While it is no secret that Kamala Harris wrote her newest book, The Truths We Hold, to lay out the case for a presidential campaign, there was no guarantee it would be a success. In fact, I read Julián Castro’s An Unlikely Journey immediately before reading Harris’ memoir. It was fine. It had cute anecdotes about his childhood and some inspiring ones about his time on the city council. It painted the odds that Castro overcame to become a credible presidential candidate just two generations after his grandmother immigrated to Texas, but it failed to craft a cohesive narrative about who Castro is.
The Truths We Hold, however, is a far more successful work of political memoir. It may not be on the level of Michelle Obama’s Becoming, but Kamala Harris does a masterful job of weaving her personal narrative into a story that emphasizes key American values and the issues facing a divided nation today. Her work as a prosecutor, a district attorney, and as California Attorney General spills off the page as she describes the issues she worked on, the challenges she faced, and the questions facing the United States in the coming years.
The book gave Harris the chance to answer questions on voters’ minds on her own terms. Doubts exist among those on the left about whether or not Harris’ career as a prosecutor is acceptable in the age of Black Lives Matter. Harris describes her decision to go into law as a prosecutor, calling on the memories of civil rights lawyers who prosecuted KKK members and the nation’s most famous attorney general, Robert Kennedy. In fact, her chapter about her time as a prosecutor is now her presidential campaign slogan: For the People. The chapter seeks to dispel the left’s criticism. She meets her critics by sharing her history of reforming the system from within.
In page after page, the real Kamala Harris emerges. Those who know her as a political figure are likely familiar with her surgical questioning of Brett Kavanaugh. The Truths We Hold goes deeper than a C-SPAN camera can in demonstrating the motivational forces that stir within this leading presidential contender. She is a daughter with a deep reverence for her mom and the wisdom she imparted. She is a stepmom – Momala – to two children that she came to through marriage but loves as her own. She has many fundamental beliefs – Medicare for All, a gentler immigration system, a fairer criminal justice system – but perhaps none are so important as her belief in Sunday family dinner, which she often prepares for her family.
Beyond the prosecutorial style of this larger-than-life politician is a deeply passionate and caring advocate on behalf of those she has been chosen to serve. Many people have long noticed Harris’ expertise as a politician, but I was among those who, at times, questioned her sincerity. Did she really believe the progressive politics she espoused? Or was it theater designed to prepare for a presidential run? It is impossible to read The Truths We Hold without seeing the sincerity with which Harris approaches this endeavor.
Whether or not Kamala Harris becomes the 46th President of the United States, her book is a must-read for any person who is intending to vote in the 2020 election.
Cover photograph by J. Scott Applewhite, AP