Fascination with a politicianâ€™s personal life often eclipses that of their platform. Attention paid to their families can be a catalyst for good (see the success of Michelle Obamaâ€™s Letâ€™s Move!Â campaign) or really, really bad (as in Bristol Palinâ€™s new reality show Lifeâ€™s a Tripp, documenting her life as a single mom). Political biographies and autobiographies tend to defend or demonize while offering insider perspective on hero-making sagas or the ingredients for demise. Occasionally, though, historyâ€™s prominent figures recede into the background, and their relatives take the lead. Â Mary Soamesâ€™ just published â€śA Daughterâ€™s Taleâ€ť is the latest political story from those with the most intimate ties to politicians, activists and officials -- their next of kin.
â€śA Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill's Youngest Childâ€ť by Mary SoamesÂ
Biographile recently covered reviews of 89-year-old Mary Soamesâ€™ account of life as, to name just a few positions: London high society gadfly, ambitious Junior Commander, and aide-de-camp during the last centuryâ€™s most pivotal war. Diary entries and letters from the story's main players provide readers with vivid first-person insights into wartime and its most influential figures and events, but the most meaningful role Soames plays is that of her fatherâ€™s daughter. She describes herself as â€śspellboundâ€ť upon his appointment as Prime Minister, and the pull of a childâ€™s love and admiration for her dad is palpable. These moments make this life story (one occasionally too surreal to imagine) relatable and touching.
â€śSomething Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter" byÂ Carmen Aguirre
In her 2011 memoir â€śSomething Fierce,â€ť Carmen Aguirre cites guidance received from her revolutionary mother, or Mami: "A facade is when you make up a story because it's dangerous to tell the truth," she said. "It's a story you make up when you're involved in something bigger than yourself and you don't want to risk your life or the lives of others." Facades are something we generally learn to accept, even embrace, in our emotionally fraught teenage years; but for young Carmen Aguirre, theyâ€™re a matter of life and death. Aguirreâ€™s parents, both left-wing activists, fled Chile for exile in Vancouver after General Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected President Salvador Allende in 1973. â€śSomething Fierceâ€ť follows Carmen beginning at age eleven, when her mother and stepfather moved the family back to South America. Â Here, they maintained an extraordinary double life: that of a normal, middle-class ex-pat family while engaging in secretive Communist activism in support of the Chilean resistance. Â Eventually, Aguirre follows in her motherâ€™s footsteps, and joins the resistance herself. The music, fashion, and romantic anecdotes of a girl becoming a woman come to life as equally as her travels throughout South Americaâ€™s troubled, dangerous landscape. Â Through an invigorating exploration of what it means to be a mother, a woman, and a revolutionary, Aguirre proves to be, indeed, something fierce.
â€śHeirs to the Kingdom: Kerry's Political Dynastiesâ€ť by Owen Oâ€™Shea
In chapter three of this examination of Irish dynasties, author Owen Oâ€™Shea asks: â€śWhatâ€™s in a name?â€ť In County Kerry, it seems to be almost everything. In the 2011 General Election, the fates of a few but powerful rival families were hinged -- the O'Donoghues, the Ferrises, the Springs, among them. While these names might mean little to those outside the country, collectively they function as a microcosm of political family dynamics and structures driving Irish politics, and the book builds a colorful discourse on how -- or if -- they serve the country. Through first-person interviews and thoughtful analysis, "Heirs" contemplates lineage and political roots that run quite deep in a culture steeped in tradition.
A former Labour Party press officer, Oâ€™Shea has some practice with scandals, dynastic rivalries, and ways in which the past can choke the present. We learn of the familiesâ€™ devotion to convention, their exclusive access to power and debatable, high-ranking appointments. The book is more than a collection of a small countyâ€™s family feuds; rather, itâ€™s a compelling and informative look at how the "next-in-line" mentality makes a a political system churn.
â€śThe Little Red Guard: A Family Memoirâ€ť by Wenguang Hung
Wenguang Huang kicks off his memoir starkly: sleeping next to his still-living grandmotherâ€™s coffin, which she asked her son to build in a flaunting of Communist rule. (During the Cultural Revolution, Chinaâ€™s government outlawed burials -- yet another another strange, superstitious policy of the regime lurking in the backdrop of Huangâ€™s story.) His father, an ambitious Communist Party member, must decide between loyalty to his death-obsessed mother or to Mao. He ultimately does build the coffin, which serves as the bookâ€™s largest symbol of fidelity, loss and life under a mythic government the world still canâ€™t fathom completely. Eventually Huang, a former Little Red Guard, is tasked with managing the coffin and, along with it, coming of age in twentieth-century China. With humor and frankness, Huang invites us into the life of a family plagued and tested by duty -- political, cultural and, ultimately, familial.