“We read a looooot of picture books in my family,” says Chelsea Clinton of life with two kids under four – three-year-old Charlotte and Aidan, who turns two in June. “Thankfully both our children love books, and its very sweet to watch them read to themselves–which is just reciting their favourite books since neither of them are able to read yet,” she laughs.
Clinton’s far too humble to say, but we’d bet our entire Glossier stash that their mom’s books are among their faves. Clinton is the author of two children’s books, last year’s She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed The World, and the just-released She Persisted Around the World, a follow-up that features the stories of 13 global game-changers (from Malala Yousafzai to Canada’s Viola Desmond).
We spoke to the NYC-based author during her book tour in Toronto.
Why was it important for you to include Canadian civil rights activists Viola Desmond? “I have to admit I had not heard of her story until my friend, a professor of African-American history, said, ‘I think you should look at Viola Desmond.’ I was so completely compelled by her quiet courage. And yet that it then took almost 50 years after her death for her contributions to be recognized, and for the case verdict to be overturned.”
I think books like this are equally important for boys to read. I completely agree. Yes, the majority of the kids who come to my book events are girls, but there are quite a few boys too and when boys tell me about their favourite stories and the woman that really inspired them, it is really meaningful to me and really encouraging to me. I absolutely agree we need to share stories of strong women with girls and boys alike.
You come a family that is involved and invested in the world. For those who don’t necessarily feel that way, maybe someone who lives in rural Canada, for example, how can we empower them? The people who feel outside the narrative? I would say people in rural Canada know more about living in rural Canada than I do. I think this is just true for all of us, that there are probably things they wish were going differently in their community in rural Canada. And there’s always a way to engage, whether that’s the local schools, or local community or at the national level. So, going to local town halls, ensuring that issues are on the agenda, so at least our elected representatives can’t ignore them. Even if they don’t vote in the way we would wish, this is all part of trying to shift to how our leaders think about things, what they’re paying attention to. That engagement in things like town halls, or protests…social media hopefully also ensure that people are sufficiently engaged and motivated to vote so that if you don’t agree with kind of the person who’s your mayor or your president, your prime minister, your school board official, you can vote them out.
What are you reading right now? My husband [investment banker Marc Mezvinsky] and I both love historic mysteries or mysteries that happen in places far from us. I don’t admittedly ever want to read about a mystery set in New York City. But I love reading mysteries set in other countries or we love reading historical mysteries so we’ll read those together. If nothing else, he or I think about a story, and what we’re grappling with to understand or what we didn’t like or agree on. And all of that I find really interesting from Marc and I think he finds that interesting for me.
You’re a writer, a philanthropist, a journalist. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten? The best advice I’ve ever received is something I think about truly everyday—it’s our family mantra. It originated with my grandmother and she taught my mother, who also taught me, which is ‘life’s not about what happens to you, its about what you do with what happens to you.’”