Cover image for Pelosi
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt and Company, 2020.
Physical Description:
pages cm

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She's the iconic leader who puts Donald Trump in his place, the woman with the toughness to take on a lawless president and defend American democracy.Ever since the Democrats took back the House in the 2018 midterm elections, Nancy Pelosi has led the opposition with strategic mastery and inimitable elan. It's a remarkable comeback for the veteran politician who for years was demonized by the right and taken for granted by many in her own party - even though, as speaker under President Barack Obama, she deserves much of the credit for epochal liberal accomplishments from universal health care to gays in the military. How did a 79-year-old Italian grandmother in four-inch heels become the greatest legislator since LBJ - and how will she manage her greatest challenge yet, impeachment?

Author Notes

Molly Ball is TIME Magazine's national political correspondent and appears regularly as an analyst on NBC's Meet the Press, CBS's Face the Nation, PBS's Washington Week, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR. She formerly covered U.S. politics for The Atlantic and Politico. She is the winner of the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize and the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, among others, and lives in Washington, D.C.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Time journalist Ball debuts with a lively and detailed portrait of California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Born into a Maryland political dynasty (her father was a congressman and mayor of Baltimore) in 1940, Pelosi raised five children with her husband, Paul, a California businessman, as she moved up the ranks of San Francisco's Democratic Party. Elected to Congress in 1987, she advocated for AIDS victims, prevented the Presidio from being sold to private developers, and advocated for human rights in China following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. She also fought against the war in Iraq and, in her first stint as House speaker, helped President Obama pass the Affordable Care Act. Ball notes Pelosi's myriad milestones--the first daughter to follow her father into the House of Representatives, longest-serving member of the House Intelligence Committee, undefeated in floor votes during her first term as speaker--and credits her with helping save the economy from disaster in 2008 and changing course to launch the 2019 impeachment inquiry. Ball also notes Pelosi's struggles, including her tensions with progressive upstarts such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and accusations that she galvanized Republican turnout in Jon Ossoff's loss in a 2017 special election for a congressional seat. Ball's accessible review of recent legislative history and behind-the-scenes coverage of congressional matters provide valuable insights for political junkies. Even readers who don't entirely agree with Pelosi's agenda will gain respect for her accomplishments and tenacity. (May)

Kirkus Review

A cradle-to-today portrait of a master politician who "shattered the 'marble ceiling' and blazed a new trail for women." Born in 1940 into an avidly political family, Nancy D'Alesandro absorbed a great deal about electoral politics from her father--a five-term Congressman and, later, three-term mayor of Baltimore--and from her mother, who supported her husband's campaigning in addition to raising seven children (tragically, one died at age 3). TIME national political correspondent and CNN political analyst Ball uses numerous memorable anecdotes to portray Pelosi's childhood, adolescence, early married life, and mothering of five children. Establishing a family base in San Francisco because of her husband's career in finance, Pelosi had no initial plans to enter politics. Ball explains clearly how that opinion evolved, with Pelosi entering the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987. In large portions of the narrative, the author focuses on Pelosi's remarkable ability to overcome myriad stereotypes and outright misogyny to achieve ever more powerful positions in the House. Ball delves into Pelosi's leadership on a variety of controversial issues--e.g., the Iraq War ("to Pelosi and, by that point, most Americans, it seemed devastatingly obvious that the war had been a tragic misadventure") and the 2008 financial meltdown--while also offering intriguing information about her professional relationships with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and dozens of other recognizable names. It is no surprise that Pelosi is a relentless workaholic, and Ball provides plenty of instructive examples. Other personal details--"she never drank alcohol, rarely had caffeine that wasn't from her beloved dark chocolate and didn't need more than a few hours' sleep per night"--add human touches to a subject who is intensely private and never "indulges in public introspection." Ultimately, this is a portrait of a persistent, fearless leader undaunted in the face of relentless opposition. Ball obviously admires Pelosi, but this is not a hagiography. A top-notch political biography. (photo insert) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Journalist and political analyst Ball's first book is an entertaining and balanced biography of Nancy Pelosi, veteran politician and current Speaker of the House. Relying on numerous interviews and in-depth research, she traces Pelosi's life as a child (the only daughter of Baltimore mayor Thomas D'Alesandro), a just-out-of-college wife and mother (five children in six years), and a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker for the Democratic Party (fund raiser, California Party Chair, National Finance Chair). Ball then moves through Pelosi's 1986 election to the U.S. House of Representatives, covering career highlights through the 2020 impeachment hearings. Along the way, Ball offers plenty of insightful anecdotes, presenting events within historical perspective so that readers can fully appreciate their import. In her afterword, Ball maintains that she ultimately found Pelosi to be a very private person and "somewhat impenetrable." Considering this claim, Ball's profile seems pretty satisfying. At one point, she quotes Pelosi's description of what went into getting Obamacare passed: "You go through the gate. If the gate's closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we'll pole-vault in. If that doesn't work, we'll parachute in." This determination speaks to the very heart of this strong, trailblazing woman and political dynamo.WOMEN IN FOCUS: The 19th in 2020

Library Journal Review

In her first book, veteran political journalist Ball profiles one of the most influential women in politics today. Nancy Pelosi (b. 1940), House Representative for California's 12th District, has broken the "marble ceiling" multiple times, first in the California Democratic Party, and then as the first woman and two-time Speaker of the House. Based on in-depth interviews and deep background research, Ball has written a thorough and enjoyable political biography moving from Pelosi's childhood as the daughter of the mayor of Baltimore to her evolving political sense stemming from her time as a party fundraiser and whip. Ball describes how Pelosi learned to only bring legislation to a vote when she knows it will pass, and how many votes it will receive. In this up-to-date work, the author also recounts how Pelosi shepherded Barack Obama's landmark legislative victories through the House, how she overcame efforts to be replaced as Speaker of the House in 2018, and how she initially resisted and then steered the Democratic Party when calls for impeaching Donald Trump grew louder by the day. VERDICT This biography succeeds in illuminating the controversial politician and will be enjoyed by readers of current events, American government, and history.--Chad E. Statler, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH