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    Storyboard18 | Bookstrapping: ‘Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds’, by Huma Abedin

    Storyboard18 | Bookstrapping: ‘Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds’, by Huma Abedin

    Storyboard18 | Bookstrapping: ‘Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds’, by Huma Abedin
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    By Storyboard18   IST (Published)


    This week in Bookstrapping -- the pithiest book review in town -- our critic picks up Huma Abedin’s book which was written as a memoir for her son; so that he knows her side of the story. 

    You’ll probably pick up this book expecting gossip on Hillary Clinton--Huma Abedin having been her longtime adviser. But that’s not the dish being served. Any references to Bill and Hillary Clinton are strictly in the ‘my dad and my mom’ zone, because there’s a fair degree of loyalty and adulation there.
    That being said, the book is a compelling read about a successful Muslim woman in America who went through hell. Abedin is the daughter of an Indian Muslim, Syed Zainul Abedin, and a Pakistani mother, Saleha Mahmoud, both scholars.
    • Professionally, she faced Islamophobia
    • Personally, her sex-scandal prone spouse, Anthony Weiener, left her red-faced.
    • But brand Huma Abedin sustained. Here’s how:
      1. Don’t return the penny to the jar when its shiny
      2. : Abedin uses this phrase in the book to explain how she never got to know about Anthony Weiner’s warts or insecurities. Before being wedded, they only spent brief happy periods in each other's company and never fully understood each others’ weaknesses. Wiser now, the penny that Huma offers her readers is well-worn and rich in experience.
      3. Shame is what we teach our children: One of the nicest sentences in the book, Abedin explains that shame is not something that is born out of children’s own experiences. Having to raise her son, at a time when his father was in prison for sexting underage girls, gave her both perspective and incredible maturity. Not to mention the undaunted doggedness to push forward.
      4. No one can put you down: Hillary Clinton weathered the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Eleanor Roosevelt lived through Lucy Mercer (through a pact that FDR must not see Lucy Mercer again). Abedin survived the indiscretions of Anthony Weiner. All of them had a successful second innings. Abedin suggests that strong women value themselves far too much to be defined by what happens 'to' them.
      5. Not all labels go away: Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign took a hit when Abedin was called a woman of ''Pakistani-origin'' who would become White House ''chief of staff’' if she were elected. Abedin’s Muslim label is sticky. Yet, as a practising Muslim, Abedin admits that 'prayer' and her 'link to Islam' was what got her through the worst times of her life. She quotes the Prophet, “Happy is the person who avoids hardship, but how fine is the man who is afflicted and shows endurance.”
      6. Discretion is indeed valour: Being private and reserved gave Abedin a certain mystique. As a matter of her culture and upbringing, maintaining dignity was of the greatest importance to her. It is this elusiveness that made people look forward to her book.
      7. Abedin apparently wrote this memoir for her son; so that he knows her side of the story. “I liked being an invisible person, but I felt like if I didn’t write my story, somebody else is telling my history,” she explains. This book is also a window into the tribulations of all the progressive Muslims around the world.
        It is evident that Abedin has worked hard and is a person with a lot of potential. Working for the Clintons and the scandal with her husband, overshadowed her own identity completely. She is talking about ‘herself’ for the first time ever.
        Perhaps the best advice in the book comes from Abedin’s father who taught her “to make her own choices, but be thoughtful about them, not rash”.
        -- The author, Reeta Ramamurthy Gupta, is a columnist, biographer and bibliophile. She is credited with the internationally acclaimed Red Dot Experiment, a decadal six-nation study on how ‘culture impacts communication.’ Read her other book reviews here.
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