The What Happened Book Club

image of Hillary Clinton's book 'What Happened' sitting on my dining room table, with my Hillary action figure standing on top of the book, her arms raised over her head

As promised, here is the first installment of the What Happened Book Club, where we'll do a chapter a week.

That pace will hopefully allow people who need time to procure the book a better chance to catch up, and let us deal with the book in manageable pieces: I figured we will have a lot to talk about, and one thread for the entire book would quickly get overwhelming.

So! Let us begin our discussion with Chapter One: Showing Up.

* * *

The title serves a dual purpose, as the chapter begins with Hillary reckoning with showing up at Donald Trump's inauguration, and ends with Hillary feeling hopeful "for the first time since the election" watching millions of women showing up to the Women's March.

These are dark days she describes — days when many of us were wondering if we'd ever be able to pick ourselves up off the floor ever again, no less keep showing up.

But part of the reason many of us admire Hillary Clinton is because she embodies a tenacity, an indefatigability, an indomitable spirit, a full-on fucking ferocity that is also within ourselves. Often it's easier to appreciate and laud those characteristics in other women than it is to extol those virtues in our own damn selves, in no small part because they are qualities we are obliged to model.

Persistence doesn't seem as extraordinary when the only other option is giving up; when it doesn't look heroic, but looks like the haggard face in one's mirror, gazing back with tired eyes settled in dark circles. The evidence of our own persistence does not give us reason to cheer — although it should. So we cheer for each other.

We cheered for Hillary Clinton.

And that makes it hard to read how hard it was for her to lose. How sad she was, too. And how scared: "The new President's speech was dark and dystopian. I heard it as a howl straight from the white nationalist gut. Its most memorable line was about 'American carnage,' a startling phrase more suited to a slasher film than an inaugural address. Trump painted a picture of a bitter, broken country I didn't recognize."

Hillary notes that her inaugural speech would have been very different indeed. As would everything else, literally everything else, from that day forward until this day and beyond. If she were our president, everything would be different. And that is tough to contemplate. It doesn't get any easier, no matter how many days pass.

If anything, it's only getting harder. At least for me. I can only begin to imagine how Hillary feels.

Anyway. It was a short chapter, but plenty of insight into Hillary's thinking during those days, from her process deciding whether to attend the inaugural to her choice not to attend the Women's March, lest she be a distraction.

It's so frank, so unvarnished, so personal, so raw. It's no wonder her detractors hate it. It lays bare the bankruptcy of their reflexive insults: Inauthentic, calculating, robotic, cold. She was never any of those things, and never has it been more evident.

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