A Fighting Chance

By Elizabeth Warren

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Washington Post: Review, A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren

April 22, 2014

One of the most moving scenes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s absorbing book, A Fighting Chance, occurs in its first 10 pages. After a heart attack, her father lost his job selling carpets in Oklahoma City and was demoted to a commission-only job selling lawn mowers. It did not go well. The station wagon was repossessed; the family, Warren implies, teetered on the verge of losing its home.

One sweltering day, 12-year-old Elizabeth comes upon her 50-year-old mother, sobbing and trying to squeeze into her best dress, scared but determined to apply for a job answering phones at Sears. When she finally gets it on, she turns to her daughter and says, “How do I look? Is it too tight?” Of course it is. But Warren does the right thing. “I stood there, as tall as she was. I looked her right in the eye, and said: ‘You look great. Really,’ ” Warren writes, recalling it as the moment when, “I wasn’t a little girl anymore.”

It may have been the last time Warren pulled her punches. That’s certainly the case in this book, which mostly details her decades struggling against financial institutions that, in her view, are bent on picking every last penny from our pockets even if they destroy the country in the process — along with too many lapdog lawmakers who abetted their actions. As such, it is a political narrative first and an autobiography second. Yes, it tells how a self-described, daughter of a “maintenance man” attended college on a debate scholarship, went to law school and, one day while she was home caring for her two young children, received an unexpected call from Rutgers University asking her to teach a law course — immediately. The judge scheduled to teach never showed up; were his identity revealed, he might be the most hated man on Wall Street.

Ultimately, the book’s message is that one person can make a difference, but change is painfully slow, uneven and the work of a lifetime. After reading this book, it is comforting to know that Elizabeth Warren, with her passion, anger and bluntness, will not be silenced.

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