Author Encounters: Caroline Kennedy
(or Caroline of Camelot Comes to California)
Thanks to Kepler’s Books, I was fortunate enough to catch the daughter of Camelot in Redwood City last Tuesday—in the only west coast stop of her book tour for the recently released, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. The book is accompanied by the CD recordings of 7 interviews of Jackie Kennedy discussing her husband with historian Arthur Schlesinger—only four months after the President’s assassination. The interviews are being released now as part of the Kennedy Library celebration of the 50th anniversary of the JFK Presidency. I can’t wait to pop them into my Prius’s CD deck.
Looking as svelte and sophisticated as her late mother, Caroline pointed out to the audience that in contrast to these days of cautious contemporary memoir, the interviews seem rather candid. In fact, she told us that she had a difficult decision whether to edit the interviews, but decided that since they were primary historical documents, and “as we know—everything comes out anyway”—she would let them stand on their own. Like most writers, she said one has to assume your readers are smart enough to put the opinions stated in the interview into the context of the times. She also pointed out that some of the decidedly old-fashioned opinions her mother expressed, would later change, and so the reader should be cautioned to remember this was 1964, after all…Caroline said the chatty nature of the tapes “reminds us that they were as human as the rest of us.” (Sitting in the 11th row, and later getting my copy signed, I had to remind myself that Caroline was only human, as well…)
Speaking of her mother she told us, “[The interviews] evoke a woman in time. She straddled two eras—and lived fully in both.” Caroline described her mother as the iconic 50’s housewife who was primarily concerned with raising her children and supporting her husband. But this same women, years later would become a respected editor at Viking and Doubleday—representing the equally iconic career woman of the 70’s. She ended this line of thinking by stating, “Most of all, my mother was a patriot.” (In contrast, I remember thinking as a young girl that I had appreciated Jackie most for wearing a size 10 shoe—thus making big feet popular. I guess some of us are deeper than others…)
Caroline remembers her mother lamenting, “American History was boring. There weren’t enough women in it.” But she ends her talk by pointing out, “She helped change that. “
The Kennedy Library has set up a website to help share the legacy JFK left America and the world in his short administration. Check it out at JFK 50th website—and try to believe it’s actually been 50 years!