A memoir of being young and female in the clinton White House
Stacy Parker Aab was born in Detroit in 1974, the only daughter of a white Kansas farm girl and a young black Detroiter fresh from two tours of Vietnam. An excellent student, Aab gravitated toward public service and moved to Washington, D.C., for college in the hopeful days of 1992.
Not only would Aab study political communication at The George Washington University, but she would also intern at the White House. For three years, she worked for George Stephanopoulos. In 1997 she became White House staff, serving as Paul Begala's special assistant.
At first, life was charmed, with nurturing mentors, superstar politicos, and handsome Secret Service agents. In January 1998, the world of the Clinton White House changed radically. Monica Lewinsky became a household name, and Aab learned quickly that in Washington, protectors can become predators, investigators will chase you like prey, and if you make mistakes with a powerful man, the world will turn your name into mud.
Government Girl is a window into the culture of the Clinton White House, as seen through the eyes of an idealistic young female aide. Stacy Parker Aab's intimate memoir tells of her coming-of-age in the lion's den. Her story provides a searing look at the dynamics between smart young women and the influential older men who often hold the keys to their dreams.
Stacy Parker Aab's Government Girl chronicles her time in the White House during the Clinton Administration from the age of 18 to her early 20s. Expecting the bulk of the memoir to be about the Monica Lewinsky scandal or the like would be a mistake, although Monica's fall from grace could have just as well been Stacy's story if she did not have the personal drive to achieve more, live within the confines of her duties and principles, and focus on self-satisfaction."You want acknowledgment -- all that comes when you've done a good job, when you're so deserving. You want that light. That hand on your shoulder. At least if you're like me and this sort of loving affirmation from authority figures still feeds you, even if you wish it would not." (Page 13 of ARC)Being young and in politics, Stacy had a daunting task of navigating an adult world when she was not quite secure in her self-identity and still evolving as a woman. She's a product of a single mother, an alcoholic father, and her mixed heritage as an African-American with a mostly unknown-to-her German ancestry. All of these elements come into play as she navigates the White House media and policy web and the knotted ropes of her possible career ladder."Maybe it was like going to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and seeing a rubber version of yourself blown up and 'walking' with the help of a dozen attendants, this version of you more than ten stories tall, knowing that your celebrity was just that, something outside you, something as big and as vulnerable as giant balloons" (Page 87 of ARC)The narrative of this memoir is smooth in its transitions between her intern days and her past in Troy, Michigan. The struggles of family life and the dedication of her mother to help her out with schooling expenses and other costs clearly influenced Stacy's drive for financial independence, even if the job opportunities at the time were not the most fun. Politics is at the forefront of her work in the White House, but it often takes a backseat to her internal struggle to become a strong, independent woman with a clear idea of where she wishes to be and what she wishes to achieve."Working, I wanted that feeling of rowing on the Potomac River, that feeling in the eight with all of us pulling our oars. Sixteen arms and sixteen legs powering that slim boat forward, as we were lead by our coxswain, as our coach called out to us from his motorized boat nearby." (Page 39 of ARC)In many ways, what drives Stacy is the hole inside her -- an absence of fatherly love -- as she falls into transient relationships with co-workers, fellow students, and others. While this desire to fill this emptiness does little to improve her romantic life, it does often push her to perfection in her work life. In terms of memoir, readers will find Government Girl is deliberate, vivid, and eye-opening -- especially in terms of behind-the-scenes politics. Readers will find Stacy's prose frank and honest, almost like a friend telling a portion of her life story to another friend.read more
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“Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House”, by Stacy Parker Aab (Publisher: Ecco Books), is a memoir of the time she spent as an intern during the Clinton White House. Ms. Aab describes her life path that led her to simultaneously studying at George Washington University while working at the White House; starting out as an intern under George Stephanopoulos and eventually becoming a staffer. After several years of White House work, Ms. Aab decided to leave to pursue a career in writing. Her current work includes online writing at The HuffingtonPost; and this memoir which was recently released in January 2010.I found “Government Girl” to be very interesting, and compelling, reading. Ms. Aab was born in Detroit to an African-American Vietnam veteran and a white Midwestern girl. Her father died young; his health problems exacerbated by alcoholism. After her mother remarried, they gradually moved farther outside of Detroit. Her origins caught my initial interest because I lived in Michigan for several years — mostly in Ann Arbor; but during those years acquired some familiarity with the places Ms. Aab mentions.After graduating from high school in Troy, Michigan, Ms. Aab chose to attend George Washington University (which she eventually discovered had an excellent English department) in Washington, D.C., and to take an opportunity to intern at the White House. She says:“The fact was, White House work thrilled me but I still loved writing, a love I had tried to back-burner by choosing a D.C. university over a writing program at a cloistered liberal arts