Jill Biden writes of marriage with Joe, ‘totally shattering’ death of son Beau in new book

Former second lady Jill Biden has written "Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself." (Photo: Courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan)

Jill Biden didn’t get advice from Michelle Obama when writing her new book (out Tuesday, May 7), despite the success of “Becoming.”

“I guess she thought that since I’m an English teacher, I could probably handle it,” Biden tells USA TODAY with a chuckle.  

It’s obvious in her new book, “Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself,” that Biden is her own person, independent of her husband Joe Biden’s decades-long political career.

As second lady, she taught at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). Biden, 67, has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in educational leadership. In her new book, she writes she was “grateful” for her former title, but explains, “the role I have always felt most at home in is being ‘Dr. B.’…”

With the encouragement of her husband and the former first lady, Biden says she was in the classroom a week after the 2009 inauguration, where she has remained every semester. Even now.

“Somebody is covering my final exams for me,” she says during a phone call from New York Monday. “I’m here grading research papers in between interviews.” 

In addition to her passion for teaching, “Where the Light Enters” gives insight to Biden’s upbringing and her relationship with Joe. Next month marks 42 years of marriage for the couple.

The audio version of the book, which is exclusively available from Audible, offers listeners a chance to hear Biden tell her own stories. 

“I think when people hear my book on Audible, they’ll hear the inflection in my voice, the tone, and understand me a little bit better and understand my family a little bit better in the ways that I tell the stories,” she says. “Some are told with laughter and some are told with sadness.”


As many may know, the Bidens’ story is not without tragedy. 

Joe’s first wife Neilia and their 1-year-old daughter Naomi died in a car accident in 1972. Neilia and Joe’s two sons Beau and Hunter survived, but Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 at 46. 

Beau Biden with his parents, Jill and Joe Biden, in Wilmington, Del. on Nov. 7, 2006. (Photo: PAT CROWE II/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The early heartbreak that Joe and his sons faced gave Biden pause when Joe proposed. She eventually said yes – on his fifth ask. 

“When I started dating Joe and the boys, and Joe asked me to marry him, I just knew Beau and Hunt had already lost one mother, and I had to make absolutely sure that our marriage would work,” she says, “I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t lose another mother because our marriage didn’t work.” 

What made her finally say yes to the man who called her for a date after seeing her picture at the Wilmington airport?

“As I said to Joe, I fell in love with the boys, and I like to tease him about that,” she says. “I just I spent a lot of time with them and we were almost like a family already, even before we got married.” 

Beau’s death, addressed in Biden’s book, completely crushed her.  

“It was totally shattering,” she recalls to USA TODAY of his death. “My life changed in an instant. All during his illness, I truly believed that he was going to live, up until the moment that he closed his eyes, and I just never gave up hope.”

Hope was memorably a part of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. His running mate Joe entered the presidential race on April 25. 

Biden writes in her book that ahead of the 2008 election, she initiated a family meeting to propose her husband run. This time, she says the notion for Joe to throw his hat into the ring came from outside the family.

“It sort of started with people coming up to us and to our family members saying, ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to run. You can bring this country together,'” she says. “Then Charlottesville occurred, and I think that sort of pushed Joe a little further down the line, as to whether we would do this.”

Jill Biden (Photo: Courtesy Ece Ogulturk)

With the approval of their children and grandchildren, they were in. 

Joe’s announcement followed accounts from multiple women who claimed he had hugged, kissed or rubbed noses with them without permission.  

Biden writes of how affectionate her husband is in her book, inspiring one outlet to write a piece with the headline: “Joe Biden’s hands-on habits made even Jill Biden uncomfortable.” It’s a headline Biden says twisted her words.

“What I said was that Joe’s family was different than my family, that he came from a very affectionate family,” she says. “My family was very loving but we didn’t show that kind of affection. So for me, that took me a little while to get used to that.”

Reflecting on how “times are different,” she says: “Things have changed, and I think it takes a lot of courage for a man or a woman to speak out and say, ‘Back off, you’re in my space.’

“And that’s what happened, and Joe heard it, and he takes responsibility,” she says. “He will not be in people’s space.”

Contributing: Karl Baker, Delaware News Journal

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