Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward by Valerie Jarrett

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 11:23:00
Narrated by: Valerie Jarrett
Published: April 2019 

Last year I read Becoming by First Lady Michelle Obama. In it, she mentions her meeting Valerie Jarrett and how that changed the trajectory of her career path. So, when I learned that Ms. Jarrett was writing a book of her own, I was excited to get a copy of Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward and read about her life, her perspective of the Obama administration, and how she sees the future.

Similar to Mrs. Obama's book, Ms. Jarrett begins at her childhood. A single child to highly educated (some might even call them "woke") parents who moved to Iran for better career opportunities. Jarrett was born in Iran, but later the family moved to the U.S. after her mom felt that Jarrett was picking up some negative life lessons on how to treat people in Iran. Upon her return, Jarrett recalls the discrimination and bullying she faced in her formative years from her classmates because of her unique beginnings. However, these experiences strengthen her. She became a determined young adult who had lofty goals that included becoming a partner in a law firm, a wife, and a mother before the age of 30. She succeeded in meeting her deadline, but as a result had a marriage that was not based in love. Because this was vastly different from what she witnessed between her parents, this relationship impacted much of her adult life. However, she persevered as a single mom. About a third into the book, we get to that defining moment where she meets Michelle Obama, who was then Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama. She calls it a luck. This meeting of happenstance solidifies her as a figure in the Obamas' lives that remains to this day. As Ms. Jarrett says, she has always felt like a big sister to Michelle and Barack.

Much of the book focuses on Ms. Jarrett's career as a civil servant and the politics of being a senior advisor in the Obama administration. For me, it was interesting to read her perspective on some of the same events that Mrs. Obama shared in her book. While the books might seem redundant, they are not. Where Mrs. Obama comes from a perspective of love and partnership with her husband, Ms. Jarrett's take is more professional and political in nature. She doesn't mince words and is very clear about several major moments that occurred during those eight years. One of those more memorable moments that intrigued me was Ms. Jarrett's re-telling of the nearly destructive relationship between the Obama's and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. She provides much more detail than Mrs. Obama did in her book. I have read several criticisms of how Mrs. Obama presented the spiritual leader in her book. After reading Ms. Jarrett's book, I'd have to say Mrs. Obama was quite kind to him.

I really enjoyed this book. I was able to listen to most of it on a road trip. Ms. Jarrett's voice is soothing and she does a great job sharing her story while keeping the reader engaged. I wish she'd gone into a little more depth about her personal life and maybe reduced the amount she shared about her career in politics. Having said that, the book is subtitled her journey to the West Wing, so I knew what I was getting into!

Recommendation If you enjoy autobiographies and would like to learn a little more about one of President Obama's closest friends and advisors, Finding My Voice will provide just that. Thanks to the Fort Worth Public Library for the borrow!

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


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