Sky Pony Press, 2023
The name Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis will always have a place in American history and likely in world history. As the wife of one of our most well-known presidents at the time (and since), Jackie Kennedy was a first lady whose short tenure in that role reshaped expectations of the spousal-residents of the White House.
In JACKIE AND THE BOOKS SHE LOVED, written by Ronni Diamondstein and illustrated by Bats Langley, readers will learn that a throughline of her life was her love of books. Reading books, talking about them, eventually writing and editing books, articles, and even becoming a photojournalist/interviewer.
The roles played by books in her life, from childhood until her dying days, were less widely known by the general public than her roles in politics, fashion, or social circles. This cradle-to-grave account of Jackie and the ways books shaped and enhanced and supported here throughout her life makes it clear that knowing this central force in her life is essential to understanding who she was.
As iconic as her image has been for decades, and as admired and even idolized as she was globally, this is actually a very intimate view of the privacy, solace, and comfort she sought within the pages of beloved books and among those in her life who understood who she was. One spread especially appealed to me, in image and in narrative. This segment references the time in her later life in which she edited and helped to launch the many books she supported in their making.
the author was the star of every book.
She made sure to stay in the background and let her authors shine."
As a once active and successful photojournalist, Jackie was well-aware that the subject of the spotlights and flashbulbs told a story in themselves, so it is her unlit face here that beams out at her starring author on stage. And at readers who may often feel those camera-aware selfies and smiles are the mark of greatness. With her approach, it is clear that Jackie invested in the editing and publishing process for the sake of the creation and celebration of fine books, not for the spotlight. Both front and back endpapers include short quotes from her career, including this one:
"If you produce one book,
you will have done something wonderful
with your life."
It is noteworthy that Jackie wrote her own books as a child, as well as poetry. Anything she chose to write and submit would have found ready publication and promotion. But she actively resisted writing a memoir or other book under her own name throughout her life, although she wrote with and researched writings of others, including her husband Jack Kennedy, as well as the many authors she later edited. She chose to submerge herself into their work and into the readings and thinkings about other books that opened her to worlds beyond her own persona- past, present, and future.
Back matter for this distinctive bio/profile includes a timeline of Jackie's life, an author note, more quotations, and a representative selection of the books professionally edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Sources and credits are also included for this thorough homage to an iconic American woman.