Book Review Sunday: Know Your Power

This week’s Book Review is Know Your Power: A Mesage to America’s Daughters by former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Ahh sorry this week’s Book Review Saturday is late (hence why it’s Book Review Sunday). I went to see Malaficent yesterday with my friends, and oh my god it was amazing! It was much better than Sleeping Beauty because all the characters had a lot of depth, including Aurora, who wasn’t just a princess to sleep and be kissed by “a savior”. Even the raven was a character with a lot of depth. And Angelina Jolie was bloody awesome as Malaficent and she really showed an array of emotions as her character. And I can’t stop gushing about how awesome the movie is. Just go watch it!  

For starters, I would like to say that I managed to see House Minority Leader Pelosi live when she came to visit the Eagleton Institute of Politics. And, oh my goodness, I was like a foot away from her when she was walking in, and I was in politics heaven. And her memoir of sorts is much like what the subjects and stories that she talked about during her visit. 

Pelosi has always been someone I look up to because of the way she gets things done and carries herself. It would be a dream come true if I manage to have 1/2 of her abilities in the future. And in this book, she recalls her journey to where she is today. Coming from a political family — her father was the Mayor of Baltimore –, marrying into a political family — the Pelosis in California –, are not exactly her journey into politics. Pelosi’s mother gave up her dream to pass the BAR exam to practice law and became a mother, as was extremely common for women at the time (and still is to some degree). Being the only daughter of 5, Pelosi remembers how she had to learn to become independent and create “alliances” with her brothers. One of her stories is about how her parents taught their children to not talk to strangers. And during the celebration after her father had been elected Mayor, the children were ushered into a fancy office. When a tall, distinguished man came in, he tried to make conversation with the children. Pelosi refused to talk, even when her brothers started to talk to the stranger. Afterwards, they learned that the stranger was the former Mayor, and her brother, Joey, told Pelosi that he’d tell “Mommy that [she] was not polite to the Mayor. ‘If you do,’ [she] said calmly, ‘I will tell Mommy that you talked to a stranger.’ [She] had just turned seven, and Joey was nine. [She] didn’t squeal on him, and because [she]’d earned his respect, he didn’t squeal on [her]” (15). 

Pelosi also mentions how she felt when she first entered the White House as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. As soon as she sat at the table with the rest of the her collegues that were invited, she felt her chair suddenly become crowded with the spirits of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton, Alice Paul, Lucretia Mott, and every other suffragette and activist sitting with her. “I was enthralled by their presence, and then I could clearly hear them say: ‘At last we have a seat at the table.’ After that moment, they were gone…. I was standing on the shoulders of all these icons from the past and on those of my contemporaries who gave me guidance when I came to Congress” (124). It is truly amazing to see how far women have come, how long it took, and how much further we have to go before we achieve true equality. And seeing history unfold before our very eyes is extremely humbling. I remember watching Pelosi taking her oath as Speaker, and I remember thinking, I want to be like her. We shall see how what the future has for me, but I truly want to be like her in character because she embodies confidence and compassion in such an interesting way that I’m forever intrigued. (Yes, I’m extremely biased, but she keeps her members in line and knows how many votes she has and that is truly remarkable.) 

There were other short blips into her personal life:

1. Paul Pelosi asked Nancy D’Alesandro out for beer, but she turned it down. But then he immediately asked her for dessert. “Well, Paul had just stumbled across the key to my heart — chocolate” (37). 

2. The new parents stayed at Paul’s mom’s house in San Francisco while they searched for a new home. When they found one with a beautiful backyard, Pelosi found out that it was the home of the newly appointed Deputy Secretary of the Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Nixon Administration. She refused to live in a home made available because of Nixon’s election. 

3. The Pelosi household motto was “Proper preparation prevents poor performance” (52). 

4. When she was asked to run for Congress, she went to her youngest daughter, Alexandra, and asked her what she wanted. To which Alexandra replied, “Mother, get a life!” (73). (To be honest, I say this to my mom — as most children tell their mothers –, especially now when she has the opportunity to become more politically involved in the Women’s Club she is a part of.) 

So yeah, I really enjoyed reading this. It wasn’t chronological, boring, dense, or extremely political. It was much like how she speaks, in memories and digressing every now and then with another little story to get her point across. It was neither a long read nor a slow one. And every page had more interesting stories about her twisty, turny road to career politics, with tiny peeks into her personal life with her many children and siblings. I highly recommend this book, to learn how to know your power, even if you do not agree with Pelosi’s political beliefs. Her style of leadership comes from her ability to know her strengths, her power. That is the main message I got from this book. 

Rating: 9.5/10 



About squishymaru

Master's student in chemical engineering with a B.S. in chemical engineering as well. Loves chemistry, math, increasing diversity in STEM, politics, and public health advocacy. Loves reading, writing, and being active -- mentally and physically.

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