This review first appeared on Future Female Leaders
White House stenographer Beck Dorey-Stein has penned the White House growing up memoir we didn’t even know we needed. Screw podcast politicos bitching about how Obama’s policies were better than Trump’s, Beck takes us into the traveling lifestyle of the White House bubble, into a political affair, and into the growing pains of living in DC and becoming a real adult with real responsibilities and real struggles.
Beck Dorey-Stein was working five part time jobs when she answered a Craigslist ad looking for a stenographer. She didn’t even attach a cover letter to her application. Then, she missed the interview because she was working a late shift at Lululemon, one of her many side jobs. But then she gets an email telling her she should really come in for an interview because the job is to be the stenographer for President Barack Obama himself. And Beck can’t say no to that kind of opportunity, even if she’s never been super political herself. Her boyfriend, Sam, though, is super political and worked on Obama’s original campaign and is planning to work on his reelection campaign. So Beck dives into her job as a stenographer, learning the ropes, learning who is who and who not to cross. At first she struggles to make friends in this new world, but along the way she finds some absolutely heart-warming friends. This isn’t just your typical political memoir though because along the way Beck falls into an affair with another staffer, tries to quit that bad habit a hundred times, goes back and forth with her boyfriend Sam, deals with more personal issues, gets a cat or two, and more. Along the way you get to grow up with Beck. She’s 26ish (I think) when the book starts and it ends shortly after her thirtieth birthday. It’s a blast to follow along her ups and downs, root for her and yell at her when she relapses.
Throughout this book Beck’s friends tell her to pursue writing, and it’s kind of cool to be holding the book in my hands that proves she did. I did love her voice, but I don’t think it was necessarily like The Greatest Thing Ever like some of her friends seemed to claim. She’s a super relatable writer and as a 22-year-old in an almost eerily similar life situation right now, I loved it, and if you’re young and female you will to, but I worry that men and older individuals might struggle a bit more. It’s still fascinating to read about her experiences and her growth but it’s harder to connect with her struggles if you haven’t lived them recently…or ever. I did not have that problem though. Sometimes I was snapping my fingers like “yes girl I feel you” or “same same same.”
While this is a “political memoir” and Beck clearly loved Obama and hates Trump I had no issues reading this as someone who feels lukewarm about both individuals. The later chapters are Trump is elected are a little bit much, that typical liberal melt down won’t get out of my bed mess you hear about, but her travels with Obama are honest and revealing and it’s not necessarily about his politics but his humanity. Her recounting of the trip to the funeral of Clementa Pickney after the Charleston shooting absolutely wrecked me. Her wondering who made sure his daughter had a cardigan so she wouldn’t be cold at her daddy’s funeral actually made me cry. Beck writes with clarity but also with depth and focuses on the emotions in the moment. You don’t have to be a liberal to want to read about the exciting lives of someone who was on the road, and in the air, with the President of the United States. The vast majority of the story is non-ideological.
So, let’s talk about the juicy bits: the affair. I won’t say who it’s with because I really thought it could go one of two ways before it happened. But when it did, wow. I know a lot of people will read this and say Beck was dumb and should have just stopped it, but we all know some men can just be so dang magnetic and you know it’s bad but you just keep going back. I’m glad Beck is aware of her decisions and honest with the reader about how it tears up her, and she even talks to a therapist about it, but it was realistic and juicy without being down-right angsty teen. Her reiteration of the triangle of light in the hotel doors was a nice touch . If you don’t usually like political memoirs but are intrigued by an affair spanning several continents and with lots of twists and turns, give this a try anyway.
I really didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. I thought it’d be a typical woe-is-me I worked for Obama and the Democrats lost memoir but it wasn’t. It was realistic and open and well-written and juicy and had a lot of humanity woven into it, the best and worst kind. There are moments of heartbreak as Beck covers the POTUS speaking on events of national tragedy like Newton and Charleston and San Bernandino and Pulse. But there’s also moments of joy like during her first flight on Marine Force One or when she’s playing basketball with the boys. There’s a lot of greatness is humanity around her, in her friends and fellows staffers and in the Obama family and the senior advisors who served as role models and friends to Beck. This book is just really great. It’s not your typical political memoir–it’s better.
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