Badass Women's Book Club October Book: Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win
Charlotte Walsh, COO of one of the fastest-growing companies in the world, is running for senator in Pennsylvania. She's moved her family of five to the town where she and her husband grew up, Elk Hollow, where the struggling working-class economy is a world away from the luxury of their West Coast lives. Class becomes an issue. “Don’t say the word sabbatical,” her blunt, single-minded campaign manager interrupts her at their first meeting. “You sound elitist.” But gender becomes, predictably, the true crux of the campaign. A collapse sparks pregnancy rumors, Charlotte’s shoe choice becomes a major headline, and an offensive, sexist comment from a rival is accidentally spoken into a microphone. All of this plays out the way it would—and has—played out today. We see glimpses of what the public thinks of Charlotte through several fragments of “real” texts: an EMILY’s List endorsement, an MSNBC interview transcript, and several think pieces and Twitter threads. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article explains helpfully that Pennsylvania has never elected a female governor or U.S. senator. Mostly, however, these texts are asides and attempts at verisimilitude that add no depth to the fast-paced plot. As Election Day nears, marked in a countdown at the beginning of each chapter, Charlotte’s marriage frays. Secrets are hinted at but not fully revealed to the reader until quite late. By then, they can only disappoint. There are, however, a few scenes and figures that resonate. Notably, Charlotte’s mentor, a retired female senator, has a complex and nuanced story arc. But mostly the tone is just short of satire and takes aim at everything.
A novel that asks whether a woman can "have it all" but that never even approaches an answer. (Kirkus Reviews)
About the Author
Jo Piazza is the author of seven critically acclaimed books, both fiction and non-fiction which have been translated into more than ten languages.
A former editor and columnist with Yahoo, Current TV and the New York Daily News, her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York magazine, Glamour, Elle, Time, Marie Claire, the Daily Beast, and Slate. She holds an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s in journalism from Columbia University, and a master’s in religious studies from New York University.
She lives in California with her husband, son and giant dog.
More about this month’s pick…
'Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win' author Jo Piazza on why ambition is a dirty word for women
(Below are excerpts from an interview by Laura Johnson that first appeared on cleveland.com)
You interviewed 100 women politicians, Republican and Democrat. What did they say about running as a woman? Why is it so much harder?
I did interview women on both sides of the aisle. You hear the same things over and over.
Women are asked what their husband thinks and who’s watching her children. Men are never asked that. They are constantly told to smile. One candidate told me she got TMJ because she forced herself to smile too often. People comment on what they wear and how they wear it. The advice they get is schizophrenic, to wear more dresses so they look softer or wear more suits so they look smarter.
The media, more than the actual voter, is obsessed with women’s appearance and women’s home life, their marriage and children. Women journalists are often harder on women politicians than male.
Do you think some men are intimidated by women’s ambition? Charlotte is unapologetically ambitious.
I hate to constantly hammer home that I blame men. But I blame men and pop culture. We’ve been programmed.
In TV and movies, made in Hollywood by directors who are mostly men, we never see the work that women put in to get where they are. Because we don’t see the work, it’s out of the norm. And anything out of the norm is scary.
Men portray women the way they see them. They see ambition as scary. It’s a vicious cycle. We have to be deprogrammed from thinking that way.
(This interview by Laura Johnson first appeared on cleveland.com)
Do you think women candidates are in general better than men?
I think women candidates can be flawed.
But the majority of them run because they want to fix something that’s broken. A lot of men run because they have an ego.
When we see women elected, life doesn’t become just easier for women, but for everyone. Healthcare, childcare. These are kitchen table issues that women fight for. They’ve experienced it. Men candidates just don’t (care) about them. We’re told we’re supposed to have all the babies, but then there’s no one to help us. The system is so broken that there are days like, I’m not going to work anymore. We can’t afford it.
The virtual discussion for this month’s book will take place on Sunday, October 29th at 8:00 p.m. EST in our Facebook group (Badass Women’s Book Club Members). Please join us!
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