DEJA VU

Hillary Clinton returned to the site of her 2016 defeat with a woman world-famous for losing everything

Six months ago, crowds of American women wandered out of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center into the streets of midtown Manhattan, shocked and disappointed to realize the country wouldn’t be electing its first female president, Hillary Clinton. Last night (June 1), the defeated nominee returned to the same spot, hat in hand.

Clinton was speaking at BookExpo in the the same building where she incorrectly thought she’d be breaking the glass ceiling in November. Her surprise interlocutor at the publishing event was Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, the bestselling 2012 memoir about starting over after losing everything.

The former secretary of state came to promote her yet untitled book, due out in September from Simon & Schuster. It will draw on quotes that have inspired her throughout her life, and feature chapters on Clinton’s inner turmoil during the campaign. “This book is, for me, a really personal, deep experience,” she said. The experience writing it was “an emotional catharsis.” Also, “very painful.”

The pairing was just shy of too on the nose. Wild, made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Reese Witherspoon, is about Strayed’s mental and emotional struggle after a series of losses: suddenly losing her mother to cancer, separating from her husband, selling her belongings, and beating a heroin addiction. The memoir, which has become a global sensation, is about how Strayed regained clarity through an arduous hike on her own.

Obviously, it had to be mentioned that long walks are something the two women have in common.

Indeed, the talk itself seemed to provide catharsis for the many women in the crowded theater, at a conference where panelists and attendees have done little to contain their disdain for the US president. The audience looked back and forth between Clinton, a nominee who won the popular vote but failed to capture the highest office, and Strayed, who has become a worldwide symbol for the messiness of womanhood and reclaiming life after loss.

The conversation wasn’t all heavy. Clinton’s jokes were as obviously rehearsed as usual, but she seemed relaxed. The two shared some light talk about Clinton’s favorite books growing up (Nancy Drew mysteries) and what she’s into now (she just finished Jersey Brothers, by Sally Mott Freeman).

Somewhere in between, Clinton said of losing to Trump, “I’m fine as a person, but I’m worried as an American.” She was referring specifically to the investigation into alleged Russian tampering in the election. The people in the room seemed to largely agree with her.

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