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Penis Politics
Penis Politics by Karen Hinton
by Karen Hinton


 
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Jackson, MS: Sartoris Publishing Group (December 1, 2021)

Paperback. Signed.

This is a compelling coming-of-age story, set both in small-town Mississippi and big-city New York, with a long layover in the nation’s capital. Karen Hinton chronicles her life from tiny Soso, Mississippi (pop. 408), to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), where she played on the Lady Rebels basketball team, had embarrassing encounters with literary luminaries such as William Styron and Willie Morris, and received a degree in journalism . . . to stints at two newspapers, where she worked as a reporter—the Jackson Daily News and the Rocky Mountain News—to working on the political campaigns of two Black political candidates, one of whom was elected to Congress, thus becoming the first Black representative from Mississippi since Reconstruction.

Hinton went on to become one of the most colorful and outspoken political communications professionals in Washington and New York. Best known for her role as press secretary to both former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, Karen played what Politico dubbed the “Helen of Troy role” in the clash between the former Governor of New York and the Mayor that the New York Times called “one of America’s ugliest political feuds.” The Wall Street Journal has noted “the wisdom she dispensed in a Southern twang” in dealing with the strutting and chest pounding of New York’s two most powerful leaders.

In 1995, Karen joined the Clinton Administration. During the time she worked as press secretary for Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, President Clinton began to face charges of womanizing (and worse). When Clinton’s defenders tried to dismiss the women as “trailer park trash” and “bimbos” Karen went public with her own story about Clinton asking for a night of sex when he was Governor of Arkansas and she was a young Democratic campaign aide in Mississippi. The revelation resulted in Karen being eased out of her senior administration position, one of the events which sparked her interest in giving a name to “penis politics.”

At the center of Hinton’s incredible rise to the pinnacle of success was an undercurrent of men behaving badly. The role that “penis politics” played in Hinton’s life began in childhood with a school employee who demanded sexual favors from her female classmates—and extended throughout her life as she bore witness to the struggles that she and her friends and colleagues have undergone to deal with sexual abuse, sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Mississippi native Karen Hinton is the author of Penis Politics: A Memoir of Women, Men & Power. She also served as a communications aide to many Democratic politicians. She was a press secretary for former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, the late DNC Chair Ronald Brown, and former U.S. Congressman Mike Espy, the first Black Congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction in 1986. Known for never ducking a fight, Hinton was at the peak of her career when a catastrophic brain injury from a freak accident confronted her with the battle of her life. Emerging from a coma, learning to walk and talk again, Hinton was determined to “speak up, not shut up” on issues involving women, men and power in politics. Hinton regularly contributes guest columns to the New York Daily News and other publications, focusing on the topics of #MeToo, sexual harassment in politics and skewering big oil, big banks and other bullies whenever possible. Earlier in her career, Hinton was a journalist in Mississippi and Colorado, a cocktail waitress in Aspen and a high school teacher in Mississippi.


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