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GROUP READS > August Non-Fiction Bonus Read: PELOSI by Molly Ball

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message 1: by Honore (last edited Aug 01, 2020 06:56AM) (new) - added it

Honore | 78 comments Hello everyone! This month we have a bonus non-fiction read, PELOSI by Molly Ball. The folks at Henry Holt were kind enough to provide free copies of the book to our members and for that, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you!

Our group has the privilege to interact with the author, Molly Ball, as she will pop into this thread on 8/28 to answer questions related to the book.

In an effort to facilitate discussion and be on the same page, I have sectioned off the book into equal-ish parts as weekly goals. Please know these goals are just in place to facilitate discussion and capture questions for the author as we go along. Honor your own reading pace.

Reading Schedule:

8/1 - 8/8: Prologue through Chapter 8
Digital copy: Read up to - location 1459, 20%

8/9 - 8/15: Chapter 9 through Chapter 16
Digital copy: Read up to location 2885, 40%

8/16 - 8/22: Chapter 17 through Chapter 23
Digital copy: Read up to location 4299, 60%

8/23 - 8/31: Chapter 24 through Acknowledgments
Digital copy: Read till the end

If you're new to the group and didn't secure a free copy of the book through Henry and Holt, here are a few places where it can be found:

You can search for your local independent book store and purchase PELOSI through Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/97812...

The audiobook version is available on Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Pelosi-Aud...

Check out to see if your local library carries the title in house (and if they don't, ask them to!) or on OverDrive/ Libby: https://www.overdrive.com/media/49669...

Finally, I found an NPR interview with Molly Ball where she discusses this book. If you can't wait till the 28th to get her thoughts on it, check it out here: https://www.npr.org/2020/05/06/851343...

Thanks again to Henry Holt for providing the book PELOSI to our members! I'm so excited to read this with you all and ask Molly Ball questions on the 28th!


Shomeret | 33 comments Thank you for the link to the NPR interview, Honore. Molly Ball does provide a very good perspective on Nancy Pelosi during the course of that interview.

Re discussion schedule--I suppose those of us who are reading in digital format will have to find chapters by using search. I hope that works.


message 3: by Honore (new) - added it

Honore | 78 comments Shomeret wrote: "Thank you for the link to the NPR interview, Honore. Molly Ball does provide a very good perspective on Nancy Pelosi during the course of that interview.

Re discussion schedule--I suppose those o..."


Glad you enjoyed the interview.

I have a physical copy so i'm not sure what it looks like digitally. I could also give page numbers if that's helpful.


Shomeret | 33 comments Unfortunately, my copy from Net Galley doesn't provide any way to navigate to a page, but only locations.

I am going to have go through and do searches for chapters to find out their location numbers, and create a chart of chapters and locations to navigate properly.


message 5: by Anita (last edited Jul 26, 2020 05:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
That was a great interview, Honore, thanks for finding that and sharing it with us. It really got me eager for our group read.

Shomeret wrote: "Unfortunately, my copy from Net Galley doesn't provide any way to navigate to a page, but only locations.

I am going to have go through and do searches for chapters to find out their location num..."


Thank you for pointing that out Shomeret. I will get with Honore and work out the locations for us digital readers.


message 6: by Honore (new) - added it

Honore | 78 comments Hi everyone! Starting this book has really gotten me focused on the upcoming United States election, something I am simultaneously dreading and looking forward to. Oi!

The thread has been updated with the digital locations for the weekly read goals.

Excited to hear what you all have to say about this work!


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
I started this tonight, and read the first 2 chapters that pretty quickly summarized her role outside of politics. It's actually quite empowering to read about a woman who started her career at 35.

I'm also a little dubious and inside chuckling at the hints or mentions of her father's ties to the mafia. I'm not quite sure what to make of that but it does tickle me either way. She clearly has always had a knack for making the most of her connections and I think it speaks volumes to her Italian heritage as well as her family's life in politics - a reminder that she was raised in a specific sphere of people.

It sounds like she always had greater aspirations than her parents expected for her - wife and mother or nun - and I especially love the idea of a small Nancy Pelosi deciding to be a priest rather than a nun if that was the path offered to her.

What are your impressions of this early Nancy Pelosi, everyone?


Vanessa | 16 comments I'm on chapter 5.

I grew up in a predominately Italian-American area with a 50% Italian American family. After reading this, I feel kind of like I know her. The bit about how she disciplined her children especially brought back some memories. Big Nancy could also easily be a member of the family, and we have our own "that could be arranged" story.

I love how enthusiastic the book is about Nancy Pelosi becoming a politician. The author could have easily put more of an emphasis about how she didn't start out wanting to run for office and initially wanted a background role. Instead, she takes the approach that Pelosi is so good at using political power that she was destined for it. I tend to not read a lot of political biographies and autobiographies in their entirity because there is so much emphasis, especially when the subject is a woman, on making sure they don't look too ambitious.


Shomeret | 33 comments Vanessa wrote: "I'm on chapter 5.

