WebHeader_Grove.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Join as a $13-a-month sustainer and get the retro NHPR t-shirt!

Former First Lady Barbara Bush's Book Editor Remembers Her As Smart, Funny And Direct

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Former first lady Barbara Bush has died. Her son, former president George W. Bush, issued a statement that said in part, Barbara Bush was a fabulous first lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I'm a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother, he said.

We're joined now by Lisa Drew, who edited four of Barbara Bush's books. They became friends over the years. Welcome, and I'm sorry for your loss.

LISA DREW: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: What will you most remember about your friendship with the former first lady?

DREW: Well, she was exactly as she seemed. She was obviously a very famous woman, a very accomplished woman, a very important woman in the country. But she was a very natural person. She was fun to be with. There was no pretense about her whatsoever. She was very funny, very smart and did not suffer fools gladly, as I'm sure you know, having observed her over the years.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

DREW: She was very direct (laughter). And fortunately, when she was direct with me, it was very rare. But...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

DREW: But, you know, she expressed her opinions and sometimes got into a little trouble for it. But people loved her and forgave her for it.

SHAPIRO: Do you remember the first time you met her?

DREW: I do, yes. I met her in 1983. As it happened, I was then working at Doubleday, and Nelson Doubleday, who owned the company, was a friend of hers and then-Vice President George Bush. And Nelson Doubleday suggested to her that she write a book to raise funds for literacy about their little cocker spaniel, a dog called C. Fred Bush. So she came to the office to see me in New York. And, you know, it was one of those things. She came in, and of course I was a little nervous 'cause she was the wife of the vice president. And, you know, I said, oh, Mrs. Bush, it's so nice to meet you, and I'd love to talk to you about your book. She said, well, first of all, call me Bar.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

DREW: So it was such an icebreaker. And you know how sometimes with people the chemistry just works?

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

DREW: She and I just were on the same wavelength. And we were not politically aligned, although she was very moderate. And we agreed on a lot. But we just hit it off. I loved her sense of humor, and I loved her directness. And I loved working with her on the four books. I thought her memoir was particularly important because it was very candid and covered her entire life instead of just the years that she was in the White House.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

DREW: So I thought she really did a wonderful job. And of course Millie's book astounded us all because it went onto The New York Times' best-seller list.

SHAPIRO: This is the book from the perspective of her dog written in the voice of her dog.

DREW: The second book - the second dog book.

SHAPIRO: Right.

DREW: The first was C. Fred's story. And then she did Millie's book when she was first lady. And I'll never forget calling her the day The New York Times book review came out and said, you're not going to believe this, but Millie is number one on the best-seller list.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

DREW: And she said, well, why wasn't Fred...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

DREW: ...About the first book. She's really going to be greatly missed.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what you think her legacy will be.

DREW: Well, I think of course her relationship with two presidents is a pretty important legacy.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

DREW: But I think her focus on literacy, which really drove her from the time she was the wife of the vice president - she felt she ought to have some kind of a focus on a mission and do something from her position of visibility. She really said, you know, a lot of problems in this country could be solved if more people were literate. We've got to make people literate because if they can get an education, we can make a lot of headway in a lot of areas. So I think that is a really, really important legacy of hers.

SHAPIRO: Well, Ms. Drew, thank you so much for remembering your friend, the former first lady Barbara Bush, with us.

DREW: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Lisa Drew is a former president of Doubleday Publishing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.