytime the real Hillary Clinton goes to speak, to let us is on the rage and devastation she actually experienced, she’s met with half open arms, half shut doors.

Quite frankly, we have to do better by Hillary Clinton. We have to do better by the first woman to run for the office of President. We have to do better by the woman who was an alternative to white supremacy, fear-mongering, inept, bigoted destruction in power. What Happened, if anything, provides us a chance to begin doing that. This isn’t a plea to ignore the negative aspects of Hillary Clinton, to induct her into sainthood, to turn a blind eye to the ways that she failed or made poor decisions. That would literally be missing the point of the book as a way to take a hard look at the way the Democratic Party in itself is broken and how it needs to heal itself. But it is a plea to humanize the candidate who has permanently put many, undeniable cracks into the glass ceiling. I recently saw on Twitter someone ask “Who would want to read Hillary Clinton’s book? which was quote-tweeted by the most obvious answer: “the first girl who will become the President of the United States of America.” 

Kayla PasacretaComment