‘Sisters First’ Shows Bush Twins’ Surprising Normalcy
Book Festival

‘Sisters First’ Shows Bush Twins’ Surprising Normalcy

Family ties and unconventional experiences growing up highlight the twins' joint memoir.

The Bush twins. (Photo by Nathan R. Congleton)
The Bush twins. (Photo by Nathan R. Congleton)

Like any two sisters, the Bush Twins, as Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush are lovingly known in pop culture, grew up with a relatively normal childhood.

Despite having to figure out the hard way that her name was famous when pizza delivery establishments hung up on her as a kid when she tried do something as simple as order food, Barbara Bush and her sister slowly learned the ropes of being in a family of famous politicians.

“Sisters First: Stories From Our Wild and Wonderful Life,” the new book from the daughters of the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura, shows that they were shielded quite a bit from the spotlight.

True, the grandfather they lovingly refer to throughout the book as “Gampy” was the 41st president of the United States during their summers in Kennebunkport, Maine, with “Ganny,” first lady Barbara Bush. But the girls played like any other children and went boating with Gampy.

Now, as adults who are scheduled to speak Nov. 18 at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, they write about their free-spirited summers on the water, summer camps and wild paparazzi rumors from their days in the White House. Later-in-life adventures are revealed through stories of college, work and relationships with family and friends.

For 20-year-old Barbara, life at Yale University was difficult. After receiving mediocre grade after mediocre grade on papers in one course, she went to office hours with the teaching assistant in the hope of learning why her attempts to turn in great work weren’t succeeding. She was told she would receive an A if she could persuade her father not to go to war in Iraq.

Not exactly the answer she was hoping for, nor the way she tried to get better grades, but the story illustrates the ludicrous expectations others had of her influence as the daughter of a president.

Other difficulties included stares, the heartbreak of the infamous 2000 election recount and hearing peers talk horribly about the man she calls Dad. The book also recounts Barbara’s loss of a dear friend in high school to suicide.

She supplies many personal and dear moments, including sweet elements that only a sister can share about her “other half.” Such stories make the book a sentimental piece that provides a glimpse inside the personal lives of one of the most talked-about families in American political history.

For the parts Jenna writes, one early chapter titled “Accidentally Famous” begins, “Our lives were not dysfunctional, but they were at times strange.”

Aside from their POTUS lineage, the twins write about experiences common to many girls.

Sisters First
By Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush
Grand Central Publishing, 256 pages, $28

In one such part, their father had a conversation with the girls about alcoholism during a sunny walk. In another, Jenna received a text after she mispronounced a movie title on the red carpet on NBC.

“It’s a pretty well-known fact that I come from a line of people for whom pronunciation isn’t always a strong suit,” Jenna writes. But her father texted her a sweet reminder of her family’s love for her, which mattered more than one slip on TV, and advised her to “let it go.”

The girls emphasize the values by which they were raised, the love and support of their parents, and the role of communication and conversation in their home growing up.

The book is far from what I expected. It is far more homespun and down to earth.

The book is a little confusing as it flips between Jenna’s narration and Barbara’s, but overall it is a great, fast read about the life of the Bush daughters. It provides a sweet peek into both Presidents Bushes that, regardless of political affiliation, is worth picking up.


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