You may recall Fiona Hill as a witness at President Donald Trump’s 2019 impeachment hearing. Escaping a fading industrial town to attend Harvard, Hill offers two books in one: a political memoir with a headliner’s version of national events and a study in the decline of manufacturing economies in the United Kingdom, United States and Russia – with Hill’s impoverished youth as a telling reference. Her economic rise gives Hill a unique perspective on the world’s widening inequities.
Fiona Hill grew up in a poor town in England’s hardscrabble North East.
Diplomat Fiona Hill was born in Bishop Auckland, which in 1965 was a struggling town in Britain’s equivalent of the Rust Belt. Unemployment was rampant; financial opportunities were nonexistent. Her father, Alf, a hospital orderly, understood the bleak local circumstances. He often encouraged young Fiona to plan to live elsewhere. “There’s nothing for you here, pet,” he told her. She was the first member of her family to attend college. She learned that the struggles of England’s coal country resembled those of industrial areas in the United States, as manufacturing jobs disappeared and upward mobility waned.
Escaping her hometown was no easy task. She finds that British society is famously immobile. People with the wrong accent or background face stiff challenges to attending university or gaining high-paying jobs. Hill navigated these headwinds with difficulty. When she moved to the United States, she found a society that didn’t fixate as much on class or accents – but one that raised impediments based on gender and race.
In her experience, the British denote each person...
Fiona Hill, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, served on the National Security Council and co-wrote Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.