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The Truths We Hold

An American Journey

By Kamala Harris
18-minute read
Audio available
The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris

The Truths We Hold (2019) is an intimate self-portrait of one of the rising forces in contemporary American political life: Californian Senator and civil rights activist Kamala Harris. Combining the personal with the political, Harris sheds light on her early years as the daughter of immigrants, her legal career in the Golden State and the causes she has championed as an elected representative in Trump’s America.

  • Politics and history buffs
  • Anyone interested in the life and views of a potential presidential candidate
  • Legal professionals and civil rights activists

Kamala Harris is a US Senator from California. She began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office before being elected District Attorney of San Francisco. As a politician, she has led campaigns to raise the minimum wage, cut the cost of higher education and protect the rights of immigrants. Harris is currently regarded as a potential Democratic Party candidate for the presidential election in 2020.

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The Truths We Hold

An American Journey

By Kamala Harris
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris
Synopsis

The Truths We Hold (2019) is an intimate self-portrait of one of the rising forces in contemporary American political life: Californian Senator and civil rights activist Kamala Harris. Combining the personal with the political, Harris sheds light on her early years as the daughter of immigrants, her legal career in the Golden State and the causes she has championed as an elected representative in Trump’s America.

Key idea 1 of 11

Kamala Harris’s parents were gifted immigrants, and she knew early on that she wanted to be a lawyer.

Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California, in 1964. Her father, Donald Harris, a Jamaican, came to the US to study economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, came from Southern India. Gopalan’s parents encouraged their daughter to apply to Berkeley – a university she’d never seen in a country she’d never stepped foot in – when she was just 19.

Gopalan arrived in 1958 and enrolled in a doctorate program in nutrition and endocrinology. She quickly became involved with the black community and threw herself into the civil rights movement. It was during a protest in Berkeley that she first met fellow activist Donald Harris. After falling in love, the couple decided to settle down in Oakland for good. Gopalan embarked on her career as a researcher specializing in breast cancer while he began teaching economics.

Kamala Harris’s early childhood was a happy one. The family’s home was filled with books, Indian spices and her father’s jazz records. When John Coltrane wasn’t on in the background, Harris’s mother – a talented vocalist who’d won awards in India – sang along to gospel tunes by the likes of Aretha Franklin. But these carefree days wouldn’t last. Donald and Shyamala had married young and drifted apart over time.

Donald headed to Wisconsin to pursue his academic work. Shyamala was offered a job at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The opportunity was too good to turn down and she accepted. Kamala found the move difficult. She missed her friends and sunny California. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Montreal wasn’t just a colder and lonelier city for the twelve-year-old – it was also French-speaking! She remembers joking that she sounded like a duck during her first days at school as the only thing she could say was “Quoi? Quoi? Quoi?” or “What? What? What?”

Harris did eventually settle in, however, and her thoughts turned to her future. What did she want to do with her life? She’d always done well in school, and there was the inspiring example set by her mother. But her heroes weren’t doctors or academics: the people she admired most were lawyers like Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the Supreme Court, and Constance Baker Motley, a New York State Senator. Both were giants of the civil rights movement who had championed justice. How, she wondered, could she become like them?

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