December 15, 2017
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Pantsuit Nation stories published in Maine nonprofit’s first book

By Alex Acquisto, BDN Staff
Updated:

BROOKLIN, Maine — Personal experiences of hate, racism, sexism, discrimination, hardship, empowerment and hope that Hillary Clinton supporters across the country shared in the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation will be forever immortalized in a new book that serves to document some of the members’ personal stories.

The Facebook group, which Brooklin resident Libby Chamberlain, 33, started in October 2016, has nearly 4 million members now, six months after the President Donald Trump defeated Clinton, the first woman nominated by a major party to be president.

Chamberlain said Tuesday that the Pantsuit Nation wanted to publish a book so its member stories could be presented in a way detached from the Internet, which can be noisy and distracting.

“A book is really different. You can sit with it quietly. It’s a different way of interacting with a story. The whole idea here is to share stories of people who felt like this election meant something to them. We wanted to find a way to have those voices shared beyond Facebook,” she said.

The book, titled Pantsuit Nation, is a compilation of selected member’s stories voluntarily shared in the closed group right before and in the months since the presidential election. It is being published by Flatiron Books and will be on sale starting Wednesday, May 9 for $27.99. Chamberlain will also speak about the book at Books-a-Million in Bangor at noon on Saturday, May 13.

Chamberlain, married with two children, quit her job earlier this year to devote her attention full time to the group, which is incorporated as a nonprofit but is still awaiting approval for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofit status.

This book, Chamberlain said, will help to expand the group’s reach beyond just social media; it will allow the group “to further its mission of [building] this momentum around first-person narrative into some political engagement, social awareness, social justice and progressive grassroots movement,” she said.

The group, whose name is a reference to Clinton’s clothing choice motif, has morphed into a safe haven of sorts in the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, not only for individuals disheartened by Clinton’s loss, but as a way for people sharing incidents of degradation and hardship to be reminded that they are supported and appreciated, even if by complete strangers.

“A week ago today, I married my best friend, Steve. The day could not have gone any more perfect, filled with love, tears, happiness, lots of amazing food, and a ton of dancing,” one member posted.

“But most importantly, it was probably the first same-sex marriage [ceremony] most of our guests have gone to, While it was upsetting we couldn’t celebrate under a Democratic president, I think it was a great way to show our own resistance to the current administration: with love. There really was no better way to celebrate his 100th day in office.”

Another member last month wrote, “I’m a first generation American, born to Italian-Brazilian immigrants who came to the U.S. over 45 year ago. Today, I became the first doctor in my family and I dedicated my degree to my mother, who taught me to be fiercely independent and not put up with any crap from anyone, particularly men.”

In November following the election, Chamberlain told the Bangor Daily News, “One of the things [Pantsuit Nation] has shown me is how strong we are in our diversity.”

“When you look at a group of this size — 3.9 million people — and you see all of the goodness that is coming out of these good people and supporting one another and sharing their stories, it’s hard not to be optimistic,” she said.

When Libby announced she had struck a book deal, the reception among some group members was mixed.

“Ho-hum, a pretty little coffee table book,” one member posted in a comment below Chamberlain’s announcement. “We could have had such a greater impact, this collective force for good in this time of great peril. Instead, we get a book. Somehow, I don’t find this ‘story’ very comforting.”

Regardless, the popularity of the group has earned her national attention from national media outlets, celebrities and politicians, including Clinton, herself.

“Our campaign in 2016 was not about me, and Pantsuit Nation proves that. It’s about all of us,” Clinton wrote in a letter to Libby last month that was shared on the Facebook page this week.

“I have long believed in the power of storytelling and the importance of putting people at the heart of our politics,” she wrote. “While I know we may be heartbroken by what happened and dismayed by what we see happening, Pantsuit Nation gives me hope.”

 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the group had already achieved nonprofit status.


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