A Fighting Chance

by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2015

Review is copyright 2017 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published: 2017.01.11

Copyright 2017 by Wil C. Fry.
Some rights reserved.
Full Title: A Fighting Chance
Author: Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Year: 2014 (mine was 2015 trade paperback)
Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography
Publisher: Picador
ISBN 978-1-250-06225-3
View It On Amazon
Wikipedia Page
A Fighting Chance


A Fighting Chance is Senator Elizabeth Warren’s autobiography, first published in 2014 and ending with her election victory in 2012. My 2015 edition had a new afterword. The book covers Warren’s life from her humble beginnings in Oklahoma (including a brief stint in my former hometown, Seminole), through her education, becoming an attorney, children, remarriage, teaching law, advocating for consumer protections, and finally her campaign for the U.S. Senate.

She is the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, and for the past four years has been the biggest advocate for the middle class, fighting giant banks and faceless corporations that have spent over $100 million fighting her.

I agree with the Christian Science Monitor’s review, in which David Holahan says: “She has a good story to tell and she tells it well.” According to that review, the book was not ghostwritten, a rare thing these days.

What I Liked Least About It

Despite much of the book being authentic and even — at times — gripping, there were places where the phrasing sounded just like any politician’s “thank you” speeches.
“The people managing the volunteer effort were incredible. Mike Firestone is a high-energy guy who led a high-energy grassroots organization, and Lynda Tocci, Tracey Lewis, and Amanda Coulombe developed new strategies for turning out voters. Lauren Miller organized a creative and successful online effort as our news media director. The team leaders throughout the state were talented and innovative, and they busted their tails.”

— pg. 242-3

Almost all of these passages were during the story of her Senate campaign, but a few of them also showed up earlier, when she talked about the struggle to enact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I do of course understand how that fits into the story, but — perhaps due to my own election fatigue from the past two years — they felt hollow and trite. Perhaps all the “these people who helped me were great” lists should have been in a foreword or postscript.

What I Liked Most About It

One thing I certainly liked was how the story felt real. This is rare with autobiographies, in my experience, especially those written by politicians. She described situations that represent things we’ve all gone through, and how she felt about them.
“But there was something he loved even more than an airplane: he loved my mother. She was fifteen when he noticed her, a whisper-thin, dark-haired beauty who was lively and funny and whose beautiful low voice made her a favorite to sing at weddings an funerals. She would sit for hours in an empty room and play the piano and sing. My daddy fell completely in love with her.”

— pg. 9

But the best parts, for me, were when she talked about policy. On those points, her ideas crystallized and came through sharply, much like her recent speeches in Washington, where Warren continues to be a lone voice crying in the wilderness, seemingly the only one willing to hold financial and political criminals accountable. And unlike many autobiographies, Warren didn’t litter her book with mere experiences and opinions, but verifiable facts — all of which she cites sources for in a 50-page fine print “Notes” section at the back of the book. Perhaps even better yet is the passion she brings to her policy statements:
“America’s young people are struggling with more than $1 trillion in student loan debt. I asked: Why does the United States government lend to the biggest banks — the same banks that nearly broke our economy — at an interest rate that is less than one percent, and then turn around and charge our students an interest rate that is nine times higher? Why is the U.S. government scheduled to make $185 billion in profits off the backs of our students? We’re not investing in these students — no, we’re asking them to pony up the money to subsideze the rest of us.”

— pg. 274-5 (emphasis in the original)

One final thing I really liked: she is not afraid to be self-deprecating. This, perhaps more than anything, makes her seem like a real person to me. She is open about her faults and felt no shame at telling stories that don’t cast her in the best light. Imagine some other current politicians writing the following lines:
“I looked over to wave and walked straight into a pole. I wasn’t hurt, but I felt really stupid.”

— pg. 254


I recommend this book to anyone. The reading is light and quick. I read only a few minutes a day, just before bedtime, and finished this in less than two weeks. It was an enjoyable read about one of the leading women in the U.S. today.

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