Fits well alongside such politico-aspirational books as Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, and better written than most...

California’s junior senator limbers up “to be a joyful warrior in the battle to come.”

Harris (Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer, 2009, etc.), who recently announced her candidacy for president, follows immediately with an entry in the genre that might be called the Obligatory Campaign Biography, blending how-did-we-get-here memoir with political platform. In that sense, this book is by-the-numbers, with all the expected elements. Yet the author’s background is unusual enough on many scores to set her autobiography apart: She is the first American of Indian or Jamaican descent to serve in the Senate and the first African-American senator from California, having served prominently and sometimes controversially as the state’s attorney general. Countering the whispering birther movement surrounding her early campaign, Harris recounts that she was born in Oakland of mixed descent, with an Indian immigrant mother who “understood very well that she was raising two black daughters” and took pains to “make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.” The author excelled in school but, she recounts in a moment of reversal, failed her first effort at the bar, overcoming defeat to take a visible role in the Bay Area legal community. Her efforts at judicial reform figure in her timely call for an overhaul of sentencing procedures, all as part of a platform of “what I see as women’s issues: the economy, national security, health care, education, criminal justice reform, climate change.” Harris also reveals a policy-wonk side, enthusiastically addressing issues such as cybersecurity (“a new front in a new kind of battle”) and economic inequality (“with millions of Americans hanging by a thread,” she deftly writes of the current president, “the White House reached for scissors”). The talking points of the book are surely those she’ll be revisiting in speeches and debates to come, and suffice it to say that you can bet Jamie Dimon won’t be endorsing her.

Fits well alongside such politico-aspirational books as Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, and better written than most in the category.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-56071-5

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview