Read my Pins by Madeleine Albright


Author: Madeleine Albright

Title: Read my Pins – Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 176

Geographical Setting: the world

Time Period: 1993 – present

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: In this book, Madeleine Albright takes us behind the scenes of her career as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997 and as the Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001.

We get a glimpse into the many subtle messages that go on during the delicate negotiations that diplomats handle so masterfully.  The first time that Albright actually used her jewelry to send a message was after she criticized Saddam Hussein during a United Nations meeting.  In response, his poet in residence called her “an unparalled serpent.”  Shortly after, when she had a meeting with Iraqi officials, Albright chose to wear a serpent pin as an unspoken message that she would not be intimidated.

After that incident, widely reported in the press, world leaders looked to Albright’s shoulder to get a measure of her mood.

This is just the first of many stories Albright shares that shed a new light on the tremendous responsibilities that diplomats shoulder where every glance and every gesture are subject to interpretation.

In addition to her stories about pins as barometers of her take on the success of a negotiation, Albright shares her personal history with jewelry – from the first pin her husband gave her as a college student to the handmade pin her daughter gave her to the many, many pins she’s received as gifts.  In between these stories, she manages to weave in lessons about the historical significance of jewelry.

Subject Headings: Albright, Madeleine Korbel; United States. Secretary of State; Jewelry; Diplomats, American; International relations; Diplomacy; Women diplomats — United States; Women politicians; United States — Foreign relations; United States — Politics and government; Autobiographies (Adult literature)

Appeal: relaxed, measured pace; closely observed characters, insightful, realistic, thought-provoking, contemporary setting, details of diplomacy and politics, comfortable, intimate, sometimes humorous, candid, conversational, engaging, sophisticated and thoughtful.

3 terms that best describe this book: information, insightful and detailed

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

7000 Years of Jewelry: An International History and Illustrated Survey from the Collections of the British Museum, editor Hugh Tait – This illustrated history of jewelry includes information and illustrations of jewelry made around the world and throughout history.  Includes 400 photographs.  Chosen because Albright touches on the history of jewelry in her books; plus these photographs complement the beautiful photos in Albright’s book.

Brooching it Diplomatically: A Tribute to Madeleine K. Albright by Helen W. Drutt
Helen W. Drutt challenged 61 artists from 16 countries to design brooches themed with political messages.  This book features those design.  Chosen to emphasize the creative use of jewelry to convey a message.

Seasons of Her Life: A Biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright
by Ann Blackman
This is the first of many biographies written about Albright and it sheds considerable light on her childhood, her intellectual curiosity, her personal growth as she pursued her Ph.D. after a divorce, and her professional career as she became the first woman secretary of state.  Interwoven in the biography is information about the history of Czechoslovakia, the rise of the feminist movement and the foreign policies of the Carter and Clinton administrations.  Chosen to provide greater depth into these issues raised in Read my Pins.

Purple springs by Nellie L. McClung
This fictional account of Pearlie Watson follows her growth from a school techer in Manitoba to a social activist and ultimately a successful politician.  Chosen because it presents a fictional account of a life and career similar to those of Madeleine Albright.

The Lucky Ones by Doris Mortman
This novel follows a ruthless presidential campaign and the involvement of four powerful women – a foreign affairs analyst who serves as an advisor to the candidate, an ambitious national television reporter covering his opponent, a congresswoman who becomes an opponent, and an national advocate for children who transitions into a lobbyist.  Chosen to highlight the intrigue of a presidential race and the contributions of powerful women.

A Time to Run by Barbara Boxer
This novel, written by the former senator from California Barbara Boxer with novelist Mary Rose Hayes is a fictional account of a politician’s growth from the beginning of her career as an advocate for children in the 70s.  Chosen because of the unique perspective Barbara Boxer brings to the story.


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