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Posts Tagged ‘Autobiography’

Autobiography Review – Upstairs at the White House

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies
by J. B. West

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

With all of the Presidential politics of the past couple of years I really started to wonder what life in the White House is really like.  And, if I’m honest, my recent binge of The West Wing played a role in this curiosity, as well.

J.B. West worked at the White House for over 25 years, as Assistant to the Chief Usher and later as Chief Usher. He worked closely with each First Lady as she grew familiar with the home and acclimated to life in the White House.  West worked in the White House with the Roosevelts, Trumans, Eisenhowers, Kennedys, Johnsons, and Nixons.  It was a fantastic position from which to experience the ups and downs of presidential living and the ups and downs of the country.

Some memorable takeaways were West’s descriptions of the never ending visitors of Mrs. Roosevelt’s who would stay for weeks at a time in the White House. The cancelling of the formal season at the White House following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the White House going through food rationing during World War II like the rest of the country. The frugality of the Trumans and the true relationship that created their strong marriage. The vast reconstruction of the White House during the Truman years.  The control Mamie Eisenhower had over every aspect of life in the White House and her generosity at birthdays and the holidays for all of the staff she had contact with on a daily basis.  The lengths that Jackie Kennedy took to protect her children from the press and public eye while in the White House and the darkness that fell over the White House after the assassination of President Kennedy.

I found West’s book interesting and it seemed like an honest account. I was so fascinated by the ‘behind the scenes’ look at the life in the White House and how it transformed over the years. The photographs he shared were also great and put an image to some of the descriptions he provided.  I think this would be an interesting read for any presidential or first lady history buff. Solid 4 stars.

 

 

 

 

Nonfiction Review – Beyond Belief

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017


Beyond Belief
by Jenna Miscavige Hill (with Lisa Pulitzer)

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

Several months ago I read Leah Remini’s autobiography Troublemaker (check out my review on the blog) and she exposed many of the questionable practices of Scientology.  I was intrigued by Remini’s book and wanted to learn more about Scientology and the experiences of others who had also managed to escape the Church.  I found Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill, the niece of the Chairman of the Board of Scientology David Miscavige.

Jenna was raised in the Church when her parents joined when she was just a small child.  Some of her stories of her childhood in California and her jobs for the Church sounded like nothing more than child labor. During much of her childhood, while Jenna and her father were in California, her mother was in Florida.  The separation of children from their parents (and the rule that members of the Sea Organization can’t have children) seems to be part of an elaborate isolation and brainwashing scheme on the part of the Church.

As Jenna describes her various duties in the Church, her auditing sessions, her limited friendships, and monitored interactions with her family, she voices what seems to be doubt but she stays in the Church, even when given an initial chance to leave.  What she experiences seems to be nothing more than systematic brainwashing and separating of individuals from any support system outside the Church.  There were obvious mixed messages from the Church through their words and actions and even directly from her uncle and aunt, David and Shelly Miscavige. When Jenna questions the Church over some practices or requirements, she is met with hostility, degrading accusations and punishments. Her final frustration that pushes her to leave the Church was a long time coming based on her life story.

In Beyond Belief, Jenna goes into great detail regarding her experiences and she comes across as genuine and honest. While the delivery is a bit simplistic and the writing style is not very sophisticated, I think a reader who is wanting to learn more about the practices of the Church will find this book engrossing and, honestly, quite disturbing.  Beyond Belief gets a solid 4 out of 5 stars from me.