Metro Weekly

Former D.C. councilmember Carol Schwartz gets personal and political in new memoir

"Quite a Life!" celebrates Schwartz's rise to become a D.C. political fixture

Carol Schwartz — Photo courtesy of Carol Schwartz

The last time Carol Schwartz ran for mayor, in 2014, her son Doug urged her to lose a trademark symbol of her campaigns for political office.

“My son told me, ‘Mom, get rid of that car,'” Schwartz says of the old yellow convertible that she drove all over D.C. “‘It doesn’t look mayoral.’ And I said, ‘Doug, I don’t look mayoral. What’s mayoral? I promise you the people who won’t vote for me because of my car would have found another reason not to vote for me.'”

Because of her storied political career — including 16 years on the D.C. Council and five runs for mayor — the effervescent, convivial Schwartz occupies a special place in D.C history. So it’s only appropriate her story be preserved for future residents to enjoy. Her just-published autobiography Quite a Life! From Defeat to Defeat…And Back chronicles the 73-year-old’s journey from Midland, Texas, to becoming a D.C. political fixture.

Schwartz compiled the book, four years in the making, after she and her daughter Hilary unearthed over 100 homemade scrapbooks from her years of public service. A longtime Republican who became an independent in 2013, Schwartz touches on policy in the book, including lobbying a GOP-controlled Congress to remove a prohibition on adoption aimed at D.C.’s LGBTQ community. The symbiosis between her life and D.C.’s politics permeates the book. “It’s my life story, but D.C. is so intertwined. Its needs and wants and the injustices that are perpetrated on it are very much inclined in my life story.”

Schwartz’s book tour take her to Wards 4, 5, 6, and 7 from Nov. 4 to 5, as well as an event at Spices Asian Restaurant, in Cleveland Park, on Nov. 12, with later events planned at Busboys and Poets and Ben’s Chili Bowl. Despite a trend of ambitious politicians writing books, Schwartz says her days of running for office are over.

Quite a Life not only chronicles the hardships and various defeats that have played a major role in Schwartz’s life, but how she overcame them. From her childhood with a physically abusive father, to facing anti-Jewish discrimination in her hometown, to caring for an older brother with intellectual disabilities at age five, to her husband’s suicide in 1988, Schwartz illustrates how people can pick themselves up and carry on, even after the most crushing and disheartening tragedies.

“I think my biggest motivation [for writing the book] was to encourage other people to get out there and to start righting wrongs they see,” Schwartz says. “And to encourage other people who have fears, as I did, to put those fears aside and jump in, whatever their endeavor that might make them happier and the world a better place.”

Quite a Life! From Defeat to Defeat…And Back retails for $28.37 and is currently available at Politics and Prose, Busboys and Poets, Bridge Street Books and online at caroldc.com. For a full list of upcoming signings, visit caroldc.com.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com