Every once in a while I come across a book that grabs my attention and doesn’t let go. Jackie After O is one of those books. Tina Cassidy does a fantastic job of presenting the facts about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ life in 1975 in an engaging way. She provides us with important background information that helps us better understand the scope of what Jackie endured and what she ultimately accomplished. Cassidy captures the era in which Jackie lived and the expectations of women at that time through Jackie’s experiences. Though Jackie was extremely intelligent, she hid that intelligence and instead portrayed the expectations set upon her by others – the quiet, demure, supportive wife who was only interested in homemaking and her husband. We learn about the true Jackie who was a great journalist, editor, and preservationist; a voracious reader of the classics; and a woman with a level of tenacity rarely seen. Jackie did the majority of her important work behind the scenes and always credited others for her accomplishments. Cassidy provides amazing contrast between the true Jackie and the superficial Jackie everyone believed her to be. She provides examples of the outside perceptions of Jackie through headlines and personal comments of others and then provides examples of what was actually going on in Jackie’s life at those moments. There are many examples of personal commentary by those who met Jackie that exemplify the stark contrast between how Jackie was perceived by outsiders and the media and the person she truly was behind the façade imposed upon her.
Jackie After O is so important in helping us understand that what we see in the headlines and how we perceive others to be is not always true. Those thrust into the spotlight often take on a public persona that shields their own vulnerabilities and perceived flaws. The most haunting example of this is the photos Cassidy provides us. In nearly every photo, Jackie has on her picture-perfect-plastic smile for the cameras even though many of them were taken when she was experiencing unimaginable devastation in her life. What Cassidy captures so well is the humanness behind the iconic figure that Jackie was. Jackie made mistakes, as well all do, but her mistakes were paraded in front of her and in front of the entire world. And yet, she continued to improve herself despite the ridicule she faced; she continued to evolve as a woman in an era when women were not supposed to aspire to anything beyond being good wives and mothers; and she continued to make the best of every situation in which she found herself. Jackie was a woman of action and we can all learn from her bravery and courage in the face of life experiences many of us will never endure.