Kamala Harris’ Memoir Is Mostly a Swift-Moving Tale

The U.S. senator and presidential contender from California advocates justice for all in her new memoir.


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Photo courtesy Penguin Random House

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in the pages of her new memoir, The Truths We Hold, represents characteristics people regardless of political party hope for from their country and its leaders and representatives.

Born in Oakland, progressing meteorically from Howard University to UC Hastings College of the Law to positions as an Alameda County deputy prosecutor, district attorney of San Francisco, and later, California’s attorney general, she is the state’s first black senator, and her star continues to rise. A recently announced Democratic contender in the 2020 presidential race, Harris hits a tri-tone in her book: establishing her personal history, clarifying what have been her goals and are likely to constitute her political platform, and driving in the stakes with a literary teaser that tests the ground for a campaign while building a solid base of support.

Ten chapters bridge Harris’ journey to her present position of power from life as an inner-city child. She was raised with her younger sister after their parents divorced by their mother, Shyamala Harris. Her mother’s formidable love, fortitude, and intellect define almost everything about the professional woman Harris is today. Evidence of maternal influences thread through the work she conducts in Washington, D.C., California, and nationwide. Key elements establish a footpath—rely on women for advice and hold confidence even in obscure corners, like the ultra-secretive Senate Intelligence Committee of which she is a member, where Harris is sure find “a bouquet of microphones” for broadcasting her positions. Examples of past and future pursuit of justice prove Harris is deliberately careful about words and actions but unafraid to be confrontational, which means she often lands in the epicenter of issues or events, such as the rancorous confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Most interesting to readers hoping to see under Harris’ assertive veneer are stories that indicate a tender devotion to family, long-term friends, and enormous compassion for people suffering systemic racism, homophobia, or harmful gender, ethnic or economic stratification. Addressing schools, courts, law enforcement, businesses, health care and insurance, the government, and society overall, Harris applies principles taught by her mother that have become touchstones: test the hypothesis, words matter, show the math, and go to the scene, among others.

Occasionally, Harris lingers overlong on the soapbox, nearly sacrificing what is otherwise a swift-moving tale. For that there can be forgiveness, especially when authenticity, thoughtfulness, and a lifetime passion for justice are the book’s barometer.

The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris (Penguin Press, Jan. 8, 2019, 336 pp, $30)

This article was originally published in our sister publication, the East Bay Monthly.

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