RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
You know an election's around the corner when a barrage of political memoirs start coming out. The latest belongs to Jill Biden, wife of former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for president a third time. Jill Biden recounts some better-known stories of her life, like juggling what happens in the White House while teaching at a community college or initially rejecting Biden's many marriage proposals years ago. But she also shares some intimate anxieties, including becoming a permanent presence for Biden's two young boys after they lost their mother and baby sister in a car accident.
JILL BIDEN: I had to be 100% sure that this marriage was going to work because they had already lost one mother, and I wanted to make sure that they didn't lose a second mother, you know, through divorce. So that was really important to me.
MARTIN: Jill Biden's book is called "Where The Light Enters." And a big part of her own story is navigating the role of political spouse.
You make clear in your book that this is a family that makes decisions together. And when it comes to your husband's presidential ambitions, you haven't always thought it was the right time for him to run.
MARTIN: You have nixed that idea before.
MARTIN: Why do you and your family expect things to be different this go-round?
BIDEN: Well, I know things will be different this time around. And we talked to our older children. And then just a couple weeks ago - couple months ago, we called our grandchildren together, all five of them, into the library. And we said, Pop's thinking about running. And we said to them, this is going to be hard. You've been through races before. But if you don't want this to happen, we will not do this. And, I mean, they were so enthusiastic. Yes, Pop has to run. He has to run. This is his time. And I felt like it was his time too because Joe unites people, and I think that's what this country is looking for now.
MARTIN: This presidential campaign comes at this moment in our culture where we are all paying so much more attention to allegations of sexual assault, allegations of sexual harassment. And in the week or so since your husband announced his bid for the presidency, critics have levied some claims against him, in particular revisiting his role in the 1991 Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. What do you remember of those hearings?
BIDEN: Well, I watched the hearings like most other Americans. And so, I mean, Joe said, as I did - we believed Anita Hill. He voted against Clarence Thomas. I mean, he's called Anita Hill. They've spoken. He apologized for the way the hearings were run. And so now it's kind of - it's time to move on.
MARTIN: Why did he wait until he was running for president to call her?
BIDEN: Well, I guess it was just not the right time, maybe. So he wanted to call her. I think he didn't know whether she would take his call. And he was so happy that she did take his call, and they spoke. And I think he was - you know, I think they came to an agreement.
MARTIN: A lot of people know your husband because he has been so transparent about his losses that have been immense over a lifetime, including the death of your son, Beau Biden, who died of cancer in 2015. And this is such a personal pain, and it's hard to imagine trying to endure it in the public eye. And you all went to great lengths to make sure that it was personal when he was sick and getting treatment.
BIDEN: Yeah. We really did not tell anybody and - except for Barack and Michelle. And, you know, Beau wanted to keep it private. He didn't want people to feel sorry for him. And I have to tell you, Rachel, I mean, I - as a mother, I mean, I never thought he would die. I mean, I kept that hope till the end that he was going to live, and he was going to get well. And then he was going to go run for governor. And that was the hope we had.
But we lived a double life. I spent every day at the hospital. And then I'd have to go teach and then come back or have to go to an event and then come back to the hospital. So it was hard. And that's what I try to get across to my students, you know, that acts of kindness are so important because you never really know what's behind someone's smile.
MARTIN: There is a part in the book where you describe what it is like to be bonded to other people who have lost children. And I wonder if you wouldn't mind reading a section of that.
BIDEN: Sure. (Reading) Membership to this fraternity comes with no guide, and I have no advice, no wisdom to dole out to new initiates. A friend of mine lost her son, a firefighter, in a terrible blaze. He was young with two kids. And they carried his body to the grave wrapped in an American flag. I wanted so badly to offer her words of hope or to tell her it's going to get better, but I don't know if that's true. Instead, I wrote her a note to say I was thinking about her, and that she isn't alone. That's the truest thing I can say to parents who know this impossible pain. You are not alone.
MARTIN: You write that you can almost see this pain in other people in how they carry themselves.
BIDEN: I can.
MARTIN: How does it manifest?
BIDEN: Well, it's strange. But I think I can see it in the eyes of people when they approach me. And a lot of mothers who have lost their children do approach me, and I can see it. I can feel it even before they reach me. And it's like it's a secret society that nobody wants to be a part of, but we offer one another comfort because we know the pain that we still feel.
MARTIN: So more conversations like this, more personal revelations, more scrutiny, more campaigning, having to defend your husband's record, the anxiety of a potential loss after giving so much - are you really ready to do this again (laughter)?
BIDEN: I am ready. I am ready. I wouldn't have done it...
MARTIN: Guess that's a setup question.
BIDEN: I wouldn't have done it if we weren't ready. And Joe's ready. Our family is ready. We'll do it like we've always done it. We'll do it as a family.
MARTIN: Former Second Lady Jill Biden. Her memoir "Where The Light Enters" is out today.
(SOUNDBITE OF AMBIENT JAZZ ENSEMBLE'S "MY FINAL SCENE")
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