The dual-voice format of Barbara Jordan creates a singular effect, allowing readers to feel themselves to be simultaneously deep within and safely outside the subject. The book, like an optical illusion, presents two complementary images that are also, strangely, at odds. Moreover, the shifting is not always seamless: The chronological gaps and overlapping achieve a syncopated rhythm. The effect can even be dizzying, and although the pronouns provide a constant reminder, the reader may sometimes forget which author is speaking.
Hearon’s narrative functions as a gloss to Jordan’s, filling in the facts and explaining the complexities. Hearon’s attitude toward her subject is uniformly admiring and sometimes cloying; she did not avail herself of the critical objectivity that the accompanying first-person passages might have afforded. She does mention Jordan’s stinginess and the occasional charges against her of self-serving motives in political decision making, but for the most part, she presents the congresswoman as a highly intelligent, independent-minded, courageous, principled, and likable individual. Jor-dan seems virtually free of faults; she does have a tendency toward obesity, however, that provides a very human element to an often intellectual and issue-oriented portrait. Hearon makes a strong effort to trace the development of Jordan’s character from her particular background and family members.
Jordan’s recollections provide the heart and soul of the book. They are written as if recounted at leisure to a patient friend, as perhaps indeed they...
(The entire section is 651 words.)