Of Mouse and Women

Schiff says she was inspired to write
Schiff says she was inspired to write "Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America" in part because of the cartoon "Mighty Mouse." (By Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

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By Bob Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 11, 2006

NEW YORK Let's begin with a brief case study in how the cynical, superficial American media (that's us) can distort the lives of political figures and their families.

We are talking with Karenna Gore Schiff about her new book, "Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America." The smart, personable 32-year-old daughter of the Man Who Was Almost President tells us she wrote it as a kind of therapy, an antidote to the "punched-in-the-gut" feeling she got whenever she looked at the newspaper after the 2000 election.

We nod. Seems perfectly understandable.

She also wrote the book, she says, because ever since she was a little girl, she has wished there were "more female faces in the historical pantheon." She remembers sitting at her desk at Arlington's Oakridge Elementary School, looking at the chart of the presidents on the wall and wondering why they were all male.

We'll buy that. We've got daughters ourselves, don't we?

In fact, there isn't the slightest reason to doubt the sincerity of the motives that Schiff cites for launching her literary venture. But we have a problem with them anyway.

Her reasons are just a little too . . . reasonable . We start picturing that glazed look in our readers' eyes, the one that shows up just before they abandon us for the Boondocks and Zippy the Pinhead.

Ah, but then Schiff lets her guard down for an instant -- despite a lifetime of watching journalists turn Al and Tipper Gore into unrecognizable caricatures of the parents she knows and loves -- and lets slip something we can twist into a sexier lead.

Why did she really write this book? Hey, isn't it obvious?

It's because her mom wouldn't let her watch "Mighty Mouse" as a kid.

Hold that thought for a while. It may not be quite as ridiculous as it sounds.


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