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A Fighting Chance

A Fighting Chance

4.2 73
by Elizabeth Warren

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An unlikely political star tells the inspiring story of the two-decade journey that taught her how Washington really works—and really doesn't—in A Fighting Chance

As a child in small-town Oklahoma, Elizabeth Warren yearned to go to college and then become an elementary school teacher—an


An unlikely political star tells the inspiring story of the two-decade journey that taught her how Washington really works—and really doesn't—in A Fighting Chance

As a child in small-town Oklahoma, Elizabeth Warren yearned to go to college and then become an elementary school teacher—an ambitious goal, given her family's modest means. Early marriage and motherhood seemed to put even that dream out of reach, but fifteen years later she was a distinguished law professor with a deep understanding of why people go bankrupt. Then came the phone call that changed her life: could she come to Washington DC to help advise Congress on rewriting the bankruptcy laws?
Thus began an impolite education into the bare-knuckled, often dysfunctional ways of Washington. She fought for better bankruptcy laws for ten years and lost. She tried to hold the federal government accountable during the financial crisis but became a target of the big banks. She came up with the idea for a new agency designed to protect consumers from predatory bankers and was denied the opportunity to run it. Finally, at age 62, she decided to run for elective office and won the most competitive—and watched—Senate race in the country.
In this passionate, funny, rabble-rousing book, Warren shows why she has chosen to fight tooth and nail for the middle class—and why she has become a hero to all those who believe that America's government can and must do better for working families.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In the world of ordinary citizens vs. big banks, U.S. senator Warren (Massachusetts; coauthor, The Two-Income Trap) sees the match as the battle between David and Goliath. She warns readers that often the story doesn't have a happy ending and that sometimes it ends with David getting the slingshot shoved down his throat—sideways. The senator believes that people should understand that the consumer financial market favors big banks because regulatory and legislative bodies are targeted by well-financed lobbying groups paid for and directed by those financial giants. She relates her experiences during the 20-plus years she served on several congressionally appointed commissions and oversight boards related to consumer bankruptcy and TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) and as a special advisor advocating for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Warren shows how the system gave banks the edge over the middle-class borrower, and she explains how she worked tirelessly in all of her congressional-advisor roles to give middle-class families a fighting chance against the power of the finance industry. VERDICT Lay readers and business students who need to understand how banking and lending regulation and legislation are enacted will appreciate the personal stories Warren uses to demonstrate the problems borrowers encounter, the solutions she worked for, and the disappointments she met along the way.—Jill Ortner, SUNY Buffalo Libs.
Publishers Weekly
★ 04/21/2014
Warren, the freshman senator from Massachusetts turned Democratic rock star, serves up a frank and lively account of how she became the banking and finance industry's fiercest nemesis. Warren's passion is rooted in her personal history. As a young girl in her native Oklahoma, she saw her family's fortunes nose dive after her father's heart attack, losing their car and almost their house and forcing her mother back into the job market at age 50. Warren puts herself through college, marries, grows weary of stay-at-home motherhood, and fatefully decides to enroll in law school, inspired by "television lawyers who were always fighting to defend good people who needed help." She develops an expertise in bankruptcy, becoming one of the country's go-to experts. In these pages, she displays a down-home charm and an effortless rapport with everyday people that makes her story more engaging than the average political tome. Her sketches of the powerful, among them President Barack Obama, the late Ted Kennedy, Timothy Geithner, provide a feel for the ups and downs of inside the Beltway relationships. Yet the pivotal, often vicious campaign battle with former Bay State senator Scott Brown that catapulted her into the U.S. Senate is an almost anti-climactic footnote to her fight to set up her baby, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The book is more memoir than manifesto; Warren emerges as a committed advocate with real world sensibility, who tasted tough economic times at an early age and did not forget its bitterness. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“A potent mix of memoir and policy… The title of this book reminds us that this is about Warren's fight. She is still the fiery advocate who called for a bureau to protect consumers or, as a second choice, ‘no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.'” —The New York Times Book Review

“Moving … Ultimately, the book's message is that one person can make a difference.… After reading this book, it is comforting to know that Elizabeth Warren, with her passion, anger and bluntness, will not be silenced.” —The Washington Post

“[Warren's] storytelling is well-paced and engaging… She mixes policy points with rich behind-the-scenes anecdotes.” —The Boston Globe

“Intelligent and informative … [Warren is] good, plainspoken company who makes you feel smarter for having spent such easy time with her…. Her new book, which is a loving look at her family as well as her country, will only broaden her base.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A revealing account of Warren's rise to prominence … [Warren's] arguments demand to be taken seriously…. As a politician and activist, Warren's great strength is that she retains the outsider's perspective, and the outsider's sense of moral outrage, which runs throughout A Fighting Chance… She's an indomitable battler for the underdog, and she doesn't take no for an answer.” —The New York Review of Books

“The Wall Street watchdog and U.S. senator has produced a readable and sometimes infuriating explanation of the biggest financial crisis of our time.” —People

“[Warren] has a compelling story to tell…. She is also entertaining about professional politics.” —The Economist

“Warren's prose is as … direct as her book's title. She has a good story to tell and she tells it well…. Warren's accomplishments defied expectations virtually every step of the way.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“Passionate… Her vision [for the country], laid out elegantly and effectively in A Fighting Chance, involves investments by ‘we the people,' through our government, in schools, roads and research labs, and in a social safety net for ‘the least among us,' investments that are, at once, in our own self-interest and in the national interest.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Remarkable… A Fighting Chance takes the reader into the nitty-gritty of our nation's most controversial financial decisions with a depth of insight and experience no one else in today's politics can offer… In a time when our country's greatness seems to be in crisis, this is the story of a woman who is the living embodiment of the American Dream.” —Harvard Political Review

“Revealing…Warren's book describes the troubling patterns and practices of high-level Washington.” —Gretchen Morgenson, The New York Times

“Warren has written a good book … Frank and quite strong.” —The Nation

“Warren's moment has arrived … To understand why Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the fastest-rising new star in the Democratic Party … read her new book … A Fighting Chance tells true and important tales about the great scandal of our age, the corruptions that engulf Washington today, and the battles of good people to reform them … [Warren] stands for the integrity and spirit that Americans hunger for in public life, which could someday bring her from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other.” —The Hill

“[A] call to arms … Reading the rousing finale of A Fighting Chance … you can hear the sound of the crowd roaring with approval.” —Mother Jones

“[Warren] displays a down-home charm and an effortless rapport with everyday people … The book is more memoir than manifesto; Warren emerges as a committed advocate with real world sensibility, who tasted tough economic times at an early age and did not forget its bitterness.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A passionate memoir of one woman's personal story and the larger story of corruption in financial circles and the need for reform that balances the interests of the American middle class against those of the corporate sector…. [Warren] offers a behind-the-scenes look at the political dealmaking and head-butting machinations in efforts to restore the nation's financial system.” —Booklist (starred review)