I grew up in a predominately Italian-American area with a 50% Italian American family. After reading this, I feel kind of like I know her. The bit about how she disciplined her c..."


Not making the woman politician subject look too ambitious is only an issue if the author isn't a feminist, and it seems to me that Molly Ball does take a feminist perspective in this book.


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
We're nearly through the second week of reading. This section covers a good deal of Pelosi's rise through the political sphere, and I find it interesting how carefully she treaded the topic of her sex in rooms full of men. To echo some of your thoughts, Pelosi and the author seemed careful to try not to lend things to the argument of male vs. female, and seemed to find herself in an eternal loop of questioning whether certain treatment was a result of her sex or as reaction to her 'aggressiveness' or whether she was even given the label of aggressive because of her sex. But this was a subtle sub-thread.
Generally, I found myself learning a lot. A lot about specific bills that Pelosi championed and specific politicians and what they are like to work with. I admire Pelosi's ability to find allies all around.
I was also quite shocked to learn about the extreme divisiveness of Newt Gingrich. I vaguely remember his name from background noise when I was young, but never knew a thing about him. I find myself a little distraught to see that those divisive tactics have taken hold since in Congress, and on both sides, especially with Mitch McConnell, recently (although I think this is next week's reading so I will stop).
I also really enjoyed her perspective on working with the different presidents, and must admit that I've already decided that I admire her strong personality.
What things have you all taken away from, learned, or been enlightened about during this week's reading?


message 11: by Anita (last edited Aug 27, 2020 11:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
Well, I've gone and finished the book. I'm really looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts going forward, and what questions you all are thinking up for our upcoming Q&A with the author, Molly Ball.

As I was wrapping up, I found myself wondering about Pelosi's view of her own image. I thought to ask Ms. Ball if she interviewed Mrs. Pelosi specifically for this book, as in the afterword I saw she has interviewed her a few times and we know she wrote a piece for Time on her (which you can read here at Time.com (Ball)) .

***I'm curious what, if anything, Mrs. Pelosi specifically wanted to make it into the book.


message 12: by Honore (new) - added it

Honore | 78 comments Anita, I had the exact same question about if she interviewed Pelosi specifically for this book or if it was complied from research.
I felt like during the second section of this book I was inundated with the names of a lot of male politicians who I did not know. It kind of blended together a bit. Except for the Newt Gingrich part. He seems to be the person who laid some ground work for Trump to be a mean, divisive and aggressively bravado "speaker".
I was really happy to read that Pelosi voted against the Iraq war.


message 13: by Nick (new)

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) Oh no! I went to download this and finally get started - feeling a little guilty since we're half way through the month already - and netgalley has archived it!

So sorry, you guys, I didn't realise that would happen! I stupidly assumed it would be available at least until the end of the month.


Vanessa | 16 comments Shomeret wrote: "Vanessa wrote: "I'm on chapter 5.

I grew up in a predominately Italian-American area with a 50% Italian American family. After reading this, I feel kind of like I know her. The bit about how she d..."


I don't think it's just that the author is a feminist. I've read plenty of annoyingly humble portraits of politicians that were written by feminists. Pelosi consistently absolutely crushing anyone that runs against her in elections might have something to do with it.

The book got into things I remember from when they happened with chapter fourteen. I didn't live in John Murtha's district, but I was close enough for him to be local news. I remember him having a big impact in how people thought about the Iraq War. If you knew anything about him beyond his name, it was that he was a Vietnam veteran. If you knew anything else, it was that he sent a ton of defense spending to his district (and to his friends, family, and campaign contributors). Having him go out by himself to oppose the war was already a pretty ingenious plan on the national level, but it also had a big impact on the state level. I remember the people around me being much more open to antiwar opinions because someone as corrupt as Murtha expressed them.

The highlight of this portion is the meeting at the White House about TARP. Between Bush telling Pelosi that she'd miss him and Paulson (who arguably put banks on the road towards the financial crisis when he was CEO of Goldman Sachs) getting on his knees, it is already perfect for a movie based on Pelosi's life.


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
Nick wrote: "Oh no! I went to download this and finally get started - feeling a little guilty since we're half way through the month already - and netgalley has archived it!

So sorry, you guys, I didn't realis..."


I didn't either. That's really a shame. I'm not sure there's anything I can do at this point, but I guess it won't hurt me to ask. It is available at libraries, maybe you can get a copy in time to join in. It really is a great book, and with the opportunity to ask the author anything I think it's worth looking into.


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
Ok everyone we are on the last section of our reading for Pelosi. I'd like to invite you all to please post your comments on the book, and questions for the author, Molly Ball, who will be dropping by in the 28th (just 4 days away!)

I'd also like to say a huge thank you to the author and publisher for providing us at The F-Word with free copies of the book! I'm very grateful and thankful to have been able to share this read with you all.


Vanessa | 16 comments Should we post our questions in this thread?

I was expecting this week's chapters to be some of the harder ones to get through even though there was less to read, but I flew through them.


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
Vanessa wrote: "Should we post our questions in this thread?

