I was married with children when Geraldine Ferraro was a VP candidate. She was a new breed, a New York Yankee with Italian immigrant parents--a WOMAN at a time when LADY was still the preferred. The attacks against her and her family during the campaign would not have been possible if she had not been a woman . “If she had been home where she belonged,”. . . well, that was heard a lot back then. Whether any of those attacks were true or not, her career never recovered. I watched the attacks against her with fascination. She didn’t have a chance. In fact, the barrage was so intense that it seemed like there was an organized plot to get her, part of a bigger scheme, even a calculated plan to keep all women out of power, especially out of politics. In my imagination, I could see some very powerful men sitting around a table in a secret place planning the future of women, watching carefully to keep the world the way they believed it should be, and Geraldine was out-of-line. I was inspired to write my novel Backstage at the White House which is about a plot to keep women out of power and about a group of women who set out to set things right. I tried to tell Geraldine Ferraro about my book but she wasn’t interested. I don’t know if she was bitter at the way she was treated–she certainly had every reason to be for she was a victim and no one came to help her out. We have a lot of those in our history, and we don’t have a good track record for helping each other. Geraldine Ferraro will be remembered for going where no WOMAN had dared to tread–and me, well, if she had read my book, she would have known that I, for one, cared.
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My grandmother worked hard, even taking in boarders to raise 4 children, then she raised me and then my aunt brought home an Indian girl for her to raise. When she had finished, she died. She had finished being what she was supposed to be and doing what she was supposed to do. I wrote this poem about her . . . .
“Who were you?”I suddenly asked, a foolish question surely, For I knew she was grandmother, mother, wife, wore many hats securely.
“But who were you?”I asked again, my heart was filled with pain.
I did not know; I had never asked.The question came again.
I placed my hand upon her grave, searching . . . . . . . .
Fresh baked bread, still warm . . . hot water cornbread, muscadine
pie, I haven’t had them since.Mother Macree, Hawaiian music and
Wayne King’s band, so sentimental . . . rough hands so gentle . . . am I
You told me how, when you were young, you placed a clothespin on
your nose because it was too flat! Your father fought in the Civil War;
he never recovered from that . . . spectacles always lost on top of your
head, and I threaded your needles . . . am I getting close?
Mail-order clothes, Montgomery Wards . . . corsets that were stiff . . .
Ben Hur, the Bible every night, the 23rdgave you a lift . . . am I getting close? Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love thee?”. . .
you gave it to me once; you loved me.You wrote poems, lots of
them, one when I was born. I have tried to keep them all.
Your bedtime stories, all make-believe, a beautiful princess, a handsome prince—right off the top of your head. We held hands across the beds . . . am I getting close?
A warm iron wrapped in my bed, when I came in from a date, and a flashlight beckoning up the hall when I stayed on the porch too late . . . am I getting close?
You dreamed of places far away not daring to believe that you might get there some day.I went; I took you with me.
That is who you are. You are me.
We are the past, the present, the what will come to be.
You are who you are, and I am who I am, and we are one
with all who were and will be. That is you and me.
Four Stars (out of Five) from ForeWord CLARION Reviews.
It’s undeniable that the last presidential election turned many people into political junkies. Blame it on the dramatic struggle for votes in the primaries, the accessibility of candidates through social media or the almost constant yammering of political pundits on cable news channels. As the new administration gets to work, many people who followed every tick of election coverage long for the intrigue and excitement of politics—a feeling that is captured almost perfectly in Jean Candlish Kelchner’s Backstage at the White House.
On the surface, Stacey Lea Forbes is the ideal first lady to Goodman Palmer Forbes, the nation’s popular president. Behind the scenes, however, Forbes is a tantrum-prone tyrant, and Stacey is unhappy. When a luncheon for one of Stacey’s causes takes a turn for the worse, the President has a fit that sends the First Lady home to Mississippi. There, she begins to uncover a conspiracy to keep women out of politics and power. With the help of a few well-placed female friends, Stacey finds a new cause—to get a woman into a position of real power in the White House.
At first, Backstage at the White House may seem like another witty, wise, and sometimes wicked book in the Chic Lit canon. But this isn’t your typical foray into the world of girl power. Kelchner has crafted a group of dynamic characters who possess southern manners, an elite lifestyle, and an intelligent effervescence that propels them through a world bound by those who crave power.
Balancing social commentary and satire, Kelchner weaves this tale with an ear for history and politics. Nowhere is this clearer than when a discussion by Stacey and her friends references the prominence of the rose as a symbol in British history, General William Sherman, the Lysistrata by Aristophanes, and Immanuel Kant in the span of a page.
This makes Backstage a dishy, fun read, but may leave some readers wishing for less talk. Stacey and her companions are so busy chatting sometimes that they don’t allow the reader to experience the glittery world of Washington politerati: the beehive of White House offices, the elegant luncheons, or the boudoirs where desire and control are sometimes indistinguishable. Nonetheless, Backstage at the White House is a fascinating novel, sure to keep readers longing for a sequel and political junkies counting down to the next election.