I just finished Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco and it was a whole lot of fun. Mastromonaco is a woman who worked for Senator and President Barack Obama for almost ten years. Before that she worked for Bernie Sanders and John Kerry, and this book has a lot of fun, insider-y stories about campaigns, elections and holding office. It is also a memoir of her life wherein she consistently comes across as endearing and Leslie Knope-ish, and really what could be better than that?
The book reads a bit like Mindy Kaling Goes to Washington, and I mean that in a great way. Alyssa is incredibly open about her struggles (having a love life when you work 80 hour weeks, forgetting to change out of jeans when you are going to meet the Queen of England, having IBS) but mostly gives us a glimpse into the realities of being a young and high powered woman in the White House (she was WH Deputy Chief of Staff for three years). I heard about the book when she was a guest on my favorite podcast, Pod Save America, starring many of her former co-workers (The Obama Bros) and she was hilarious. Reading the book I loved the stories that featured Obama, and he never fails to come across as decent, smart, kind and wonderful. This book does zero to curb my out of control crush on the former President.
Mastromonaco said that she wrote the book to appeal to young women and to encourage them to go into politics, but the advice that she imparts is universal. She is supportive and hardworking and did not come from an especially privileged background – she has succeeded in hyper-competitive industries on sheer will and relentless effort. She also isn’t afraid to tell us that she cries at her desk sometimes, which I really 100% appreciate. Being a gender minority in your career is a very familiar issue and dealing with your emotions around men is a nightmare. I was reading this over lunch by myself one day when I get to the story about her having an irritated response to an email that minimized her effort where she actually pushed Send instead of sitting on it for a day, and I am suddenly yelling out “BEEN THERE SISTER” to everyone’s confusion. I am reminded of the wonderful Tina Fey advice here where she says go ahead and cry, it scares the hell out of them.
The current political climate is frightening to me and it was nostalgic and fun to relive times where I could find my values reflected in the government. This was a good reminder of what I want to fight for. I will buy this for every one of my nieces, and hope that by the time they are at work in their dream jobs they will not have to be a “pioneer” asking for a tampon machine to be installed in the restroom.
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea – Grade A-