[Kristin Clark] Taylor, the youngest of seven children in a close-knit family of high achievers, spent her early years in a poignantly disturbing dilemma: straddling the all-white affluence of her private school by day and the cultural and racial security of her own inner-city Detroit neighborhood where she returned each evening. So it was both fitting and ironic that, at the age of twenty-eight, she would be called on to join Vice President George Bush's staff as a media spokesperson. She stayed with Bush into his presidency, becoming the first
[Kristin Clark] Taylor, the youngest of seven children in a close-knit family of high achievers, spent her early years in a poignantly disturbing dilemma: straddling the all-white affluence of her private school by day and the cultural and racial security of her own inner-city Detroit neighborhood where she returned each evening. So it was both fitting and ironic that, at the age of twenty-eight, she would be called on to join Vice President George Bush's staff as a media spokesperson. She stayed with Bush into his presidency, becoming the first African-American woman in history to hold the post of White House director of media relations. Like many African-Americans, Taylor was often caught in an isolated middle world, pulled to one side by her emotional and cultural needs, drawn to the other by a driving desire to excel. Hers is a deeply personal story that transcends day-to-day politics, examining the "human" challenges of maintaining equilibrium in a world which itself knows no true balance, an atmosphere lacking in ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity. In candid reflections on her years with Bush, Taylor describes the joyful excitement she found in her White House job, tempered by stark reminders that racial sensitivity sometimes took a back seat in the rough-and-tumble world of White House politics - where she once had to urge a speechwriter to remove the word nigger from one of Bush's speeches. Taylor, a deeply spiritual woman, discovered that friendships suffered as a result of the divisive Willie Horton controversy and she found herself torn between the Republican ideals she embraced and the very real problems encountered as a minority.
This inside look at the Bush White House comes from the unique perspective of an African American, conservative, Republican woman. Taylor, the youngest of seven children of a working-class Detroit family, was brought up to excel. Her parents strove to assure that she and her siblings had the best education available. After working at USA Today , she joined the White House staff in 1987, and at age 28 was appointed Vice President Bush's assistant press secretary. When she was named White House Director of Media Relations in the Bush administration, she became the first ever African American woman to hold that post. Taylor explains that she went to the White House because ``I wanted to do my part to serve my country.'' Pages later, these idealistic words ring hollow as she ponders, ``Was there an extra spin we needed to try to put on an issue?'' We see the White House through her eyes, which, at times, can be both irritating and hilarious: John Sununu is the ``plump python''; ``Reagan was the ultimate actor who delivered his lines flawlessly''; Bush's people ``were more laid-back and less anal-retentive than the Reagan types.'' Taylor portrays George Bush as an extremely personable and decent human being, but the reader is given little insight into such momentous events of his presidency as the invasion of Panama and Desert Storm. Taylor frequently refers to her own ``cultural schizophrenia'' (on the one hand, she urges that the word ``nigger'' be removed from a Bush speech and on the other, she defends the 1988 Willie Horton ad campaign, considered by many to be a blantantly racist attempt to exploit the fears of whites). And this book itself at times seems to be a justification of an administration that was viewed in certain quarters as insensitive to African Americans. (Aug.)
As the first-ever African American White House director of media relations, Taylor held a unique position in the Bush administration. And as one of the few women staffers, she has some unique insights into the workings of a mostly white male power structure. From mediating between the coldly manipulative Chief of Staff John Sununu and the press to coping with on-the-job morning sickness in an Oval Office briefing, Taylor faced many challenges with grace. Most interesting are her descriptions of growing up in Detroit as part of a large, close family of modest means but with great determination to succeed in the world. Of value both as a political memoir of the Bush years and as a portrait of an African American woman of high achievment.-- Pamela R. Daubenspeck, Warren-Trumbull Cty. P.L, Warren, Ohio