Valerie Biden Owens offers readers insights into her family, political and otherwise in upcoming her memoir, Growing Up Biden. As the younger (and only) sister of President Joe Biden, she has a unique story to tell. At its heart is a deep trust between family members. And that’s the foundation on which she, her brother, and most of their family have built a lifetime of public service.
Biden Owens delicately balances family stories with public experiences. The former often made this only child wish for siblings, and even brought a tear to my eye. On the other hand, the Biden family has endured plenty of heartbreaking events in the public eye, right along with their triumphs.
As her brother’s primary campaign manager, Biden Owens went from teaching social studies to living the political life. But politics was never the sum total of what she did. So she also talks about their childhood, and the way the family pulled together after Biden’s wife and young daughter were killed in a car crash. And in between campaigns, Biden Owens also builds a family of her own, with her lawyer husband and three kids.
If you’re looking for tell-all dirt, this is certainly the wrong place to find it. Biden Owens clearly puts her family first and every family story has a positive spin on it, even when folks disagree.
Growing Up Biden is an eminently readable memoir. And, Valerie Biden Owens seems like a personable, down-to-earth woman. Many of her life experiences are unique, while other parts of her story relate easily to regular life.
As I read, I thought many times about that moment on 2020 Super Tuesday when a protester rushed onto the stage. Those closest to Joe Biden were his wife (and now First Lady) Jill and his sister Valerie Biden Owens. That Jill pushed back at the protester and protected the siblings is a testament to the way this family operates. One for all and all for one is their implicit and explicit motto.
Despite offering her side of many public events, Biden Owens also makes plain that being Catholic underpins her life. Her faith is a subtle thread throughout this book. I also appreciated her superstitious nature. Perhaps it’s a function of her political life or her upbringing. Either way, the stories about owls, Saint’s days, and signs from heaven made me smile.
If you’re curious about the Biden family from their own perspective, this is a perfect choice. It’s also the story of a woman at the dawn of the feminist movement who forges her own path, despite significant obstacles. I highly recommend it.
Pair with other political books like Dan Pfeifer’s Yes We (Still) Can for the campaign comparisons. Another natural pair would be Joe Biden’s Promise Me, Dad for his perspective on the same time periods.
Many thanks to Celadon Books and the author for an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. Growing Up Biden debuts on April 12, 2022.