Ana and Jenna don't have much in common. Ana's father was a poor South American cabdriver who died before she hit puberty. Jenna's dad became the 43rd president of the United States the year she started college. But the two lives converged in 2006 when Jenna, a 25-year-old UNICEF intern, and Ana, a 17-year-old single mother with HIV, met during an AIDS workshop in Latin America. Out of that union came "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope," a book by Bush for young teens that aims to raise awareness about poverty, AIDS and child abuse in developing countries. "In the U.S., we don't pay as much attention to these things, that people all over the world are living with these problems," says Bush. "The more you travel and talk to those affected by HIV, the more you know. But I'm still learning a lot, for sure."
And so are we—about Jenna Bush. Just two months shy of her 26th birthday, the White House's once rowdy twin has re-emerged as a spokesperson for global equality, children's rights and safe sex. It's quite a contrast from the Jenna of yesteryear, whose hard-partying ways were publicized in that falling-down photo, the fake ID bust and an official family appearance where she flashed flashed the University of Texas's Longhorn hand sign as the rest of the Bushes waved and smiled. "People change," said Bush during a recent trip to New York to promote her new book. In conversation she has her mother's posture and poise, but still punctuates sentences with the occasional "that's cool" and "you know what I mean?" "Unless you want to publicize the way you change—which I never did—no one's going to know. But I have no regrets. I think [the next kids in the White House] should live their life like it's their life. I'm sure they'll support their parents, like we did, but I also hope they're sort of naive like we were and live the way they want to."
For Bush, that now means teaching primary schoolers in Washington, D.C.'s inner city; becoming engaged to former White House aide Henry Hager; writing a children's book with her mother, Laura, and promoting her own thoughts on HIV prevention—even if her thoughts do not exactly match those of her father. Safe sex is encouraged throughout her new book, even though the Bush administration's hotly contested HIV-prevention campaign was built around a staunch "abstinence only" message. "In Africa my dad's policies are pretty much in line with mine, but not domestically," says Bush, referring to her father's ABC (abstain, be faithful, use a condom) policy in Africa. "But it's a personal decision. All of us want our kids to be safe, and there's no doubt that condoms make our kids safe. And many girls don't have the choice—they are exploited sexually. It's important they stay protected and protect others."
"Ana's Story" covers all these points and more by documenting a family history (the teen's real name and country are not divulged for anonymity's sake) where domestic violence, sexual molestation, HIV and hopelessness were passed down like unwanted heirlooms. According to Bush, she spent plenty of time gathering facts in the barrio where Ana grew up. She interviewed aunts, grandmothers and siblings in Spanish, with a tape recorder sent to her by Laura Bush, while the Secret Service waited outside. "In a neighborhood like Ana's, everyone thought the agents were drug dealers, so they left us alone," she says with a laugh. The book reveals a clean and simple writing style that, coupled with photos by Bush's close friend and fellow UNICEF intern Mia Baxter, makes for an easy yet compelling read. The author also offers an educational resources section toward the back of the book where young readers can learn things like "How You Can Make a Difference" and how to "Protect Yourself, Protect Others."
Despite Ms. Bush's good intentions, she's been accused by several bloggers of fabricating Ana's character and of hiring a ghostwriter to do the book. Bush swears that the teen is real —they speak on a regular basis—and that she wrote this book: "I can't even read those kind of criticisms because, well, my self-confidence … " Her parents are, she says, "superproud" of their daughter, but also protective. They asked Jenna, who's embarking on a two-month book tour, whether she was ready for a new barrage of media attention. "My dad was concerned I would catch all the criticism that runs off from him," she says. "He asked, 'Don't you want to do it in a couple years when you're not an easy target because of me?' He didn't want me to be a scapegoat. Maybe I'm naive, but I'm a different person than my father, and I hope people can be mature and separate the two. I just want a fair chance." And somewhere in Latin America, an impoverished single mother we'll call Ana is hoping for the same thing.