I first actually viewed Fiona Hill when she testified at Trump’s first impeachment hearing and I was just so impressed. Then I realized I’d already read a book by her – Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin was published in 2020 and I read it then as I was fascinated by Putin.
There Is Nothing For You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century
By Fiona Hill
Oct 2021 / (432 pages)
Read by Fiona Hill
Rating: 7.5 / memoir – economics
I first actually saw Fiona Hill when she testified at Trump’s first impeachment hearing and I was just so impressed. That book is also read by Hill and yes, her accent was challenging until I got used to it. Then I realized I’d already read a book by her – Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin was published in 2020 and I read it then because I was fascinated by Putin.
Hill grew up in the mainly coal town of Bishop Auckland in the 1970s. Those were the Thatcher years and Hill was a poor girl in a hard-pressed post-industrial part of England. Her father told her to get out of there if she wanted opportunity. She followed his advice – hence the title.
Her family is presented as being rather typical of the times and place. And typical also of parts of the US for the last couple decades where jobs have disappeared and there’s not much “opportunity” to be had. J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and Tara Westover’s Educated are memoirs with this theme – coming up out of working class areas where the work part has disappeared.
Hill’s focus is the economics of the area and her own family and that works into advice to others as well as the health and education necessary to make use of any possible opportunity to be found. Her mother worked in health care, her father in various fields so Hill aimed toward gaining an education where, in the 1970s, changes were occurring in both the US and UK enabling the poor to gain access to the middle class.
One thing which was different about Hill’s situation is that her parents scrimped and were lucky enough to be able to purchase and keep a home. She won a scholarship to a local high school, but didn’t have the money for the uniforms. “Even when opportunity presented itself it took resources to seize it.” Instead she went to the local public school where weren’t enough text books to go around and other difficulties.
She then made use of all opportunities as they come along with some room for choosing and a lot of room for luck. She sought out small grants and scholarships at the library and through volunteering and tips from others including her local political representatives, churches and unions – almost anywhere. She ended up getting a PhD, moving to the US and getting a job at the US State Department. This has to be persistent and personally driven – there was no one program for opportunity and success.
One problem Hill faced at almost all levels of advancement was her accent which spoke of her northeast working class background. It became a stigma whenever she met British people who knew immediately where she was from and she never “fixed” her accent.
Trump is discussed as being particularly bad about prejudice and stereotyping women and experts. Hill faced it all. And she wrote a book about how to find opportunity when it seems entirely stacked against you.
And she has a multitude of suggestions for how individuals, communities and countries can do this. The book is mostly about the sub-title: “Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century.”
It’s a pretty good book but I got bored when the talk turned too much to specific opportunities other than hers. The last third seems to drag on and on. I most enjoyed the memoir and the parts about life in the US with Trump.