As is the pattern in these books, Harris braids together the personal and the political — readers might find themselves tempted to skim through what feels like a campaign speech to return to a life story that genuinely entrances. But that would be a mistake; Harris provides a very clear picture of the kind of leader she hopes to be, as well as the way her mind works when she confronts various issues, including crime, healthcare and foreign policy ... Throughout, there are unmistakable echoes of the kind of inclusive tone often struck by former President Obama.
As with many campaign books, The Truths We Hold reads as a memoir-but-not-really. Harris does tell her life story, but she uses it as a vehicle for telling us what she really wants us to know about her ... It's not quite that the bar is lowered with the campaign book. It's perhaps more accurate to say that the bar is replaced with a series of hoops. In her opening argument for 2020, Harris jumps through them.
Reads exactly like the kind of campaign memoir that you expect it to be ... These books are never great literature. Harris moves through the steps of her own life at a dizzying pace, like a harried screenwriter trying to cram a 1,000-page novel into an hour and a half movie. But if books like this aren’t great for readers, they are helpful for voters, who can gain some insight through seeing which issues and personal stories their authors deems important enough to highlight.
... Harris’s The Truths We Hold fits more squarely into the category of 'serviceable' – not so much a literary event as the book tour as election campaign ... Harris’s prose rarely sparkles and there is not much by way of self-revelation ... The book is at its most powerful when highlighting stark injustices ... As a pamphlet or stump speech, then, The Truths We Hold serves its purpose; personal integrity shines through every page. Like Obama, Harris may prove an extraordinary candidate and an extraordinary president. But she has written an ordinary book because, if truth be told, it was never about the book.
In The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, [Harris] goes on the record, unequivocally, with the core principles that drive her ... The bulk of the text addresses specific issues that the author champions, and although she cautions up front that the book is 'not meant to be a policy platform,' it can certainly be read that way. What makes it different, though, is that her discussion of those issues is neither esoteric nor academic, but is instead rooted in real life experiences, not only hers but also of those with whom she has crossed paths in her career ... Regardless of your political affiliation, and whether you agree or disagree with her, you can’t say she’s afraid to speak her mind.
But unlike Harris’s many viral #resistance moments and meticulous snapshots of relatability, the memoir itself is a meandering work that lacks verve. More significantly, given far more than 280 characters to deliver a cohesive message, Harris doesn’t meaningfully reconcile her punitive track record as a California prosecutor with her more recent activist-adjacent positioning as a national Democratic darling ... The book offers anecdotes meant to endear her to a diverse (or #woke) readership as well as glimpses into Harris’s political worldview; the resultant mix is somewhat muddled ... The Truths We Hold, by contrast [to ], lacks the literary finesse that distinguished Obama as a memoirist and endeared him to voters. Instead of weaving a political vision into the biography of its author, it assembles itself rather like a campaign pamphlet ... For those already inclined to find her highly tweetable brand of #resistance rhetoric appealing, the memoir offers up palatably anti-establishment quotes for possible tote-bag screen-printing. If only it presented a holistic political foundation instead.
As in all campaign books, [Harris's] chief aim is to describe her career in a way that makes her appear presidential ... I was not impressed—as attorney general she tried to crack down on, of all things, school truancy—but readers of a leftward bent may feel differently. The really irritating thing about Ms. Harris’s book is her habit of introducing stories from her life only to shoehorn in some ostensibly related political issue.
Revealing and even endearing in many ways, but also remains true to the senator’s dedication to message discipline. Don’t look here for the types of wild youth tales and soul-baring reflections that made Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father a best-seller; then again, that was first published 13 years before his presidential candidacy ... The frequent invocation of poster-ready phrases such as 'we must make right the wrongs that this administration has committed in our name' leaves no doubt that disciplined message of The Truths We Hold is all about the future. As in: 2020. She is running.