In her debut, Williams offers a brief overview of the personal and professional life of her cousin, the long-serving Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.
Conyers is the second most senior member of U.S. House of Representatives, one of the 13 founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, onetime chairman of both the House Committee on Government Operations (now Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) and current ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary. The congressman was born in northwest Detroit and has served its congressional district since 1965. This extremely condensed biography begins with a cursory narrative of Conyers’ early life, including his father’s United Auto Workers affiliation; Conyers’ early dedication to music, especially jazz; his exposure to the 1943 Detroit Race Riot; his union, military and university experience; and his marriage. The book then depicts Conyers’ introduction to law and lawmaking, noting his formative work with Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.—the only sitting House member senior to Conyers—and providing short paragraphs and lists of Conyers’ hallmark projects, key issues and legislation. Other chapters touch on Conyers’ staunch Democratic politics and his anti-Nixon and anti-Reagan positions, as well as his diverse accomplishments including cosponsoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965, serving on the Judiciary Committee during the Watergate scandal and fighting music piracy. Unfortunately, this brief, disjointed book fails to provide a cogent, linear illustration of Conyers’ career owing to its lack of contextualizing information, supportive data or critical analysis. The most readable, endearing section of the book describes Conyers’ friendship and partnership with Rosa Parks, who worked in the congressman’s office from 1965 until her retirement in 1988, but even here detail is sparse. The book’s only direct quotes from the author’s cousin come from Conyers’ speeches and printed works.
A thin, uneven recounting of a long congressional career.