From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

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My Review:

Twenty something Beck is living in DC, enjoying time with her boyfriend, working a part time teaching job and part time at Lululemon, trying to make ends meet, when she answers an ad for a job as a stenographer at a law firm on Craigslist.  They ask for her resume and cover letter and Beck, thinking nobody even reads her cover letters, omits it.   She hears back with a request for the cover letter and feeling discouraged from her ongoing job search she tells them in an email that her resumé speaks for itself.  But then she was invited to come in and take a test, which she does, and enjoys it – it is not a typing test as she expected, but a multiple choice and analogy test.  Beck, having done well on the test, is called back again for an interview. She agrees to go but misses it due to Lululemon training.  She has no interest in working as a stenographer but feels she needs interview practice so she makes a halfhearted effort. Feeling apathetic but with some vague sense of responsibility, she writes to apologize and gets this message back:

Hi Rebecca,

I understand you’re busy.  For transparency’s sake, I wanted to let you know this is a job at the White House, and you’d be traveling with the President on his domestic and international trips.  Let me know if this changes things.

Bernice”

And this very email changes Beck’s trajectory in life and in love as she embarks on a crazy journey with the White House staff and President Obama’s team.

I really enjoyed this memoir, From the Corner of the Oval;  Beck is not unlike any young adult fresh out of school and focused on herself, her friends and her love life.  Her boyfriend shenanigans and drinking escapades are typical and par for the course, fun to read and reminiscent of the good ol’ days in the big city for me, but her job was a once in a lifetime opportunity that gives this memoir an extended life, great interest and that un-put-downable quality!  Author Beck Dorey-Stein shares tidbits of insight and glimpses of President Obama and his staff through her eyes as she tells her personal story of struggles and growth, personal and professional, with this incredible, little known insider view as the colorful backdrop.

If you enjoy memoirs, if you have an interest in hearing about what is is like to travel the world with the President of the United States, or if you want to read about one young woman’s journey to find herself and happiness, Beck Dorey-Stein’s From the Corner of the Oval is for you!

 

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Beck Dorey-Stein is a native of Narberth, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Wesleyan University. Prior to her five years in the White House, she taught high school English in Hightstown, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; and Seoul, South Korea.

White Houses by Amy Bloom

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My Review:

I haven’t stopped thinking about this gem of a book, the powerful telling of an unconventional love story by author Amy Bloom.  White Houses is historical fiction, based on research and letters exchanged between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, a journalist who was invited to live in the White House in an adjoining bedroom to the first lady’s room during FDR’s presidency.  A story of soulmates – two, independent, bright and powerful women in a lesbian relationship – a hidden secret to the world yet happening right in front of everyone’s eyes and seemingly accepted, by Eleanor’s known to be philandering husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and their close social circle.

Lorena Hickok grew up in poverty in South Dakota and became a well known reporter.  She met Eleanor in the early 1930s while covering the Roosevelt campaign and the two women develop a friendship that flourished into a more intimate relationship.  Hick was a protector and admirer of both FDR and Eleanor and was forced to quit her high profile job at the Associated Press in order to stay true to them both.  The middle aged women’s relationship was challenging, complicated and on again off again, and with Eleanor in the public eye, there was pressure to withhold affection and then steal time away privately to be together.  FDR and Hickok had a friendship and an understanding, and Eleanor had loyalties to them both.

The complexities of this enduring love between this unlikely twosome is intriguing and author Amy Bloom has created a compelling story with a strong voice and beautiful writing.  Don’t miss this one!

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Author of two New York Times best-sellers and three collections of short stories, a children’s book and a ground-breaking collection of essays. She’s been a nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and numerous anthologies here and abroad. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, O Magazine and Vogue, among many other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award for Fiction. Her work has been translated into fifteen languages.

She has written many pilot scripts, for cable and network, and she created, wrote and ran the excellent, short-lived series State of Mind, starring Lili Taylor. She lives in Connecticut and is now Wesleyan University’s Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing.