In the U.S., most potential Presidential candidates write a memoir about their lives prior to declaring their candidacy. Kamala Harris published just such a book in 2018. It’s a rundown of her life until now, with strong emphasis on her personal political philosophy and work-related experience.

Along with some Litsy friends, I plan to “read the candidates” between now and my state’s primary election in 2020. The list of Democratic challengers gets longer every day, so I must get moving! Harris is a front-runner from the progressive camp, according to The Washington Post and other media. So I decided to start here. I’ll keep interspersing these candidate books throughout the year.

So, Kamala Harris. She and I were born 10 days apart, which is just incidental. However, we come from vastly different circumstances. Both of her parents are immigrants, one from Jamaica and the other from India. They were high-achieving intellectuals, and very active in the Civil Rights movement. Harris was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, a bastion of said activism. (I’m an East Coast kid from a conservative family that’s been in America for generations.)

While she talks about her early life, especially her relationship to her mother, this book really picks up speed after she graduates from law school. It is her work experience that takes center stage. Harris was a prosecutor, first for Alameda County and then as District Attorney for San Francisco. Following that she was the state Attorney General for California, and the first woman of color to be elected U. S. Senator from California.

My conclusions

I think I understand Harris more after reading this book. Watching her questions during Senate hearings is a beginning. But the book lays out her positions on most of today’s big issues. And she explains the “why” behind them, as well. What she doesn’t do much is detail how she proposes to fix those problems.

She focuses on social justice issues such as community policing policy and bias / discrimination from police, prosecutors, and legislators. Women’s rights and health care are top of mind for her also. But she discusses national security and climate change just as effectively.

I listened to the audiobook for The Truths We Hold, read by the author. She should stick to her day job, but I wouldn’t want to listen to a narrator rather than the author. I liked how her lack of narration skill made the book more real, and allowed her emotions to come through. Still, she has a reading style with odd and unintended syncopation, so be prepared.

What I learned about Harris is that her progressive positions come from real-life experiences not simply political theory. She has a down-to-earth vibe, considering her education and relative privilege. I’ll continue to watch her carefully as the election cycle continues.