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Let us type your motions, appeals, contracts, and other legal documents. We can type from your rough drafts or tapes. Our work is flawless, professional, fast, and economical. Foreign language typing available. 477-6671 504 W. 24th St. Book BARBARA JORDAN A Self-Portrait By Barbara Jordan and Shelby Hearon Doubleday, 1979. $9.95 By Kaye Northcott Austin For such a private person, Barbara Jordan reveals more of herself than I would have expected in this personal, intellectual history. Avid readers of political biography may feel this book is a bit thin on legislative detail. Liberals will probably not be satisfied with her explanation of why she was a character witness in John Connally’s bribery trial or why she didn’t ally herself more fully with the Congressional Black Caucus. But they will have a much better understanding of what makes Barbara Jordan tick. The book fills out the image of the woman I had already glimpsed during her triumphal march across the Texas political battlefielda regal, somewhat forbidding loner with a fine sense of humor and nary a whit of self-doubt. And there are freeze-frames of a less familiar Jordan, who as a teen-ager wore scoop-neck dresses and costume jewelry and could belt out a full-tilt boogie rendition of “Money Honey,” and who as a Texas state senator loved to camp in the Hill . Country with a close group of nonpolitical women friends with whom she felt “safe.” Any ambitious woman who reads this book will marvel at the cool deliberation with which Jordan honed her public persona on the way to becoming a lawyer, symbol, congresswoman, thinker, orator, all before the age of 40. After joining the debate team at black Texas Southern University, she gained 20 pounds and “her buxom figure took on the square lines of androgyny. She became a no-nonsense presence, someone it was all right to take across country in a car full of males and not worry about chaperonage.” There are two distinct voices in the book. Novelist Shelby Hearon’s thirdperson narration is intermingled with Jordan’s fine first-person reminiscences. This awkward format could have been disastrous, but it works, thanks to Hearon’s delicate and empathetic touch. Together they have written a good deal about how Jordan got from there to here, how she thinks, and what she’s learned. The book touches on the benchmarks of social change during the last 30 years, but the primary emphasis is on Barbara Jordan’s strivings to fulfill the destiny of Barbara Jordannot the destiny of her race or her sex or ideology but of her own very ambitious self. She has the master politician’s sense of survival and the main chance, and she presents her personal calculations with a candor that 1 find disarming. How refreshing to read a political biography that doesn’t attribute every act to nobility and regard for the ultimate good of the nation. Time after time Jordan simply explains that she took X step because “it was most advantageous for me.” From the very first Barbara Jordan knew what she wanted and could usually find a way to get it. Her earliest mentor was her maternal grandfather, John Ed Patten, a poor rag merchant and pardoned felon who deserves a biography of his own. Simply because she wanted them, he gave her three bicycles, which she took turns riding. They provided her with her earliest escape from the churchy Baptist Jordans, two generations living in a two-bedroom home in Houston’s Fifth Ward. “You just trot your own horse and don’t get into the same rut as everyone else,” her grandfather advised her. The book gives many examples of her early independence. She always had some money of her own, earnings from helping her grandfather sort rags and newspapers. She wanted a serving of meat with every meal, so if her mother was planning fish or beans, she would bring home a single serving of hot sausage for herself. As she matured, her grandfather continued to exert a strong influence. As Hearon writes, “He gave her a God who did not say bend your knee and await a better day. He gave her autonomy, telling her, `Do not take a boss. Do not marry. . . ” Both sides of her talented family soon realized that she was something really special, and with their encouragement she “woke to the necessity that someone had to push integration along in a private way if it were ever to come. . . . Some black people would make it in the white man’s world, and those who could had to do it. They had to move.” Move she did, amassing a staggering array of what she calls “First Times”champion debater, graduate of Boston University Law School, first black elected to the Texas Senate since Reconstruction, first black Congress from the South in this century. With the help of Lyndon Johnson she finagled a choice seat on the House judiciary committee, and then moved into the national spotlight with her sober eloquence during the Nixon impeachment hearings. Jordan’s earliest political allies were the liberal Harris County Democrats, but she never really was at home with them. She writes, “The feeling among them remained that if you were in, it meant OOh s . 16 APRIL 13, 1979
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