Kamala's way An American life

Dan Morain

Book - 2021

A revelatory biography of the first Black woman to stand for Vice President charts how the daughter of two immigrants in segregated California became one of the most effective power players in the United States.

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New York : Simon & Schuster 2021.
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Physical Description
viii, 257 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [229]-257).
Main Author
Dan Morain (author)
Review by Choice Review

The barrier-breaking rise of Kamala Harris, the first woman, African American, and South Asian American to attain the second-highest position in the US government, has been historic. Morain, a longtime journalist, details Vice President Harris's life in this informative yet somewhat impersonal biography. Born in segregated California to Jamaican and Indian immigrants, Harris graduated from Howard University and UC Hastings College of the Law before going on to become an attorney general, a senator, and a presidential candidate. This book's strengths lie in the intertwining of events, relationships, and opportunities related directly and indirectly to California's laws and politics and to Harris's road to the White House as vice president. Morain contextualizes national headlines into the elements of Harris's life that depict her as a strategic, evolving, and relentless candidate. However, he contributes much of her success to the intimate loyalties of others with little insight into how racism and sexism stood in her "way." For readers, very little is conventional about Vice President Harris's story--she has worked hard and made mistakes in her transition from prosecutor to senator, yet she has blazed a path for countless others. Readers may instead prefer to read Harris's autobiography, The Truths We Hold (2019). Summing Up: Optional. General readers and lower-division undergraduates. --Amy O Yeboah, Howard University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. Review by Booklist Review

As Kamala Harris begins her term as the first woman and first Black and South Asian American person to serve as vice president of the United States, journalist Morain presents a comprehensive view of what led up to this milestone. Morain's deep-rooted reporting experience covering California politics is evident on every page as he recounts episodes and characters from the last 30-plus years. His jumping in and out of time frames can be challenging as governors and other political figures are spotlighted amid coverage of the legislative histories of California's positions on gun control, same-sex marriage, and three-strikes sentencing laws. From this broad view emerges the compelling story of how Harris navigated the demands of running for and serving as San Francisco's district attorney, California's attorney general, and U.S. senator. Morain looks into Harris' personal life and choices, but his emphasis is on her professional successes, missteps, and strategizing as he portrays her as a complex individual driven in complicated ways by both ideals and political expediency. This is a great read for anyone interested in a richly contextualized account of Harris' political evolution.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Morain delivers a well-informed yet somewhat impersonal look at Vice President-elect Kamala Harris's journey to the White House. The daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants who met as UC Berkeley graduate students and were active in the civil rights movement, Harris was "wheeled to demonstrations in a stroller." After graduating from UC Hastings College of the Law, she became an Alameda County prosecutor in 1990 and quickly established connections with powerful people, including California assemblyman and future San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, whom she dated in the mid-1990s (the couple attended the Academy Awards together and once flew on Donald Trump's private jet, Morain reveals). As San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general, Harris became known for her anti--death penalty stance and support for a controversial anti-truancy law. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, Harris gained national attention for her tough questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during congressional hearings. Morain stuffs his account with details of California politics and skillfully mines Harris's public comments for information, but doesn't get far beyond her public persona. Still, this is a brisk and evenhanded account of Harris's trailblazing career. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

A look at a talented politician's rise to national prominence. As longtime journalist at the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee, Morain brings deep familiarity with California politics to an admiring, yet balanced, biography of Harris (b. 1964). As has become well known, Harris is the biracial daughter of immigrants: Her Indian mother became a breast cancer researcher; her Jamaican father was a respected economist. The author traces Harris' career in California, from Alameda County deputy district attorney to U.S. senator to vice president--elect. From the first, Morain writes, she exhibited traits that he calls "Kamala's way"--"energetic, willing to take tough cases, laser focused, driven to be successful." She became increasingly visible in the Bay Area, where "high society and Democratic politics blend." She drew on generous donors in her run for San Francisco district attorney in 2003 and for California attorney general in 2010, becoming "the first woman, the first Black person, and the first person of Indian descent to become California's top cop." Although Harris could demur from taking stands when not politically necessary, she strongly supported same-sex marriage and gun control, consistently opposed the death penalty, defended victims of human trafficking, and pursued predatory lenders and for-profit colleges in a series of civil actions, positions that raised her profile nationally. Many saw Harris as a potential California governor, but in 2015, when Sen. Barbara Boxer announced her decision to retire, Harris decided to run for her seat. She arrived in Washington, D.C., "having been briefed by the best political minds in Washington and California on how to succeed in the Senate." Assigned to key committees, Harris earned a reputation as a "tough inquisitor": sharp, informed, and aggressive when questioning the likes of Jeff Sessions, Brett Kavanaugh, and Mike Pompeo. Morain also examines why her bid for the presidency failed and why she became Joe Biden's historic choice for VP. A brisk, well-informed narrative of political ascendancy. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.