Home » Book Reviews

Rock Women’s History Month with a Reality Check!

Author: 25 January 2016 No Comment

By Aimee Zuccarini

The Astronaut Wives Club A True Story by Lily Koppel

The wives of the original Mercury Seven astronauts kept house in the turquoise and orange rumpus rooms of the early sixties. They coffee-klatched, raised their kids almost single-handedly, and dutifully watched together the manned space flights of the Mercury Program with their test-pilot husbands aboard.

Initially, in their bee-hive hairdos and iconic scoop-neck dresses, the wives rallied round their buff husbands and the American flag. They posed for Life magazine and were guests of President and Mrs. John Kennedy.

There was a lot to smile about and smile they all did. But as the 30-year Space Race intensified, Koppel’s light tale soon darkens, capturing the emotional wear and tear that most of the fed-up wives would suffer: Cape Cookies, (astronaut groupies), were everywhere, and there were many astronauts “who couldn’t keep their pants zipped.”

Gin and tonic, divorce, suicide, NASA favoritism, and of course space-flight related tragedies took their toll. But at the same time, the wives developed a sageness – something to be passed on in the dawn era of the Women’s Movement.

Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family by Anne-Marie Slaughter

First woman director of policy planning under Hillary Clinton, Anne-Marie Slaughter, made a fateful decision after two years at her stellar job: To return home to her position at Princeton and help her supportive husband raise their very troubled teen-aged son.

It was a decision that horrified many Boomer women who had reached the same heights in their careers; managing at the same time to juggle kids – all who turned out okay.

Their disdain translated into myth; Slaughter must have been fired. Who would give up such a powerful, public service dream job to raise children?

It was the first of Slaughter’s, (former dean of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs), “rude epiphanies.”

And it spawned the inspiring Atlantic Monthly article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.

The engrossing and compelling Unfinished Business picks up from there.

Indeed, its appeal – surprisingly – will be to younger women standing on the precipice of career and family. Slaughter voices what still – in 2016 – needs to change in America’s business culture when it comes to men, women and the home front.

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

In this briskly written memoir, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, Lynsey Addario, was a curious child whose first glimpse of a diverse world was in her own backyard:

Her hip, hair-stylist parents opened their Connecticut home every weekend to “a  kaleidoscope of transvestites, village people lookalikes” and more. Bloody Marys and marijuana were served poolside. Her father (who gave her her first Nikon), would eventually declare he was gay.

Still it was life as usual for Addario, and it served her later when she got her first AP assignment: photographing transgender prostitutes in New York’s perilous Meatpacking District – “the only white girl in the tribe.”

But a white girl who was fearless and respectful. Indeed, in all of Addario’s work, often in the most dangerous places on earth; (Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, Libya), the viewer senses a keen and uncommon deference toward her subjects. That many are women and all “casualties of their birthplace,” make this memoir that much more compelling – especially after Addario, pregnant with her first child, is captured by Libyan forces in 201l.

Hard to put down.

Howard County Library