Top Shelf in October: Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards by Jan Reid
Reviewed by: Bosco
For me, Ann Richards was Texas politics. I was born and raised here, the child of Democrats in a state leaving the party of LBJ in droves for the party of Nixon and Reagan. Ann Richards is the only winning candidate for governor who I have ever voted for. Her victory over Clayton Williams, the bumbling oil millionaire, was a lone highpoint for me. The glory days of Texas Democrats like LBJ and Rayburn were far behind us. For a short time, she brought back the promise of an era that felt mostly gone about the time I was born.
I’ve read a lot of history and political biography. The description “page turner” is not often applicable. Jan Reid’s biography of Ann Richards is exactly that. From start to finish, it’s a compelling read. Let The People In is a vibrant, full palette portrait of the most important woman in the history of Texas politics. The Lone Star State has produced more than its fair share of colorful and influential political figures. This fully framed and unflinching portrait of Ann Richards’ life tells the remarkable story of how she earned her place among those colorful, influential folks.
We get a quick peek, a chapter or so, at her childhood and early life and then Reid takes us on the journey that gets Ann Richards to the governor’s mansion. From her first run at office as a county commissioner in Travis County to her move to the Governor’s office, we get an intimate and detailed look at the person and the politician Ann Richards was. She feels real. She feels human. She’s beautiful. She’s flawed. We get it all in Reid’s tale.
Texas politics is perhaps crazier and more dangerous than most other states. Folks play for keeps down here. Scores are kept. Accounts are settled, often cruelly. The waters are dangerous and difficult to navigate. Reid’s biography gives a real sense of how intense swimming in those waters can be. Ann Richards navigated those waters with real class and charm. Like all good politicians, she was likeable and driven. Here we get to see how she did it against a lot of odds. Gender barriers in politics have always been a difficult hurdle; nowhere more so than Texas. Ann Richards’ achievements altered those barriers for women all over the political spectrum.
I loved this story of Ann. She never chose between her family and her political career. She chose to have both. She did not always manage it perfectly. She was a lot of things to a lot of people. Wife, Mother, Feminist, Friend and Politician, in this book Ann Richards the whole human gets uncovered. It’s not always pretty. It’s never boring. You won’t want to put it down. Ann Richards’ belief that there should be a place at the table for all the people shines through. You’ll finish Let the People In with the sure belief that now more than ever, American politics could use a lot more folks like Governor Richards.
Author Jan Reid will speak about and sign copies of Let the People In here at BookPeople on Wednesday, October 17 at 7pm. For more information and to order signed copies of Let the People In, please visit our website. We ship all over the world.