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“Yes She Can” is the uplifting collection of 10 stories by politically active young women who reveal what they went through to get to the White House during the Obama Administration. Before that, though, they all started off with a journey. Though all their explorations brought them to different places, they all have a very similar trajectory of hard work and dedication to their community.
Compiled by Molly Dillon, former policy assistant for Urban Affairs in the Domestic Policy Council from the Obama White House, each story in the collection contains a memorable anecdote from each staff member, detailing their journey up to this moment. The stories contain various challenges of working at the White House, from imposter syndrome, “[that] is an uninvited guest that will try to derail you,” to making a mistake. Readers experience the growth in each staffer’s life as they become more confident and better equipped for serving their various communities. No singular voice ties the book together. Instead it ebbs and flows into the transition for the next story, which ultimately leaves the impression of a sense of inspiration and hope for the future.
There is a strong prologue that places the reader directly in the “heels, but often… sensible flats too” of the staffers in the White House. The structure of the book keeps interest piqued throughout with a new story at the turn of the next page. Each narrative is long enough to give just enough context to understand their background and a well-rounded story of their time working in the Obama administration, but fewer, longer stories would have strengthened the book. Occasionally, the stories’ brevity leaves something to be desired. The book lacks a clear ending, and concluding with a letter written by all 10 contributing staffers may have better tied the stories together. However, a guide at the end of the book connects readers with the resources necessary to pursue a career or internship in public service. This is one of the most helpful parts of the book since it allows the reader to interact with the book directly.
Each story is captivating in its own way, reflecting Dillon’s care in curating stories that would allow a wide array of identities to be represented in the book. Some staffers were first-generation college students or immigrants, while others grew up immersed in politics and community organizing. Their journeys twist and turn: The writers point out how they never imagined working in the White House, and the staffers discuss their inspiration to work for their community, each sharing a personal tie to the significance of public service. The staffers’ voices shine through their style of writing as well. The stories are conversational and presented in a way that is easily understandable while containing personal touches that make these stories relatable.
“Yes She Can” illustrates the various career paths one may take in a public service role, but it also reads like a personal coffee chat with an old friend. Each story sets up the context for their background and the various challenges that they faced growing up. They share their struggles and their victories as well as the wonderful people that characterized their time at the White House. Each story is careful to recognize the individuals and settings that surround them, an attentiveness that enhanced the ability to engage with the full reality of working at a place like the White House.
“Yes She Can” is a great read for those who are interested in public service but are discouraged by the lack of representation. These stories are a reminder that the political landscape is changing for the better. This book shows that an individual’s background, identity need not hinder a public service career because public service just requires the desire to help. Each story in this collection is wildly different from the other, but they all share the same thread: hope.
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