It starts early on. At first, it seems spontaneous: parents who enjoy their interests naturally display those passions to small children who are dragged along for the ride. The child observes and absorbs until one day, the parental interest becomes the child's obsession.
And in "The Truths We Hold" by Kamala Harris, that's how a politician is made.
Supporters can almost see the trajectory in the history: Kamala Harris's parents, both highly educated immigrants, instilled a sense of independence in their daughter and both remained supportive of her choices, even as they divorced. Harris's mother, especially, gave Harris lessons in strength and activism through an upper-middle-class childhood with ballet and piano lessons alongside marches and protests.
Says Harris of her mother, a breast cancer researcher, "... she was determined to make sure we [Harris and her sister] would grow into confident, proud Black women."
Harris describes her community — the women and men who helped raise and educate her — with obvious affection, saying that "the seed was planted very early on," and she knew that she wanted to be a lawyer and to make a difference in the lives of others.
"When activists came marching and banging on the doors," she says, "I wanted to be on the other side to let them in."
By the time Harris had finished law school, her sights were set on working "for the people." She focused on the prosecution of child molesters, sexual predators, and rapists. On her way up the career ladder, she continued to advocate for the poor, for women and children, and for the rights of LGBT people and immigrants. She worked for the reduction of recidivism, for Americans in need of health care, and for consumers and homeowners.
Says Harris, "In the years to come with all the challenges to come, we cannot lose sight of who we are and who we can be."
As biographies by famous people go, "The Truths We Hold" is a refreshing surprise, in that there's very little look-at-me name-dropping. Author and assumed Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris mentions people because of work or family ties, not to impress. Remarkably, she also writes of her friendship with Beau Biden.
The other interesting thing about this memoir is that readers will not see laid-out plans for the future: remember, this book was likely written at least two years ago and Harris presumably had no crystal ball. Instead of plainly-stated plans, what she offers "is a collection of ideas and viewpoints and stories..." Readers are left to see passions between the lines, and can draw their own conclusions.
Aside from this, there's plenty of biographies which, again, is not filled with esoteric names-and-dates but with things that are relevant to the story of who Harris is and how she sees this country. That makes "The Truths We Hold" easy to read, if not a bit long in the achievement department, but not uninteresting. If you'd like to know more about the woman who may sit in the Vice President's chair next January, read it now, while it's early on.
"The Truths We Hold: An American Journey" by Kamala Harris
c.2020, Penguin Books
$18.00 paperback 336 pages