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Both/And: A Memoir


Both/And: A Memoir

A baby girl is born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to a pair of Pakistani professors who spend half of their time in their homeland and half in the U.S. She grows up happy, healthy and smart, unaware that her father is a medical time bomb about to explode. After his death, her entire life changes as her mother cannot process the overwhelming grief and the children bear the brunt of that.

But the girl goes to college and gets an internship at the White House, planted in the office of the First Lady of the United States. And there she stays, alongside that lady, who becomes one of the most important and powerful women in the world, Hillary Rodham Clinton. For the girl, this might have been adventure enough, but she meets and marries a whip-smart hustling young Representative from New York. As her boss encounters the more unsavory aspects of public life, so does she.

BOTH/AND is the very compelling story of how Huma Abedin went from a life of nothing but promise to a life in which she will be forever haunted by the actions and mistakes of others. Her style is conversational, almost breezy, but there is the knowledge, as you read about her early successes and lessons alongside Hillary, that a bomb is hidden in the office and no one knows when it’s going to go off.

"BOTH/AND is the very compelling story of how Huma Abedin went from a life of nothing but promise to a life in which she will be forever haunted by the actions and mistakes of others."

There is the Bill Clinton impeachment and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which Abedin explores briefly through her own eyes. She watches Hillary calmly and bravely make her choice to stay with her philandering husband who, until then, had made important strides for the U.S. economically and diplomatically. There is the 2016 election (enough said). But most directly, there is the relationship between our author and her husband, Anthony Weiner, who rips his career apart with ferocity by being unable to stop doing the same thing that Bill Clinton could not do --- be faithful to an amazing wife who can do it all for you and your family while you watch your career slide down the drain.

Abedin is a remarkable woman, and the parallels she finds between her and her boss’s predicaments are completely founded. As an author, Abedin is well-directed. She never tries to explain how someone felt --- she only lets us know how she perceived the situation from her own perspective. And there are secrets in her life that she unloads here, the biggest of which may be that Children’s Services were attempting to take her son away from her while the James Comey investigation was going on.

My mother is a lovely woman and brought her daughters up to be “ladies” in the 1950s sense of the word --- smart but polite, hardworking but putting family first. Abedin seems to have been brought up with similar requirements, but her path led to places where she had to remain ladylike and professional while the sordid details of her life were thrown at her like so many rotten tomatoes. She stood up to the humiliation and moved forward, regardless of how difficult and literally history-making all of it was.

I thought this book was absolutely fantastic, and I could not put it down. Confessional without being self-pitying, it explores so deeply why intelligent women with their acts together stay with men whose charisma and power cannot outshine or take down their sick personal demons.

BOTH/AND is an outstanding tome, and I think everyone could read it as a self-help book. How do you keep going when all is wrong? How do you protect your children when your spouse is suffering from the fallout of their selfish actions? How do you continue to find a way to celebrate our democracy when it is clear that there are so many cracks in the foundation?

Finally, this is the story of a woman and her culture, how being from two different worlds helped her to balance the inequities of a woman’s life in contemporary society. Her religion and upbringing, her solid foundation in herself as a woman striving for a greater good, is a feminist story that teaches all of us lessons of compassion and determination. This is a brave, bold story told with humility and reportage --- a big book filled with secrets and solutions that I hope will help her move on.

In this day and age, when women and people of color struggle to find footholds against old sagging standards of living and being, those with the advantages of Huma Abedin have an opportunity for leadership. BOTH/AND is a running jump into a new world. May she land with both feet firmly on the ground.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on November 24, 2021

Both/And: A Memoir
by Huma Abedin

  • Publication Date: October 4, 2022
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 150119481X
  • ISBN-13: 9781501194818