Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself by Jill Biden (2019)
I’m not much for political memoirs. However, with Joe Biden as one of the major candidates for the 2020 presidential election, I thought it might be fun to read about the woman behind the man.
First Ladies tend to attract a lot of attention. From Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison to Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, each woman has navigated a tricky role that is unpaid and has no technical responsibilities but still has a staff, an office, and an enormous platform.
But what about the Second Lady?
If First Ladies tend to be lightning rods for commentary, Second Ladies are often able to avoid the spotlight—or, at least, the spotlight shines less brightly on them.
Such is the case with Dr. Jill Biden.
Dr. Jill Biden was a 23-year-old divorcee when she was set up on a blind date with then-Senator Joe Biden in 1975. Joe was in his early 30’s, just a few years into his Senate career. He was also a single, widowed father of two sons. Jill was en route to a career as an English teacher. It seemed like an odd setup, but the pair clicked very quickly.
In Where the Light Enters, Jill Biden (also known as “Dr. B.”) recounts how her relationship developed with her Senator spouse. She talks about navigating complex relationships with Biden’s two sons, Beau and Hunter, and her uneasy development as a political wife.
In her book, Dr. Biden largely remains apolitical. She spends the book sharing personal stories about the Biden family’s complicated and often tragic history. She talks about her role as stepmom, worrying about honoring Neilia, Joe’s first wife, especially with her stepsons. She recounts her husband’s 1988 brain aneurysms that nearly killed him after his first presidential run, and required months of recovery. She recounts struggling with worry as the stepmom of Beau, deployed service member. She also recounts the harrowing experience of losing Beau to brain cancer in 2014.
Dr. Biden also talks about her own career. She holds an EdD from the University of Delaware, and has spent much of her teaching career in community college systems. In 2009, upon her husband taking office as Vice President, she became the first Second Lady in American history to hold a paying job during her husband’s tenure. Because of her relatively low profile, Dr. Biden has been able to continue teaching with many of her students unaware that their professor routinely spent evenings at White House events.
Regardless of one’s political affiliation, there is much to admire and enjoy about Where the Light Enters. It’s a poignant look at the world of a woman who well may be our nation’s First Lady come January.