Synopses & Reviews
REBECCA TRAISTER, whose coverage of the 2008 presidential election for Salon
confirmed her to be a gifted cultural observer, offers a startling appraisal of what the campaign meant for all of us. Though the election didnt give us our first woman president or vice president, the exhilarating campaign was nonetheless transformative for American women and for the nation. In Big Girls Dont Cry,
her electrifying, incisive and highly entertaining first book, Traister tells a terrific story and makes sense of a moment in American history that changed the countrys narrative in ways that no one anticipated.
It was all as unpredictable as it was riveting: Hillary Clintons improbable rise, her fall and her insistence (to the consternation of her party and the media) on pushing forward straight through to her remarkable phoenix flight from the race; Sarah Palins attempt not only to fill the void left by Clinton, but to alter the very definition of feminism and claim some version of it for conservatives; liberal rapture over Barack Obama and the historic election of our first African-American president; the media microscope trained on Michelle Obama, harsher even than the one Hillary had endured fifteen years earlier. Meanwhile, media women like Katie Couric and Rachel Maddow altered the course of the election, and comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler helped make feminism funny.
What did all this mean to the millions of people who were glued to their TV sets, and for the country, its history and its future?
As Traister sees it, the 2008 election was good for women. The campaign for the presidency reopened some of the most fraught American conversations—about gender, race and generational difference, about sexism on the left and feminism on the right—difficult discussions that had been left unfinished but that are crucial to further perfecting our union.
The election was also catalytic, shaping the perspectives of American women and men from different generations and backgrounds, altering the way that all of us will approach questions of women and power far into the future. When Clinton cried, when Palin reached for her newborn at the end of a vice presidential debate, when Couric asked a series of campaign-ending questions, the whole country was watching womens history—American history—being made.
Throughout, Traister weaves in her own experience as a thirtysomething feminist sorting through all the events and media coverage—vacillating between Clinton and Obama and forced to face tough questions about her own feminism, the womens movement, race and the different generational perspectives of women working toward political parity some ninety years after their sex was first enfranchised.
It was a time of enormous change, and there is no better guide through that explosive, infuriating, heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious year than Rebecca Traister. Big Girls Dont Cry offers an enduring portrait of dramatic cultural and political shifts brought about by this most historic of American contests.
"Who would have figured that the women who would benefit most from the 2008 presidential campaign would be the comediennes? Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton may have lost in their respective campaigns, but Amy Poehler and Tina Fey both gained in cultural stature for their biting imitations. According to Traister, staff writer at Salon.com, the rollercoaster ride of 2008 exposed an entrenched chauvinism in the media and a lesson for anyone who might assume that a female candidate would hold a monopoly on women's votes. The author bludgeons conventional political wisdom by trenchantly exposing Palin's strange triangulation of mainstream feminism, Clinton's need to appear vulnerable in order to appeal to women, and the precarious position of black women--some of whom were conflicted between supporting candidates who mirrored their gender or their race. Rising to the occasion, however, were women in the media, from Katie Couric, who--depending on your perspective--ruined or sainted Sarah Palin, to the sofa-bound political discourse of The View. Traister does a fine job in showing that progress does not proceed in straight lines, and, sometimes, it's the unlikeliest of individuals who initiate real change. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Traister provides a social commentary on how the 2008 presidential election brought issues concerning women, power, sexism and feminism to the fore.
About the Author
Rebecca Traister was raised outside Philadelphia, where she attended Quaker high school, and then went on to major in American Studies at Northwestern University. She started out in the media as an entry level assistant at Talk magazine, and then as a fact checker at the New York Observer, where she soon became the most unwilling gossip columnist in the history of New York nightlife, before reporting on the film industry in the city. In 2003, she moved to Salon.com, where she had been hired as the Life section’s staff writer. She wound up writing so many stories from a feminist point of view, that pretty soon her beat simply became about women. Traister covered the 2008 campaign from a feminist (and personal) perspective, receiving a huge response to her pieces on Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, the media’s coverage of the candidates, and the role of women within the media. She’s written for a range of national publications, including Elle, the New York Times, Vogue, and the Nation. Traister has appeared on CNN, CNN Headline News, MSNBC, NPR’s Brian Lehrer Show, and others, and speaks regularly at prominent events. She lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and two cats.
Rebecca Traister on PowellsBooks.Blog
I grew up in a home with 30,000 books in it. This isn't an exaggeration. It's the count my father offered when I asked him in a fit of irritation, sometime when I was in high school and feeling particularly irked by the stacks and stacks and cases and cases of volumes amidst which I was trying to live my sulky teenaged life. I don't know how...