Barbara Garsias was essentially a political virgin when she was elected to the New York City Council at age 27 as the representative from Staten Island, the lone Republican in a fervently Democratic group. Four years later, in 1990, she won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She gave birth to a daughter in 1996, and within a few months attained a national political profile with her keynote address at the GOP convention nominating Bob Dole. A year after the convention, Molinari abruptly left politics, taking a job as the anchorwoman of a Saturday morning TV news show.
In this memoir, Molinari often comes across as more interested in the joys of politicking and power than in constituents’ issues — though during her time in office her passions expanded to include researching garbage (New York City’s dump is on Staten Island) and, later, Bosnia. Molinari enjoyed breaking the conservative mold (her major departure from the party line being her pro-choice beliefs). She writes that her job was to “educate the boys” — reminding GOP hard-liners that Americans’ lives (especially women’s) are more complex and involve more compromise than ideology allows for. There are moments, however, when the former congresswoman seems an enthusiastic lightweight with a healthy dose of ambition, getting a kick out of being a sneaker-clad kid in the grownups’ wing-tip legislature.
Molinari offers a raft of reasons for quitting politics. She insists she had always longed to work in television. She’d hit the House’s “woman wall” and was no longer advancing along the chain of influence. And, with the arrival of her daughter, the “fire had gone out” of campaigning.
Molinari wastes the chance to examine the implications of her partial detour down the Mommy track: Why did the fire go out, and what happens when a woman downshifts her career for family? Though she spills out a lot of engaging just-us-gals confidences, in the end Molinari fails to illuminate her life for either political junkies or women curious about juggling a baby and a high-octane career.