BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Barbara Jordan: A Self-Portrait’

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, the host of the 80+ episodes of Book Stew, a 30-minute video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, featuring authors, playwrights, voice artists, and journalists.

‘Barbara Jordan: A Self-Portrait’ by Barbara Jordan & Shelby Hearon

With an unusual format (autobiography with commentary by novelist Shelby Hearon), this is an intimate look at the life and career of one of the outstanding orators and politicians of our time.

Jordan came from a religious background in Houston and struggled throughout her life with how to balance her faith-based life and secular lives.

After growing up in a segregated schools, attending a HBCU, and winning debate contests, she attended BU Law School as one of two Black women in her class, and shares that her entire educational foundation was weak due to the poor quality of her teachers and the facilities, and that she DID have to work twice as hard to be just as good as a result.

Running for the local Texas legislature and then for Congress, she rose to power during the Watergate hearings, and no one who heard her testimony on television could ever forget it.

She befriended powerful politicians like LBJ, John Connolly, and Jimmy Carter, who could have appointed her as Attorney General.

She understood the quid-pro-quo and the power of her endorsements and used it to spearhead legislation such as the Voting Rights Act of 1975.

On a personal level, and like other Black women have stated, Jordan was viewed as “too black” and tried to make herself substantial in the world by gaining weight so as to not be ignored.

The book ends with Jordan retires from Congress, and she went on to academia and to die of MS at age 59. Jordan’s writing is so honest and intimate that the added commentary seems unnecessary, but it does not detract too much from the reader’s experience.

This is a book to own and to share.

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