Most people remember Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis for her glamorous role as First Lady and for her memorable fashions. Though she was constantly followed by the paparazzi and was closely scrutinized whenever she went out in public, she was an intensely private woman who divulged little about herself, even among her closest friends and colleagues. She burned some of her most private letters before her death and did as much as she could to ensure that her remaining papers would not be released for public consumption after her death. Anyone who suggested that she publish her memoirs was politely shot down. Yet, as William Kuhn alleges in Reading Jackie, her “autobiography” has been right in front of everyone this whole time if you knew where to look.
Following the death of her second husband, Aristotle Onasis, Jackie (as she was known by her coworkers) surprised a lot of people by getting a job as an editor at Viking, and later Doubleday. As the widow of a former president, and later of a filthy rich man, one wouldn’t expect a woman of her position to go out and get a job. But for Jackie, the experience was liberating, and she would spend the last two decades of her life editing close to 100 books, though she refused to allow her name be printed in the majority of them. Overseeing everything from high-end photography books with niche markets to bestsellers, the books she chose to cultivate reveal more about her values, interests, and beliefs than most people realize.
This was a really interesting book for me to delve into. I knew almost nothing about Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis’s life outside of her role as First Lady–I wasn’t even aware that she worked as an editor after her marriages! Getting to read about this aspect of her life was fascinating, especially since during this time, a woman of her position choosing to get a job was still uncommon at the time. This book provided revealing insight as to why getting a job was so important to her, even analyzing the depression and rage she experienced after JFK was assassinated, and at her troubled marriage to Onasis. She had always been a serious reader and had once been an aspiring writer, so becoming an editor turned out to be a perfect fit.