I was expecting this week's chapters to be some of the harder ones to get through even though there was less to read, but I flew through them."


Yes. Molly Ball will be visiting this thread on the 28th to answer your questions and read your comments.


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
Also, if I get a specific timeframe I will post it here for anyone who would like to try and catch her in real time for discussion, otherwise she will read through and answer posted questions or comments at her discretion.

When you post questions or comments for the author, rather than general book discussion coments, please mark those comments with *** at the beginning to help them stand out a bit easier.


message 20: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Martin | 8 comments ***thank you to Ms. Ball and the publisher for this opportunity! Nancy Pelosi truly is an interesting subject but I still was amazed at how easy to read this work was... it had much more of a narrative nonfiction feel than any other biography that I have ever read. Molly Ball- you are immensely talented!


Vanessa | 16 comments ***Who are some writers that influenced your approach to writing this book?

***Did Joe Biden come up in your research? What kind of working relationship has he had with Nancy Pelosi in the past?

***What has writing a biography of a political figure that many people have very strong negative opinions of been like?

***This might not have come up in your research, but I've been wondering about this for years. Does Paul Pelosi pick out her clothes? If not, why do people think he does?


message 22: by Molly (new) - added it

Molly Ball (mollyesque) Hi everyone, thanks so much for your interest in my book! I'm going to go through the thread and answer some of your excellent questions now. Keep them coming—I'll check back later to see if there are any more.


message 23: by Molly (new) - added it

Molly Ball (mollyesque) Anita wrote: "We're nearly through the second week of reading. This section covers a good deal of Pelosi's rise through the political sphere, and I find it interesting how carefully she treaded the topic of her ..."

Hi Anita! I interviewed Pelosi multiple times both for my ongoing coverage in Time and specifically for the book. As for what she wanted in the book, I never asked her that question, but I have a sense from our conversations and from reading her memoir. For example, starting with our very first interview in Baltimore in January 2018, she went out of her way to emphasize her mother's influence, which I think was an attempt to rebalance the overemphasis many people have placed on her father's political career.

Her view of her own image is also something I've asked her about numerous times, but she tends not to engage with those questions. Her blanket answer to questions about her negative or polarizing image is, "If I weren't effective, I wouldn't be a target." To an unusual degree for a politician, she does not seem to spend much time dwelling on how the public at large perceives her. As I write in the book, she's relentlessly focused on results.


message 24: by Molly (new) - added it

Molly Ball (mollyesque) Kim wrote: "thank you to Ms. Ball and the publisher for this opportunity! Nancy Pelosi truly is an interesting subject but I still was amazed at how easy to read this work was...."

Thank you Kim! I wanted this book to be an enjoyable story for non-political junkies, and it means a lot to know that you appreciated that. Tell your friends it's a beach read! ☺️


message 25: by Molly (new) - added it

Molly Ball (mollyesque) Vanessa wrote: "***Who are some writers that influenced your approach to writing this book?..."

Hi Vanessa! I love nonfiction that reads like a novel. Kate Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family are two of my all-time favorites. As for political profiles, the late Marjorie Williams is a great inspiration: a brilliant reporter and storyteller whose writing always grounds politics in fundamental humanity.

Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi have known each other for a long time and respect each other, but he's fundamentally a creature of the Senate—he was elected directly to the Senate in 1972 and was frequently dispatched to work with Senate leaders during the Obama administration. Pelosi is very House-focused, so they haven't worked together all that much.

Pelosi definitely inspires a lot of vitriol—my inbox fills up with it whenever I write about her! She's certainly not the only divisive figure I've covered. But as I write in the book, it's been interesting to track the changing perceptions of her over time, and the extent to which the conventional wisdom about her reflected reality (or not) over the course of her career.

The rumor about Paul buying her clothes is a myth, but it's true she hates to shop. He does give her wardrobe advice and will sometimes tell her it's time to retire a certain outfit when it's getting threadbare, I'm told. The famous red coat that she's wearing on the cover of the book: she also wore it to Obama's 2013 inauguration, and when it became famous in 2018, she was mostly annoyed that she wouldn't be able to wear it anymore without people thinking she was making some sort of statement.


message 26: by Honore (new) - added it

Honore | 78 comments ** Molly, I was curious if you have any thoughts about who might be contenders for the position of speaker of the house when Nancy Pelosi steps down in the future? Is there anyone that you think Pelosi has been grooming for the position?


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
Ms. Ball,
Thank you so much for sharing this book with us and for answering our questions. I can honestly say that my perception of Nancy Pelosi has shifted just from reading your book - and I will definitely spread the word that it is a must read - so maybe you will see perceptions shift even more as your book gains traction.

***That also makes me wonder if you have plans to write about other women in American politics?


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
Honore wrote: "** Molly, I was curious if you have any thoughts about who might be contenders for the position of speaker of the house when Nancy Pelosi steps down in the future? Is there anyone that you think..."

Those were great questions Honore I was really hoping she would catch them.

I hope you all enjoyed this extra read. It was a great experience for me as a mod putting this all together, and thank you all who participated with us.


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