Embracing Our Contradictions

“You must know everything,” advised Russian writer Isaac Babel, whose own strange and unlikely perspective—a revolutionary Jew who survived czarist pogroms to be murdered by Stalinism—should inspire us in these weeks, months, years of our continued residency in the Society of the Spectacle. So, when a chance arrives to put on your galoshes and wade right in to the simulacrum, to get an up-close look at its workings, you might expect to first pass through a security checkpoint. You'll have to if you want to meet Jenna Bush, First Twin, at this unlikely reading event at Orange County's best children's bookstore.

Perhaps you think a security phalanx is the only thing Ms. Bush, author of a young adult nonfiction book called Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope, has in common with, say, Salman Rushdie. But maybe not, wise guy. Bush graduated from the University of Texas as an English major, taught elementary school and completed a UNICEF internship in Latin America and the Caribbean, so except for being born into a family of patrician warmongers, she sounds like our kinda people. Bush is a lovely young woman and the book offers a righteous piece of human empathy. It's a primer for teens on AIDS/HIV, abuse and poverty among women and girls; in other words, a socialist-feminist critique.

Some proceeds go to UNICEF, so that while it might be one kind of fun to joke about her rehabilitation—drunken sorority brat to goodwill ambassador—we're taking the high ground this week, working on recalibrating our own worldview the way she seems to have done. Buying a copy of the book for signing gets you in and, yes, frisked by a Secret Service agent, another experience you might try at least once.

Jenna Bush at Whale of a Tale Children's Bookshoppe, 4199 Campus Drive, Suite A (University Place), Irvine, (949) 854-8288; whaleofatale.com. Tues., 6 p.m.


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