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Lone Star Book Reviews
By Michelle Newby, NBCC
Contributing Editor

 

Michelle Newby is a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews and Foreword Reviews, writer, blogger at TexasBookLover.com, and a moderator for the Texas Book Festival. Her reviews appear in Pleiades Magazine, Rain Taxi, Concho River Review, Mosaic Literary Magazine, Atticus Review, The Rumpus, PANK Magazine, and The Collagist.

 

Lone Star Book Reviews
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cecile Richards is a nationally respected leader in the field of women’s health, reproductive rights, and social change. She began her career helping garment workers, hotel workers, and nursing home aides fight for better wages and working conditions. After years in the labor movement, she moved back home to Texas to help elect the state’s first Democratic woman governor: her mother, Ann Richards.

She went on to start her own grassroots organizations, and later served as deputy chief of staff to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2011 and 2012, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Richards was the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund for more than a decade and is a frequent speaker and commentator on issues related to women’s rights and activism. Richards serves on the board of the Ford Foundation. She and her husband, Kirk Adams, have three children and reside in New York City.

 

11.4.2018

MEMOIR

Cecile Richards (with Lauren Peterson)

Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead

Touchstone

Hardcover, 978-1-5011-8759-9 (also available as an e-book and an audio-book), 304 pgs., $27.00

April 3, 2018

 

“Little lady, you are just trying to make trouble.” —Sixth-grade teacher at University Park Elementary in Dallas

“Well behaved women seldom make history.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Pulitzer-Prize–winning professor of early American history at Harvard University

 

Cecile Richards was raised on campaigns and social justice, growing up in the political salon of her parents’ living room in the John-Bircher Dallas of the 1960s. The Richards family decamped for Austin, where they “tossed out their Frank Sinatra records for Jefferson Airplane,” the salon included Molly Ivins and Sarah Weddington, and seventh-grader Cecile felt freer to make her first independent political statement, wearing a homemade black armband to school to protest the Vietnam War.

 

This child of the People’s Governor left Austin to attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she met like-minded idealistic young activists and realized that “history wasn’t just something to read about in books — it was being made right in front of us.” Cecile went on to become a labor organizer and founded the Texas Freedom Network, the Texas Faith Network, and America Votes, all while juggling the responsibilities of wife and mother with an assist from husband Kirk Adams, whom she met during a campaign to unionize hospitality workers in New Orleans. Most recently Cecile was president of Planned Parenthood, where she led the organization in defeating Trumpcare; beat back multiple attempts to defund their work; and led the organization into politics as never before with their first candidate endorsements.

 

Cecile was active in the trenches (I forgot to count the number of arrests) at the birth of the Christian Coalition and as the conditions that now dominate our national, state, and even local — which has historically been more pragmatic than ideological — began to appear on radar. Now that those conditions have, if it please the gods, reached their zenith, Cecile, like so many others in this country who experienced the night of November 8, 2016, with heartbreak, incredulity, and, yes, fear, has alchemized the trauma into determination and resistance. My favorite slogan from Cecile’s experience of the Women’s March is “We’re not going to take this lying down!”

 

Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead is the memoir of Cecile Richards, labor organizer, activist, past president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and — as all Texans know — elder daughter of our beloved governor Ann Richards. Make Trouble is part witty biography, part instruction manual with practical tips (“Don’t wait for all the boats to get in the flotilla — just start moving”), and part inspirational exhortation to action.

 

Cecile writes with personality and emotion. Make Trouble sometimes reads like a no-nonsense business biography but more often it reads with wry humor, righteous outrage, and passionate commitment. Glimpses into Life with Ann are engaging and often amusing, such as the Great Chicken Massacre, when one of their dogs got into the pen. Ann consoled her son with, “But just think how happy that dog was!” Sometimes the details related are disturbing, such as the fact that it is routine for a new leader of Planned Parenthood to have a security team evaluate the physical safety of the leader and her family, and the fact that the president of Planned Parenthood in Kansas wears a bulletproof vest.

 

Then there are the light-bulb moments, as when a woman walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston and told the staff that she was there because she heard President Barak Obama say on television that Planned Parenthood provides breast-cancer exams. Then there was the time they delivered birth control by floatplane to an Alaskan village in the Arctic Circle.

 

There are more than a few touching details, which unexpectedly had me tearing up and rubbing the chill bumps on my arms, such as the Alcoholics Anonymous members who left their sobriety chips in tribute when Governor Richards lay in state at the Texas capitol.

 

Candid photos are well placed in the text, including one of Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Governor Richards, and her granddaughter Lily at a Lady Longhorns basketball game. There are countless entertaining and instructive anecdotes, as well as jaw-dropping factoids, such as that there were more Congressional committees assigned to investigate Planned Parenthood than Enron or the global financial crisis of 2008. And the 900 percent increase in requests for IUDs, long-term birth control that could outlast a Trump administration, after his election. And a surreal, creepy meeting with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner post-election. If nothing else good comes of this, an entire generation of newly energized activists and a record number of women running for office are an unmitigated good.

 

There is history here, especially the storied, proud history of more than a century of Planned Parenthood, from Margaret Sanger to Griswold v. Connecticut to the Affordable Care Act to Wendy Davis’s famous filibuster. As Cecile writes, “I firmly believe that when half of Congress can get pregnant, we will finally stop arguing about birth control … and we might even fully fund women’s health care.”

 

In the introduction, Cecile writes that she wrote Make Trouble to encourage people to fight for what they believe. It will be discouraging and even depressing at times but it can also be inspiring and fun and “it can introduce you to people who will change your life.” I have one question: Which political office is she going to run for?

 

“If you’re not scaring yourself, you’re probably not doing enough.”

 

Let’s go, y’all. #Vote

 

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