cover image Growing Up Biden: A Memoir

Growing Up Biden: A Memoir

Valerie Biden Owens. Celadon, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-82176-8

“I’m not a political scientist, nor am I a policy wonk. However, I am an expert on Joe Biden,” writes the president’s younger sister in this touching account of life with her oldest sibling. Born in 1945, Biden Owens was close to Biden from a young age. “Our parents,” she writes, “drilled it into our heads from birth that we were to take care of one another.” This mentality helped them weather incredible losses, including the 1972 deaths of Biden’s wife and daughter in a car accident. At the time, Biden Owens—who had just managed Biden’s successful underdog U.S. Senate campaign—was an essential presence for her nephews, Beau and Hunter Biden, which enabled her brother to assume his duties and to go on to become Delaware’s longest-serving senator. A key advisor to Biden throughout his political career, she details the guidance she offered him—“serv[ing] as his sounding board or gut check, and speak[ing] as a truth-teller”—while touching on familiar beats in the arc of Biden’s career, including his first two presidential campaigns, and tenure as vice president. However, the best moments are Biden Owens’s intimate recollections, such as her awkward first meeting with the future Jill Biden over a tuna salad lunch (“I gestured toward it, calling to her as if she were a scared cat”). Politics aside, this shines with heart and humanity. Agent: Matt Latimer, Javelin. (Apr.)