Contextual set-up: aside from Shakespeare Project the Second, my 2020 reading has been deeply preoccupied with sociopolitical analysis—both anti-racist texts, and exposes of the Cheeto POTUS’s administration. This book doesn’t fit clearly in either of those sub-categories, but it’s definitely part of the same reading family that has been so front-and-center for me since I emerged from my first bout of “pandemic brain” and started actively reading again.
It wasn’t till I started writing this post that I realized The Truths We Hold is a campaign book.* But of course it is. Released about a week or two before Harris launched her Presidential campaign in January 2019, and with the flag-waving subtitle An American Journey, it has all the hallmarks of the genre.
And no shame on that. This sort of book has a long and respectable lineage, from JFK’s Profiles in Courage to Obama’s Audacity of Hope to Warren’s This Fight is Our Fight.** Good on Harris for writing her own, and I hope she continues to earn healthy royalty checks throughout the remainder of her long career in public service.
Still, I think I’m glad I read the memoir when I did rather than during the heat of the primaries.
I’ve been slowly working through this book for the last few weeks. Started it a few days before the election, took a bit of a pause during the week of ballot-counting, and then came back to it with a lighter heart after the results had been announced. (The eagle-eyed—or elephant-brained—reader might recall that I only had 7 days left on my library check out some two-and-a-half weeks ago: that’s the glory of multiple library cards!)
And even if this memoir wasn’t deeply self-revelatory, even if it skated past some of the hard times Harris has faced, even if there were stretches of the book that felt more like a policy platform than a memoir, I am still here for all of it. Because I have such hope in seeing these convictions, these policy positions articulated and knowing that the writer will be my Vice President not too long from now.
Both the reviews I linked in the footnote below are somewhat backhanded in their praise of this book. In NPR’s review, Danielle Kurtzleben observes: “It’s not quite that the bar is lowered with the campaign book. It’s perhaps more accurate to say that the bar is replaced with a series of hoops. In her opening argument for 2020, Harris jumps through them.” Meanwhile, writing for The Guardian, David Smith says “[Harris] has written an ordinary book because, if truth be told, it was never about the book.”
But you know what? After this election season, I am 100% with Van Jones:
Boring is the new thrilling.
Predictable is the new exciting.
Normal is the new extraordinary.
Yup: I am here for this.
- Libby shelf: photo taken by the author, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.
- Kamala Harris: photographer Gage Skidmore, via a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.