At the center of the Circle: The National Book Critics Circle, that is. Tonight, the Circle chooses among the finalists for one of the nation’s most prestigious literary awards. Will they tap Annette Gordon-Reed, whom WVFC interviewed last fall even before she won the National Book Award? And in the Autobiography category, watch to see if Honor Moore (seen above) snags the title for her deeply moving memoir, The Bishop’s Daughter.

(Update: Results here; to our dismay, neither author took the nod. The Book Critics had their reasons, though we’re disappointed. Without reading either, we think we sense why the Autobiography nod went to Ariel Sabar’s book about his search for his Jewish roots in Kurdish Iraq. But we wonder if any biography of V.S. Naipul — even one that the New Yorker’s George Packer calls “a magnificent tribute to the painful and unlikely struggle by which
the grandson of indentured Indian workers, born in the small island colony of Trinidad, made himself into the greatest English novelist of the past half century” — can hold a candle to Gordon-Reed’s towering, yet sneaky saga of the hugely influential Hemingses of Monticello.)

Power Women Update #27: Some new names for midlife women to brag about: Margaret Hamburg, Tina Tchen, Valerie Jarrett (again). Jarrett, who WVFC has known was rising since she arrived in Washington with the president, will co-chair the new White House Councll on Women and Girls. As Salon points out, this is both unsurprising and heartening:

In December, 50 women’s groups lobbied the president to create a bureau that was itself Cabinet-level, which this is not, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s complaining…. As Susan Scanlan of the National Council of Women’s Organizations told Politico’s Josh Gerstein: “It’s certainly more than we have had in the last eight years. We’re pretty happy with this administration.” And so are we. If you are watching the news, or if you’re a sentient being who can digest solid food, then you know there’s not exactly an excess of reasons to celebrate. So let’s enjoy this one, shall we?

Tina Tchen, Jarrett’s co-chair, has an equally deep record of service, ever since as a 1980s law student, when she was state vice president of the National Organization for Women and was one of the leaders in writing and ensuring passage of the Illinois Criminal Sexual Assault Act.

Tchen, who has been with her law firm since 1985, has broad litigation experience in state and federal courts. She has worked on cases involving shareholders, intellectual property,
constitutional matters, insurance, real estates and breach of contract. Some of the companies she has represented, according to her law firm bio, include Sprint Corporation, Abbott Laboratories, McDonald’s, Aon Corporation and Motorola.

Tchen has also represented public agencies, including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois Department of Public Aid and the Chicago Housing Authority. She successfully argued a case before the United States Supreme Court in 1992 on behalf of the State of Illinois. [She] has also done extensive pro bono work and has served on numerous Chicago boards, including for the Chicago Public Library,
University of Chicago Hospitals, Field Foundation and the Chinese American Service League.

Meanwhile, as part of what at least one journalist calls a “scrub, rinse, repeat” process, President Obama has tapped Dr. Margaret Hamburg to clean things up at the FDA. An unusual but compelling choice, the New York Times notes:

Dr. Hamburg, who was appointed by Mayor David N. Dinkins as acting commissioner in 1991 and became commissioner the following year, was one of the few top officials asked to remain when Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani took office in 1994. She was best known for developing a tuberculosis control program that produced sharp declines in the incidences of the disease in New York. Under her tenure, child immunization rates rose in the city.

She left New York in 1997 to become assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, where she created a bioterrorism initiative and led planning for pandemic flu response…

Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit public health organization, said Dr. Hamburg had revived a demoralized and cash-starved agency in New York and could do the same at the F.D.A., which faces similar problems. “Right now,” Mr. Levi said, “the F.D.A. needs a strong leader with a clear sense of
mission who can fight for the resources that the agency needs and do it in a bipartisan manner.”


— Chris L.

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