Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice
Author: Nikki Grimes
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Grade level: P-3, Ages: 4-8
As we say in my family, “Rise to bleed again.” And as Grimes says, “Kamala Harris is still writing her American story. And you are too.” For that matter, so is America.
Eve comes home hot from first grade. Her classmate Calvin said she was stupid–of course she can’t be President–that’s not something girls can do, according to him (and a lot of other Americans, but leave that be for the moment). Eve’s mother, patient and wise, informs Eve that Calvin is wrong, and proceeds to tell her daughter the story of Kamala Harris, a girl from right in their own neighborhood of Oakland, who hopes to be president someday.
The framing device of fictitious Eve and her mother help us as the readers pause and reflect on Senator Harris’s story. [Editor’s Note: The “sandwich narrative” is at least as old as the New Testament. Unfortunately, the subjugation of women has even earlier roots and continues to date.] They pop up every few pages to comment on the timeline, and their remarks are italicized so we know whether we’re in the fictitious present, or in the historical past.
As the title suggests, author Nikki Grimes emphasizes the roots of the senator’s dedication and drive, making the point that the senator developed her commitment to social justice early on.
Right away, Kamala was like clay
her parents molded for action.
When her mother wasn’t
hunting cures for cancer,
and her father wasn’t teaching,
both marched for civil rights
and went to lectures by
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Kamala was right there, too,
bouncing along in her stroller,
chewing on her pacifier
and words like “peace” and justice.
From the streets of Oakland, to the plains of Zambia, from snowy Montreal to historic Howard University in Washington DC, we follow Kamala’s story as she sees injustice and tries to right it in ways big and small. Illustrator Laura Freeman’s colorful and bold illustrations are gorgeous, and Grimes’ prose is poetic but to the point.
Kamala was finally ready to climb
the mountain of her dreams:
First, Deputy District Attorney.
Next, the first female
District Attorney of San Francisco.
Then, the first black woman
Attorney General of California.
Peak by peak, she rose,
the second black woman
voted into the US Senate.
Lawyer, prosecutor, Senator –
the little girl named “lotus flower”
had turned herself into a person
others could call on for help.
During a period of trial in Harris’s life, Eve and her mother say to each other, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” They repeat the sentiment at the end of the book, after Harris suspends her presidential campaign. It is a bitter reminder that Calvin hasn’t been proven wrong yet. He will be though, and hopefully soon.
The book was written before Senator Harris was named the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee, a historic pick making her the first woman of color to be nominated for national office by a major political party. As we say in my family, “Rise to bleed again.” And as Grimes says, “Kamala Harris is still writing her American story. And you are too.” For that matter, so is America.
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
My thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.
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