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Gerhart, Ann

GERHART, Ann

PERSONAL:

Married Mike Sokolove (a journalist); children: three.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Bethesda, MD. Office—1150 15th St., NW, Washington, DC 20071. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Journalist. Daily News, Philadelphia, PA, "Tattler" columnist, 1984-95; Washington Post, "Style" section columnist, "Reliable Sources" columnist, 1995—.

WRITINGS:

The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributing editor, Glamour magazine, 2004—.

SIDELIGHTS:

Ann Gerhart's interest in First Lady Laura Bush began, as Susan Watters reported in Women's Wear Daily, "when I heard that she wiped her shelves down with Clorox to relax and organizes her extensive literary collection according to the Dewey Decimal System." The result of such interest was the 2004 biography, The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush.

Gerhart, a former Philadelphia Daily News journalist who has written in the "Style" section of the Washington Post since 1995, covered Laura Bush for her newspaper beginning in 2001. Gerhart spent three years researching and writing this biography, which examines the brighter and darker sides of Bush. For example, Gerhart devotes a chapter to the fatal car accident the teenage Laura Welch was involved in. Driving through a stop sign in her small town in Texas, she struck another car, killing its driver, Michael Douglas, a high school friend of hers. After examining police records from the time, Gerhart "came away with pointed questions about how thoroughly the investigation was conducted," according to Kathy Kiely, writing in USA Today Online.

Gerhart also covers Laura Bush's career as a teacher and librarian in minority schools and in low-income Texas neighborhoods, a career she gave up when she married at age thirty-one.

The biographer does not shy away from the first lady's conservative husband or from their children. Gerhart demonstrates that Laura Bush also appears to have a private intellectual life, separate from her husband's, with interests that draw her to literature, poetry, and opera. But unlike the first lady who immediately preceded her, Hillary Clinton, Bush takes no controversial stands and makes a concerted effort, as Gerhart's title implies, to be the "perfect wife" for a politician.

Reviewing Gerhart's biography in the New York Times Book Review, Robin Toner noted that the author "has written an interesting book that at times makes Mrs. Bush seem a modern version of those 19th-century Edith Wharton wives, finding their own rich private lives amid the hard conventions of marriage and motherhood." For a Publishers Weekly contributor, "Gerhart's portrait of the first lady is much like the public perception of her: a pleasant, opaque woman and a conundrum." This same reviewer further asserted that Gerhart avoids the usual "'sneering and sniping' often directed at Laura Bush in this not unsympathetic probing of the first lady's mysteries." Yet for a Kirkus Reviews critic, this approach is less than effective: "Gerhart is all too obvious, cooing and cutting lots of slack." Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan described the book as a "primarily positive portrait," while Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Monthly called it a "short, breezy, guilty pleasure of a book, full of juicy quotes [and] anecdotes." Kiely concluded that "Gerhart has made a good start at introducing us to the woman behind the smiling public mask."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 2004, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush, p. 814.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2003, review of The Perfect Wife, p. 1390.

New York Times Book Review, February 15, 2004, Robin Toner, review of The Perfect Wife, p. 30.

Publishers Weekly, January 19, 2004, review of The Perfect Wife, p. 67.

Women's Wear Daily, January 16, 2004, Susan Watters, review of The Perfect Wife, p. 15.

ONLINE

CityPaper.net,http://www.citypaper.net/ (July 6-13, 1995), Howard Altman, "Tab Girl Goes South."

USA Today Online,http://www.usatoday.com/ (January 6, 2004), Kathy Kiely, review of The Perfect Wife.*

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