The book “What Jackie Taught Us” by Santi Flaherty written and published after Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s death describes not only the biography but also the lessons Jackie taught other women. Of course, this is only metaphorical meaning, and she was not a teacher, but really all her life from beginning to end, she was a kind of an icon for women; and have given a lot of lessons for the future generations.
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After reading the book it becomes clear that Tina Santi Flaherty examined the way of life, friends, family and events concerning Jackie very precisely. Though the author of the book never knew her personally, but only lived beside her, Tina managed to make a great biography which does not look as a traditional description of the way of life of a famous person. She also made a great analysis of Jackie’s life.
In the book by Tina Santi Flaherty Jackie is portrayed as the First Lady, and later a wife of famous businessman Aristotle Onassis, which from the first point of view seems like another “iron lady”, wearing a mask of strictness, self-confidence, awareness. On the contrary, under this mask was hiding a sensitive soul with hopes, feelings of love and care. The aim of the book is not only to reveal what Jackie taught us, such as being a successful woman, but also making the readers perceive the real Jackie Kennedy Onassis who cared about her two children and husband.
Some people wonder how style, success and strong character were combined with caring soul and rich inner world. That is what many people cherished in Jackie and admired her for this. This is what the theme of the book is about.
I. Tina Santi Flaherty brief biographical note
Tina Santi Flaherty is a lifelong admirer of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the First Lady of America, the wife of John Kennedy, and later on the life partner of Aristotle Onassis. Tina appeared to live in one building with Jackie Kennedy on 5th Avenue in New York, where Jackie lived for more than 30 years. Though they never knew each other personally, Santi Flaherty decided to write the biography of Jackie, as she was a well-known icon of style, fashion, and American culture. Additionally, Santi Flaherty was a businesswoman, who has gained success not only through her writing. She was the first woman elected as a vice president of three American largest companies: GTE, Colgate-Palmolive, and Grey Advertising. Described by Business Week as a person who relates to top-businessmen league, she is also the author of The Savvy Woman’s Success Bible and Talk Your Way to the Top. Tina Santi Flaherty is a famous coach for educators and politician. Everything Tina does, she does with a creative approach and inspiration.
After her death from cancer in 1994 the book about Jackie Kennedy was first published in 2004. In the book Tina calls Jackie a kind of “Kennedy Blessing”, and the blessing for the whole America. Although her life was full of tragedies, like Kennedy’s assassination before her very eyes, and later Onassis’s death, she has never lost hope and unique style in everything she did. This is the main message in the book.
II. Themes, ideas, author’s arguments.
1. Parents role in Jackie’s life.
There are different opinions in various biographies about who Jackie’s parents were: Irish or French. Nonetheless, they taught her good manners, positive attitude towards life, kindness, and way of conduct. Santi Flaherty proves the importance of the role Jackie’s parents played in her life by drawing vivid examples. Once father taught Jackie: “To be noticed in a crowd, he advised, walk to the center of a room, put a dazzling smile on your face, and keep your chin up. Don’t let your eyes dart around the room,” (Flaherty 127). Santi Flaherty writes in her book what Jackie’s father liked to repeat: “Never act as if you’re looking for someone: they should be looking for you”. The author sees in these words the background of Jackie’s future success, both in personal life or work.
Mother has also inspired the future First Lady of the USA, but quite in adifferent way. “Her mother told her that she was not feminine, that her hair was too frizzy, that her size 10 feet were too big, her shoulders too broad and her eyes set too wide apart,” writes Flaherty (131). In such a way the offensive comments by Jackie’s mother inspired her to strive for perfection, and had helped Jackie to become an icon of style and fashion, even for future generations. So the role of the parents was very prominent in Jackie’s life. They taught her to be self-confident, unique, feeling like a person who always reaches the goals she sets, no matter how difficult it is.
2. Doing things your own way is one of the main lessons.
“From the beginning it appeared that Jackie somehow wanted to do things her way, even choosing the date of her birth. Due to arrive in mid-June, she was born six weeks later on July 28, 1929…”, Santi Flaherty wrote (158). Analyzing Jackie’s personality the reader is enabled to understand the time she was growing up. Flaherty wants to prove that Jackie was of exceptional nature, not a typical woman. She wanted to do things in her own way. The examples can be brought up from her student years, career in Vogue, and of course, her personal life. She has tried to achieve the highest results in everything she did, passing such skill onto us.
3. Men are attracted by both beauty and brain.
This idea was proved by personal example of Jackie. Initially she accepted her mother’s thought that the men seem not like witty women. In the future life she was reassured that things are going otherwise. Men are bored with unintelligent women who like to be glamorous most of all. Jackie was not a person of that kind. She was intelligent, smart, beautiful, a woman of grace. That was what attracted Kennedy in her most of all. He could talk with her on every topic, including politics and culture.
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4. Icon of style
Jackie’s dresses and accessories made her look fantastic and loved by wide range of people. Soon she has become the icon of style due to her unique taste in clothing for several generations. All her dresses, jewelry, shoes were chosen with a great precision. So cloths are also an integral part of every woman’s image.
5. Good manners
Every woman should have good manners and good attitude to life. That what Jackie had too. The stages of Jackie’s life and her personal development illuminated in the book teach all the female readers to stand with dignity, no matter what happens while life goes on. Jackie was not only the icon of style for American women, but also an example of manners. Jack and Jackie often received VIP-guests in the White House; among them were Presidents, Prime ministers, the Queen. All of them admired Jackie’s style, beauty, manners, attention, and kindness.
The book What Jackie Taught Us by Santi Flaherty reveals the readers some unknown pages of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s biography. The material of the book is subdivided into prologue, introduction (written by Susan Lucci), 8 chapters, epilogue, notes, selected bibliography, photographs, and index. The book is well-illustrated, mostly with photos of Jackie. The book is worthy, well-written and easily readable. The number of pages is 230, and this allows reading it quickly. The author pays a very great attention to details – Jackie’s parent’s comments, her dresses and jewelry, relations with people. All these details allow the readers to understand Jackie’s personality better, as well as her image and inner world. It is very impressive moment in a book stating about Jackie and John Kennedy first meeting when she were having an interview with him. Their relations take very important part of the book.
In addition, the author’s treatment to Jackie is rather positive. Tina Santi Flaherty admires her personality and the way of life. They are both rich and successful women, who serve the examples of how women can gain success.
The book is written in a good narrative style. Thanks to simple language of the book, it is very easy to understand. Santi Flaherty’s work is enriched by metaphors, epithets, allegories and other figures of speech which make the book very interesting and sophisticated at the same time
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The main idea of the book is that a woman of success reaches her aims in everything, underlining that striving for perfection is a talent to be good in everything. Jackie’s manners, style, image, cloths, jewelry, inner world and feelings – is not the complete list of qualities that people admired her for. The author of the book tries to render the image of Jackie as successful lady on the one hand, and a caring wife and mother on the other hand. She gained success almost in every field due to her charisma and luck, but mostly due to her work hard on herself everyday to achieve her goals.