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Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal. Former president George H. W. Bush had been known for saying 'Read my lips.' I began urging colleagues and reporters to'Read my pins.'

It would never have happened if not for Saddam Hussein. When U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright criticized the dictator, his poet in residence responded by calling her 'an unparalleled serpent.' Shortlythereafter, while preparing to meet with Iraqi officials, Albright pondered: What to wear? She decided to make a diplomatic statement by choosing a snake pin. Although her method of communication was new, her message was as oldas the American Revolution—Don't Tread on Me.

From that day forward, pins became part of Albright's diplomatic signature. International leaders were pleased to see her with a shimmering sun on her jacket or a cheerful ladybug; less so with a crab or a menacing wasp. Albright usedpins to emphasize the importance of a negotiation, signify high hopes, protest the absence of progress, and show pride in representing America, among other purposes.

Part illustrated memoir, part social history, Read My Pins provides an intimate look at Albright's life through the brooches she wore. Her collection is both international and democratic—dime-store pins share pride of place withdesigner creations and family heirlooms. Included are the antique eagle purchased to celebrate Albright's appointment as secretary of state, the zebra pin she wore when meeting Nelson Mandela, and the Valentine's Day heart forged byAlbright's five-year-old daughter. Read My Pins features more than 200 photographs, along with compelling and often humorous stories about jewelry, global politics, and the life of one of America's most accomplished andfascinating diplomats.


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Lacie says


This book is such a great read. Interesting that I say this, considering that it is 161 pages of mostly pictures. Call me of the magazine-reading whiz-bang generation, but I appreciated that I could meander through the pictures andstories from cover to cover within the span of a couple of hours (because: meandering reader. *You* on the other hand can probably finish it in under an hour, speedy). Nevertheless, I finished reading it with a profound desire to readmore of her books and contemplate the life of this amazing woman.
Mme. Albright became Secretary of State during my high school years, when I was blissfully unaware of little else beyond my high school circles, and back in the days when I took female empowerment for granted. (That is to say, I hadassociated feminine empowerment with a certain encouragement to act like a man.) Now that I'm older, it's with great relish that I can read books about intelligent, powerful women navigating what is still generally a man's world,without losing their femininity in the process. Through her gorgeous bejeweled pins and personal anecdotes, I was able to make a quick journey through bits and pieces of the current events I had missed growing up. And she wrote notjust of her own personal use of pins, but of the wearing of jewelry throughout history -- from Cleopatra and the Indian maharaja, to diplomatic gifting of jewelry in the present time.
What interested me was the personal journey of her life, through the expressions in her pins. They're not just a feminine embellishment in a masculine arena, but symbols of life transitions (she never bought jewelry for herself untilafter her divorce, because she was of the generation when women did not buy jewel trinkets for themselves with 'the family money,') and emotional emblems of relationships. Her favorite brooch is still a painted clay one made at schoolby her daughter for Valentine's Day. She also has three beautiful sailboat pins, symbolizing her three daughters 'full sail and long left from home-harbor.' She also has a beautiful pin given by a man whose mother had died duringHurricane Katrina -- it had been a gift from his father to his mother for their 50th wedding anniversary, now given to her in memory of his mother's admiration for her as well as their shared love of pins.
I always find great pleasure in reading history and autobiographies through unconventional motifs. This colorful, lighthearted account of her pins is such a wonderful journey through her life as a diplomat's daughter, young woman andmother, and high-powered diplomat during some of the more interesting political events of my time. It's such a pleasure to read, and of course, great fun to marvel at the gems as well!

Dana Stabenow says


A coffee table book about brooches, but don't let that frivolous description stop you. Madeleine Albright, first woman secretary of state, accessorized with pins all her life, but it wasn't until Saddam Hussein called her 'anunparalleled serpent' in a poem he allegedly wrote himself that she retaliated by wearing a pin in the shape of a gold snake coiled around a branch, a tiny diamond hanging from its mouth, to their next meeting. '..leaving themeeting,' she writes
I encountered a member of the UN press corps who was familiar with the poem; she asked why I had chosen to wear that particular pin. As the television cameras zoomed in on the brooch, I smiled and said that it was just my way ofsending a message..Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal. Former President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying, 'Read my lips.' I began urging colleaguesand reporters to 'Read my pins.'
This book is a lavishly illustrated collection of Albright's pins strung together with a series of remembrances of the times she wore them. She wore a blue diamante dove, head down, when addressing the downing of two American planes byCuba. She wore an elaborate bee pin to meetings with Yasir Arafat. 'My pin,' she writes, 'reflected my mood.' She wore a gold angel pin during public remarks on the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. She frequently matched herpins to the country she was visiting, as in wearing her zebra pins to meet with Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
At the end there is even a Pindex, which is where I went to find the page number for the photograph of the miniature silver and amber saxophone, trumpet, electric guitar, cello and piano, which she wore at the Thelonius Monk Instituteof Jazz event honoring Stevie Wonder. She writes
It's hard to tell from the picture, but I managed to get an entire jazz band onto my jacket.
Her collection is certainly eclectic, some pins encrusted with gemstones in the fashion of Fabergé, others looking like they came out of a Crackerjack box. Some of them are fabulous, like the green dragon and sword from Turkey, and allof them are charming, including her favorite, a heart-shaped clay pin created by her five-year old daughter Katie and given to Albright on Valentine's Day. 'I have often worn it since,' Albright writes.
The pin reflects one of the indispensable purposes of jewelry: to bind families together and connect one generation to the next.'
And you will love the ants scampering around on the very last page. Delightful.

Anna says


I loved this book. Note to self: get job where pins on suit jacket would not be freakishly out of place. Proceed to wear pins.

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