Bush sisters highlight literacy event; kick off book tour

Jenna Bush Hager, left, and Barbara Pierce Bush speak about their childhood during an event to promote their book "Love Comes First" Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at the Petroleum Club of Midland. (Jacob Ford|The Oilfield Photographer, Inc.)

Selling out before the invitations were even sent, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health and the Literacy Coalition of the Permian Basin hosted the event called “Love Comes First: An Evening with the Bush Sisters” Thursday at the Petroleum Club.

Jenna Bush Hager and twin sister Barbara Pierce Bush also kicked off their book tour for “Love Comes First.”

“One of our favorite things about writing a book is to go on book tour and get to come home,” Jenna said.

Barbara Bush said the book was sort of inspired by their own children and going on their last book tour when they wrote a book about sisterhood.

“We would have people in the audience saying I don’t have a sister, but I brought my cousin, or I brought my best friend and so we wanted to write a book about that, how we have our chosen family or blood family and that love is infinite. There’s always more room,” Barbara said.

Jenna said it’s so much fun to have someone you’ve known your entire life.

“I think having a twin is a very special relationship, but also to get to age together. One of our favorite things to talk about … to get to grow up and have kids that are similar ages and watch our kids fall in love is so much fun and to go on book tour … that’s the time we get to be together,” Jenna said.

Barbara referred to it as the sister-sister road trip.

They noted the importance of literacy and said if you can’t read you can’t do so many important things in your life.

“We all know that we should be reading to our kids as soon as they’re born and that the statistics on kids that have books (at) home or libraries are so important,” which is why literacy events like the one Thursday are so important.

They help get books into children’s homes and schools.

“Love Comes First” comes out Tuesday and will be available wherever you buy your books.

Jenna said they came up with the idea for this book on their last book tour and wrote some of it during that time.

One of the other things they love to do is go on walks when they’re trying to think of ideas, but they mainly send emails back and forth for editing.

Barbara said they will go on a walk and two hours later by the end of the walk they will have a story arc that they want to pursue.

“Then we do a back and forth over email,” Barbara said.

She said they are inspired by their audiences and people they meet during book signings.

Starting off, they are twin sisters and they don’t know the world without each other.

“It’s the greatest thing in the world to have a partner in everything that you do. Obviously, we feel incredibly lucky to have the family we have and also the friends that we’ve gotten to choose to have in our lives. … This feels the most inspiring to us to write about how we can spread love and make sure that we accept others … whether or not they’re similar or different to us,” Barbara said.

Jenna said it started out as sisterhood because having a twin is probably the most defining moment in their lives because their history is shared.

“When you’re a twin, you’re the exact same age, so therefore nobody’s older and cooler … We were each other’s biggest cheerleaders, so it made us feel brave and felt like we could do anything,” Jenna said.

Now Jenna’s son is requesting a book.

John Trischitti III, executive director of the Literacy Coalition of the Permian Basin, said about 350 people were expected at Thursday’s event.

Trischitti said having the Bush sisters on hand for a literacy event couldn’t be a better fit.

He added that their family has a long history with literacy initiatives. Their mother, Laura, was a librarian and their grandmother, Barbara Bush, was huge in literacy initiatives as well.

“The stars aligned for us to be able to bring them to Midland to kick off their book tour and have them here for the community and to raise awareness for our organization and the pretty serious issue of low literacy in our community,” Trischitti said.

Nationally, about one out of five adults read below a third grade level. Texas and New Mexico are both in the bottom five and it’s about one out of four.

But in the Permian Basin it’s about one out of three adults who read below a third grade level.

“That’s certainly an issue that is more prevalent here than in other places and it really affects workforce development for oil and gas; people with a glass ceiling when it comes to the workplace,” Trischitti said.

People have to understand that there is a problem.

“Until we can as a community, and communities that we serve, identify that hey this is a social issue, not just an education one, then we can really begin to make some change,” he added.

“For the Literacy Coalition, their partner for Thursday night is the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health. There’s a direct correlation between literacy and health, literacy and poverty, literacy and crime, literacy and food insecurity. That’s all the same client, so when we can partner with social service providers that already have these clients and we can work in other areas to … help raise awareness and begin to work in that literacy component, we really begin to see the ripple effect,” Trischitti said.

He added that this should bring awareness to the Literacy Coalition of the Permian Basin.

“If Jenna and Barbara can’t do it, I don’t know who else is going to be able to do it,” he quipped.

But seriously: “(We’re) certainly very fortunate and blessed to have them here (to) support this cause.”

Connie Tyne, executive director of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health, said they were excited to have Jenna and Barbara back in Midland.

“They wanted to begin their book tour right here where everything began and we have an amazing turnout. The Midland and Odessa folks … we sold out before we sent out an invitation. That’s pretty amazing. I think it’s going to be a fabulous time to learn about love and family and friends. That’s something we can all relate to,” Tyne said.

Tyne noted that the Laura Bush Institute is a women’s health organization and does a lot of work in mental, physical and emotional health. They work with children and have a lot programs for screening for breast cancer.

They also partner with the Literacy Coalition. Tyne added that literacy and health go hand in hand.

“I think it’s just a win-win for all of us,” she said.