college. Government or writing, government or writing, I’d thought to myself back in high school, lifting my palms up and down as if weighing fruit. At seventeen, I thought I had to choose. Government, I picked. I could always write, I reasoned. “While reading this book, it was amazing to me that people fresh out of high school were practically baptized by fire into White House work. Not only that, these young people would often be molded and shaped by much-older politicians, mostly male, who would not always use their power in a positive way towards the interns. Even staffers such as Secret Service men would attempt to take advantage of the young interns. However, Ms. Aab does not inform us about this in a finger pointing, accusing manner; she lays it out in a straightforward ”this is how it was” tone. One component of this memoir is Ms. Aab’s self-discovery of who she is; she talks about boys and men she has dated (most of whose identities are changed). As an African-American young woman, she wrestles with how males percieve her; further complicated by the fact that she was working in the White House where males tended to enjoy the power they had over women. Ms. Aab also tells us about day-to-day work; and various measures taken by White House staff when President Clinton travelled or attended meetings or gave speeches. One interesting detail she shares is that there was always an “elevator manifest”. Every elevator has a maximum load. Without an manifest, too many people would try to board the elevator with President Clinton; hence the maximum load might be exceeded. Then the POTUS might get stuck between floors; not a good thing! The author shares with us her thoughts and feelings regarding the Lewinsky scandal — Monica Lewinsky was about the same age as Ms. Aab. She noticed, along with many other staffers, how Monica would often seek the President’s attention. But the extent of what happened between the two of them wasn’t exposed until Monica was transferred to the Pentagon (to distance her from the President). Monica started confiding into Linda Tripp, who started to secretly audiotape the conversations. When the scandal broke, Ms. Aab (along with other staffers) was shocked and tried to understand how something like this could happen. She says:“Monica fell in love with this married man. Or worse, she fell into obsession. I once read of an experiment with guinea pigs that showed if food is permanently withheld, a guinea pig adjusts — she finds food elsewhere or dies. If food is given at regular intervals, the guinea pig adjusts to this as well, staying regular and content. But if food is given haphazardly, the guinea pig goes crazy, obsessing over the feeding tube, going back repeatedly because at any moment the lifesaving nourishment could return”.I thought that was an interesting analogy! This book is divided in three parts (“Intern”, “Staff” and “After”). So, one minor issue I have about this book is that I felt that there was too much time-space between “Staff” and “After” which consisted of only two chapters. The “After” section could have served as a prologue instead, but I did appreciate reading it and her thoughts on Obama and why she threw in her support for him rather than Hillary Clinton.Overall, this book was a fascinating account of politics from a young woman’s point of view. I found this refreshing, because it seems to me that most political memoirs, or anything politically related, aren’t written by young people. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in politics. Actually, anyone who thinks that political memoirs are dull would probably find that this one is both interesting and intelligent. “Government Girl” dispels any myth that politics is mainly for old people.I look forward to what Ms. Aab comes up with for her next book, when that time comes!read more
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Heard the author interviewed on NPR and was intrigued by the two scenarios she portrayed- Bill Clinton hugging her a little too long and tightly on a veranda (a year and a half after Monica)and Vernon Jordan kissing her on the lips when he would greet her. Note that they had about a 40 year age gap. Picked up the book at the library. Not a bad book, but not great. The author was an 18 year old intern at the White House, first with George Stephanopoulos and then for Paul Begala. Also did advance work for the trips the President took abroad. Main point that I liked was her work ethic- even at such a young age, she was incredibly responsible, worked very hard and understood how her work and demeanor reflected on those she worked for. For those intrigued by the Clinton years and want somewhat of an inside scoop, you might want to check this book out.read more
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A young staffer in the Clinton White House when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Parker Aab effectively re-creates the heady excitement of working among powerful personages in the upper echelons of government. A native of suburban Detroit and then an 18-year-old scholarship student at George Washington University, Aab nee Parker possessed sterling credentials in civil and community service when she was selected to intern during the summer of 1993 for George Stephanopoulos's press office in the Old Executive Office Building. She answered the reams of fan mail that poured in and trained the other interns; her job eventually led to a staff position, as well as work doing presidential advance planning, which entailed traveling with Clinton's team and booking overnight accommodations. Tall and attractive, Parker soon learned where the power resided, e.g., with men such as Vernon Jordan, who offered professional advice freely over meals. When the Lewinsky details erupted in January 1998, Parker and her office under Paul Begala felt betrayed, though somehow unsurprised. Her memoir is well polished, and despite a few suggestive anecdotes about Vernon and Clinton, is mercifully free of salacious revelations. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved