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Spoken from the Heart

Spoken from the Heart

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In this brave, beautiful, and deeply personal memoir, Laura Bush, one of our most beloved and private first ladies, tells her own extraordinary story.

Born in the boom-and-bust oil town of Midland, Texas, Laura Welch grew up as an only child in a family that lost three babies to miscarriage or infant death. She vividly evokes Midland's brash, rugged culture, her close relationship with her father, and the bonds of early friendships that sustain her to this day. For the first time, in heart-wrenching detail, she writes about the devastating high school car accident that left her friend Mike Douglas dead and about her decades of unspoken grief.

When Laura Welch first left West Texas in 1964, she never imagined that her journey would lead her to the world stage and the White House. After graduating from Southern Methodist University in 1968, in the thick of student rebellions across the country and at the dawn of the women's movement, she became an elementary school teacher, working in inner-city schools, then trained to be a librarian. At age thirty, she met George W. Bush, whom she had last passed in the hallway in seventh grade. Three months later, "the old maid of Midland married Midland's most eligible bachelor." With rare intimacy and candor, Laura Bush writes about her early married life as she was thrust into one of America's most prominent political families, as well as her deep longing for children and her husband's decision to give up drinking. By 1993, she found herself in the full glare of the political spotlight. But just as her husband won the Texas governorship in a stunning upset victory, her father, Harold Welch, was dying in Midland.

In 2001, after one of the closest elections in American history, Laura Bush moved into the White House. Here she captures presidential life in the harrowing days and weeks after 9/11, when fighter-jet cover echoed through the walls and security scares sent the family to an underground shelter. She writes openly about the White House during wartime, the withering and relentless media spotlight, and the transformation of her role as she began to understand the power of the first lady. One of the first U.S. officials to visit war-torn Afghanistan, she also reached out to disease-stricken African nations and tirelessly advocated for women in the Middle East and dissidents in Burma. She championed programs to get kids out of gangs and to stop urban violence. And she was a major force in rebuilding Gulf Coast schools and libraries post-Katrina. Movingly, she writes of her visits with U.S. troops and their loved ones, and of her empathy for and immense gratitude to military families.

With deft humor and a sharp eye, Laura Bush lifts the curtain on what really happens inside the White House, from presidential finances to the 175-year-old tradition of separate bedrooms for presidents and their wives to the antics of some White House guests and even a few members of Congress. She writes with honesty and eloquence about her family, her public triumphs, and her personal tribulations. Laura Bush's compassion, her sense of humor, her grace, and her uncommon willingness to bare her heart make this story revelatory, beautifully rendered, and unlike any other first lady's memoir ever written.
  • Scribner | 
  • 464 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439160343 | 
  • May 2010
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Tuesday morning, September 11, was sunny and warm, the sky a brilliant cerulean blue. The day before, I had hosted a lunch for Janette Howard, wife of the Australian prime minister, while George met with her husband, John. My friends who had come for the National Book Festival had all flown home, and even George was gone, in Florida for a school visit. George H. W. Bush and Bar had spent the night, but they had already left at 7:00 a.m. to catch an early flight. And I had what I considered a big day planned. I was set to arrive at the Capitol at 9:15 to brief the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Edward M. Kennedy, on the findings of the early... see more

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Spoken from the Heart includes an introduction and discussion questions. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

INTRODUCTION

From the flat, dusty streets of Midland, Texas, in the heart of the boom-and-bust American oil patch, to the gleaming columns and glistening marble hallways of the White House, Laura Welch Bush traveled a rare path. But many readers will find much to share in her particular story—from private family grief and a tragic twist of fate to waiting years for love and her struggle for much-wanted children. Use our reader’s guide to help re-examine Laura Bush’s private years and her life in the public eye.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

THE FORMATIVE YEARS IN MIDLAND, TEXAS YEARS

  1. Laura Bush’s Spoken from the Heart begins with a story of loss: the death of her premature, newborn baby brother when Laura was just two-and-a-half years old. The theme of loss is woven throughout the book, the loss of two other baby siblings; the loss of her friend, Mike Douglas, in the car crash; the loss of her father to dementia; even the loss of privacy and anonymity first when she marries into the Bush family and then when her husband enters politics.
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