The response to Hillary Clinton’s book is overwhelmingly “ugh, shut up, lady,” or else, “this is history: let her tell it.”
But there’s another reason we are dying to read this book.
Because it’s a story.
Stories describe unique experiences that are also universal experiences. They explore the ways we move in the world. We are looking to recognize ourselves in her experiences, to learn new ways of considering the world. Uncomfortable stories are some of the most revealing — not about the subject of the story, but about us in our response to our discomfort.
When we’re in the story, we wonder: What would we have done in her place, with her context? Faced with her choices, her consequences, and her resources, what path would any human follow?
When we’re reading, we can notice: Why does this story draw me in? Or why am I tempted to put it down, escape from it? Do I feel threatened? How does it affect my hope?
Like any story, it will teach us at both of these levels. This is how it can show us something of ourselves. It’s a story worth telling, because all stories are worth telling. But not everyone has access to the system that allows their stories to get told. Hillary Clinton does — and she’s one of a limited number of women who do.
I’m grateful she put in the work it takes to write this kind of story. It must have been heartbreaking for her. I hope it was also cathartic.
I hope a lot of people will read it. I hope young women will see themselves in it, process their own struggles through the retelling of hers.
And I hope we can learn to recognize the value of stories that are uncomfortable.