Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World, by Kirsten Gillibrand

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Three and a half stars, read in March 2015.

I barely recognized Kirsten Gillibrand’s name before I picked up this book, and I just sort of jumped into it for no reason; in fact, I was reading several other things already, and they all ended up on hold while I sped through this one. You know how political memoirs often seem kind of canned and obviously ghostwritten? Either Gillibrand was a lot more personally involved, or she has a much better ghostwriter.

You can hear the politician-speak sometimes when she talks about Congress (and her religion, too, although that could just be me projecting; I couldn’t help thinking that an American politician has to appear religious even if they aren’t really, so I never know how much of it is genuine). But most of the time, what you hear is a real person, one who sounds like she’d actually be great to hang out with, even if she is incessantly optimistic.

I love that she swears on Capitol Hill and in her book. I love that she focuses on such important issues—childcare, equal pay, paid family leave—and takes her kids with her to work. I love that she wrote this book to tell regular people they can be important. “There are women doing amazing things, and you should be one of them.” She’s not the first to talk about getting involved, but she’s one of the first I’ve read to make it sound real, and normal. Not that her own path was what most of us would call normal (like being able to write thousand-dollar checks to get her new career started), but somehow even so, it feels like she is. That’s pretty refreshing.

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