Fairfield University professor charts Hillary Clinton’s life in new book

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Sonya Huber, an associate professor of English at Fairfield University, says that when she was first approached by a publisher to pen a biography of Hillary Clinton, “My original thought was, ‘Not another Hillary book — what can I say about her?’”

However, she added, “I thought about it for 24 hours and decided that it was an exciting challenge.”

The result is “The Evolution of Hillary Rodham Clinton,” released in June by Eyewear Publishing. Huber says the London-based independent publisher’s main objective was to provide a sort of Clinton primer for Britons who may not necessarily be as familiar with her life in and out of politics as most Americans are.

Even more challenging was the “ridiculous” two and a half weeks she had to complete the entire process. “It was horrible,” she said with a laugh, “but I dove in and started doing my research. I pretty much ate, slept and breathed Hillary Clinton the entire time.

“I have a lot of experience with research, and doing it quickly,” the Stratford resident added. “And I’ve also done quite a lot of journalistic work.”

Although her academic life is centered on creative nonfiction, publishing, editing and composition, Huber said the publisher was drawn to her due to the research and writing she’d previously done on health care, especially her well-received 2010 book, Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir.”

That she’s maintained a general interest in politics made the challenge even more intriguing; her bibliography also includes 2008’s Opa Nobody,” a creative nonfiction book that focuses on her grandfather’s work as an anti-Nazi activist during World War II, that was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, a biennial competition for newly published books.

Though a social activist who has lent her support to a number of causes ranging from saving old-growth forests to withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq — and one whose political preferences lean to the left, as evidenced by a recent blog post that began “These are scary times — if extreme right-wing semi-fascist rhetoric scares you” — Huber said she previously had been familiar with Clinton primarily through the Monica Lewinsky scandal and her work during her husband’s administration on national health care reform.

And despite the cover of “The Evolution” — a close-up of a smiling Clinton — that she said “will cause some people to see red,” Huber maintained that she strode to provide a balanced take on her subject. “She’s such a polarizing figure that some people will assume it’s either a complete takedown or a complete lovefest, but it’s neither.”

Once she began work on “The Evolution,” Huber said, she discovered both pros and cons on the Democratic presidential nominee’s résumé.

“The biggest complaint about her is that she’s a liar,” she said, “but, objectively, it turns out that she’s been a lot more accurate in her statements than most people in the public eye. What she’s been through is unlike what any other American politician has experienced.”

What most impressed Huber was “the extent to which she gathers information from a wide variety of sources on a given subject, and really takes it all it. She keeps track of all the feedback and weighs things carefully before making a decision. I was struck by how careful and thoughtful she is, especially for a presidential candidate.”

Nevertheless, she added, such deliberation has sometimes worked to Clinton’s deficit. “She has been all over the map on trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And she’s been hesitant to take a definitive stance on a number of issues but can be pushed by her constituents.”

As President, Clinton “could feel obligated to get directly involved in conflicts around the world, especially when they involve ISIS,” Huber said. “She showed that to some degree as Secretary of State, and if she follows that approach as President it would be a great concern to a lot of people.”

Speaking the day after Clinton’s acceptance address at the Democratic National Convention, Huber said, “I thought it was a really good speech. She hit all the right notes and came across well. It was both exciting and a little reassuring.”

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