With a Possible Presidential Bid in 2020, Kamala Harris Talks About Her New Book | Modern Society of USA

With a Possible Presidential Bid in 2020, Kamala Harris Talks About Her New Book

With a Possible Presidential Bid in 2020, Kamala Harris Talks About Her New Book

Kamala Harris’s new memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” begins with a prologue set on Nov. 8, 2016, the night Harris was elected a United States senator from California. The rest of the book addresses the urgent political matters that have risen in the wake of that night, but it also goes back to cover, among other things, Harris’s tenure as California’s attorney general and her childhood in Oakland as the daughter of immigrant parents: her father an economist from Jamaica and her mother a cancer researcher from India. Though rumors of Harris gearing up for a presidential run in 2020 are becoming noisier by the minute (when Stephen Colbert asked her on Thursday if she would run, Harris coyly said, “I might”), she told me the memoir is not meant to help lay the groundwork for such a campaign. “At the expense of sounding immodest,” she said, the book is “really about the work I’ve done already that’s had national impact, and what I hope to come from it.” Below, Harris talks about how she connects personal experiences to her professional life, the breakneck speed of the news cycle, the inspiration she takes from Bob Marley and more.

When did you first get the idea to write this book?

Election night, 2016. I sat on our couch at home after my night at the election party with a family-size bag of Doritos, which I ate by myself, one after the other, in awe and in shock about what I was watching on TV. It was a night that was bittersweet for my campaign, for all of us. None of us saw it coming.

After that night, I really felt a more urgent need to tell people what we’re fighting for. When we talk about a fight, it’s born out of optimism; and it’s not a fight against something, but it’s a fight for something. It was that emotion that led me to speak the words I spoke that night, about the need to fight; and that, by extension, led to the book.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

I was raised to do things, not to talk about myself or my feelings — or frankly, even to look back. It was an effort to talk about my feelings as things were happening. It was difficult. I talk about a lot that’s really personal, and that I had not talked about in public. That was a component of it that made me feel very vulnerable. But I felt it was important to talk about for a couple of reasons. One, I’m really clear in my mind that there are a lot of experiences I’ve had, emotional experiences and responses, that are in common with a lot of people. But more important, I wanted to give context to the work I’ve done. Almost everything I’ve done professionally has been motivated by some experience I’ve been exposed to.

The process of writing the book required me to really explore what I was feeling at those moments. For example, the whole chapter that we named “Underwater” — I had never talked about the fact that our mother bought our first house when I was a teenager. I’ll never forget, when my mother came back and said, “This is going to be our home.” The pictures and the excitement she had, and the excitement we then had. I connected that emotion to what it meant for all those homeowners who either had that hope when they engaged in what ended up being a fraudulent mortgage scheme or when they lost their homes. Knowing what that meant, when I’m sitting across the table from executives at the biggest banks in the country and feeling a sense of responsibility, that this wasn’t simply a financial transaction. When your mother comes home with the picture of the first home you’re ever going to have, it’s not like someone waving around a piece of paper with a stock portfolio. It’s a whole other thing.

In what way is the book you wrote different from the book you set out to write?

Hopefully the book takes the reader on a journey down memory lane about the last 12 months and how much happened. Everything is happening so rapidly right now that a lot of people tend to forget what just happened six months ago, when the thing that happened six months ago was earth-shattering. There’s a lot in the book that was happening in real time; so literally as I’m writing it, it’s happening. The book was due and then the Brett Kavanaugh hearings happened, and so how do I handle that? It was important to me to at least try to talk about that, knowing that people will be reading about it months after it happened.

Who is a creative person (not a writer) who has influenced you and your work?

Certainly my mother. She was incredibly creative, as a scientist. But when I think about performers: Bob Marley. I first started listening to him when I was a child. My father had an incredible jazz collection but also a lot of Marley. I saw him in concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. I was hooked.

Jamaica’s history is actually not that well known in the context of the issues we deal with in the United States. But Jamaica grappled with vicious slavery for generations, and then colonists, with a very strong sense of identity in terms of what it meant to be particularly a black Jamaican. A lot of his music was about what it means to fight for the people. He was a very spiritual person also. I’m very spiritual. I don’t talk a lot about it, but the idea that there is a higher being and that we should be motivated by love of one another — that also requires us to fight.

Persuade someone to read “The Truths We Hold” in 50 words or less.

I hope you’ll walk away renewing your faith in the nobility and importance of public service, and convinced that we are a country that was founded on noble ideals. Imperfect though we may be, what makes us strong, and special, is that we’ve always aspired to reach those ideals.

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