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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Sisters First

Bush+Sisters
Photo by Creative Commons
Bush Sisters

My earliest political memory is of former President Barack Obama being elected for the first time in 2008. I was only 9, so I just remember being confused that he won when most of the country was colored in red for John McCain (I had no concept of population density). Because I’m so young, I have no memory of George W. Bush’s presidency and certainly not his father’s. This also means I had never been exposed to the tabloid reporting on then-teenage Barbara and Jenna Bush, dubbed the “wild Bush twins.” Reading “Sisters First” gave me the first insight into Barbra and Jenna’s lives I’ve had, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though their shared memoir wasn’t quite what I expected, they did a excellent job of telling their story, instead of the story of their family, politics or the dozen other boxes into which they are often sorted.
First and foremost, Barbara and Jenna were unfailingly honest. Of course they have control over which stories made it into the book, and I’m sure there was selective censoring (who among us wouldn’t do the same?), but they never flinched away from their mistakes, disagreements and regrets. As a result, the book is both genuine and humanizing. In a world where politics turns people into figures, Barbara and Jenna do their best to show that they are human and not just another member of the Bush political dynasty. The sisters do the same for members of their family. For example, Barbara shares a precious story about her grandfather. At the time of this story, he was the vice president, and Barbara and Jenna would spend the night at the vice presidential estate for a visit. One night, Barbara was getting ready for bed, and realized she had lost her favorite toy, a white stuffed tiger named Spikey. She was devastated and of course, her Gampy came to the rescue and promised to find Spikey. After searching inside and failing to find Spikey, the operation moved outdoors. But the Vice President of the United States of America can’t just walk out by himself at night — he was accompanied by a Secret Service detail, armed with flashlights, all looking for Spikey. Spikey ended up being behind a curtain in the sisters’ room, and all was well, but the last detail of the story is what makes it so sweet. Any grandpa would look for his granddaughter’s beloved stuffed toy, but how many would do so the night before a presidential debate? Vice President George H. W. Bush had just announced his bid for the presidency, and spent the night before the debate on his lawn, looking for Barbara’s Spikey.
An easy critique to make is Jenna and Barbara’s portrayal of their family’s mistakes. They gloss over their father’s low approval ratings and downplay the severity of his decision to go to war in Iraq. The point of the book, however, is not to answer for their family’s political miscalculations — quite the opposite. They write this book, in part at least, to make us understand that they shouldn’t have to. The sisters make it clear that they don’t agree with everything their grandfather and father think; a notable example is Barbara passionately arguing the case for gay rights with her father. It’s clear that Jenna and Barbara love their parents and grandparents, and will defend them, but we shouldn’t expect them to be spokespersons or legal scholars or chiefs of staff. Barbara and Jenna are self-made, respected women, and seeing them only as extensions of their family is unfair. This, woven into the stories, is the main takeaway from the book. It’s a well-written, honest, convincing book that sheds some insight into the Bush twins’ lives. I recommend it for anyone who wants a light read that offers a new perspective.

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