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Written by Timothy Sexton
Now, that’s a Metaphor
The book opens on a memorable image made even more memorable by the author’s situating the moment in time forever within a ferociously apt dual-edged metaphor for justice. It is her first day as an employee at Alameda County Superior Courthouse, in Oakland, California and she cannot help but notice how perspective shapes architecture for the purpose of hidden meaning:
“From certain angles, it looked like an architectural marvel from a foreign capital, with its granite base and concrete tower rising to meet a golden rooftop. Though from other angles, it bore an uncanny resemblance to an art deco wedding cake.”
Harris grants that her mother was a tremendous influence on her decision to pursue a career seeking justice, but leavens the honor just slightly by admitting that the legacy is a bloodline. Grandmother influence mother and mother passed on her learning and passion to daughter. It is for her mother, however, that Harris reserves the greatest metaphorical badge of honor:
“She was born with a sense of justice imprinted on her soul.”
The Immigrant Dream
Harris writes extensively and passionately about the myriad problematic elements related to immigration into the United States. Ultimately, she boils down the whole process—from the initial decision to try it all the way through to successfully attaining residency and citizenship—into a metaphor that is paradoxically precise in its ambiguity and dualistic potential. Immigration is, she observes:
“an experience of possibility.”
When Your Mother is a Scientist
Harris details a childhood of occasionally assisting her mother at the lab where she worked doing mostly odd jobs. Her real job, however, was to learn. To become educated in the scientific process of hypothesis, experimentation, data analysis, drawing conclusions and moving forward despite failure. The most important lesson learned in that lab is then put into a metaphor of sublime simplicity:
“Innovation is the pursuit of what can be, unburdened by what has been.”
Harris also turns to metaphorical imagery to explain her vision of what the job of an elected official is. Reflecting upon the intricacies of public service in which the obvious thing to do is sometimes numbingly difficult to carry out, however, she ultimately is forced to twist the natural order of language. Rather than defining what should be expected of public servants, she is forced instead to assign that definition by explaining what the job is not:
“the job of an elected official is not to sing a lullaby and soothe the country into a sense of complacency.”
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