Kirkus Reviews
In this engaging memoir, Massachusetts Sen. Warren (co-author: All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan, 2005, etc.) introduces her family and recounts the battles that shaped her career as a teacher and politician. Educated as a specialist in contract law, the author reshaped her career to become one of the country's leading experts in bankruptcy after the law was amended in 1981. Seeking to understand why people were going bankrupt in increasing numbers, Warren began to accumulate evidence contradicting the orthodox view that people seeking protection from creditors via the bankruptcy courts were deadbeats "who existed at the economic margins and would always be there." She began to understand that bankruptcy was affecting ordinary middle-class people who found themselves unable to face the financial consequences of job loss, sickness or other personal catastrophes. These elements resonated within her own family: Her father lost his job and suffered repeated sicknesses, and her grandchildren have ongoing health issues. Warren pushed further to identify how credit-issuing institutions were taking advantage of consumers in manipulative ways. The expertise she developed led to a request for her to join the staff of a presidential commission on bankruptcy in 1995. The author uses her legal background, political knowledge gained from a succession of appointments involving bankruptcy law, an investigation into the financial crisis of 2008, and her proposal for a Consumer Finance Agency to provide intriguingly detailed information about the politics of bankruptcy, banking and credit. She introduces leading figures with whom her career has intersected, including Sen. Edward Kennedy and Congressman Barney Frank, and she shows how her continuing concerns with the financial plight of the middle class shaped her approach to the battles she felt called to fight. The book also covers her Massachusetts senatorial campaign. A frankly partisan memoir that provides shrewd insights into both national politics and the state of the middle class.

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Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

A Fighting Chance

I’m Elizabeth Warren. I’m a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. For nearly all my life, I would have said I’m a teacher, but I guess I really can’t say that anymore. Now I’d have to introduce myself as a United States senator, though I still feel a small jolt of surprise whenever I say that.

This is my story, and it’s a story born of gratitude.

My daddy was a maintenance man and my mother worked the phones at Sears. More than anything, my parents wanted to give my three older brothers and me a future. And all four of us have lived good lives. My oldest brother, Don Reed, served twenty years in the military, with 288 combat missions in Vietnam to his credit. In good years, my brother John had a union job operating a crane, and in leaner years he took whatever construction work he could get. My brother David had a special spark; he started his own business, and when that didn’t work out, he started another business, because he couldn’t imagine a world where he wasn’t living by his wits every day. I went to college and became a teacher, first for special-needs kids and then for law students; only much later did I get involved in politics. My brothers and I all married and had children, and my parents plastered their walls, their refrigerator, and their tabletops with pictures of their much-loved grandchildren.

I will be grateful to my mother and daddy until the day I die. They worked hard—really hard—to help my brothers and me along. But we also succeeded, at least in part, because we were lucky enough to grow up in an America that invested in kids like us and helped build a future where we could flourish.

Here’s the hard truth: America isn’t building that kind of future any longer.

Today the game is rigged—rigged to work for those who have money and power. Big corporations hire armies of lobbyists to get billion-dollar loopholes into the tax system and persuade their friends in Congress to support laws that keep the playing field tilted in their favor. Meanwhile, hardworking families are told that they’ll just have to live with smaller dreams for their children.

Over the past generation, America’s determination to give every kid access to affordable college or technical training has faded. The basic infrastructure that helps us build thriving businesses and jobs—the roads, bridges, and power grids—has crumbled. The scientific and medical research that has sparked miraculous cures and inventions from the Internet to nanotechnology is starved for funding, and the research pipeline is shrinking. The optimism that defines us as a people has been beaten and bruised.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I am determined—fiercely determined—to do everything I can to help us once again be the America that creates opportunities for anyone who works hard and plays by the rules. An America of accountability and fair play. An America that builds a future for not just some of our children but for all of our children. An America where everyone gets what I got: a fighting chance.

My story seems pretty unlikely, even to me. I never expected to run for office—but then again, I never expected to do a lot of things in my life. I never expected to climb a mountain. I never expected to meet the president of the United States. I never expected to be a blonde. But here I am.

The story starts in Oklahoma, where I grew up, and it tumbles through a life built around husbands and babies and setting the kitchen on fire. I made my way to a commuter college, a teaching job, a public law school, and, eventually, a professorship. As I started weaving in academic research, I became more and more worried about what was happening to America’s families, and the story shifted to Washington, where I picked my first public fight. In 1995, I agreed to take on what I thought would be some part-time public service for a couple of years, and I quickly got caught up in a battle over our nation’s bankruptcy law. I know that sounds a little obscure, but underneath it was a clash about whether our government exists to serve giant banks or struggling families.

The battle lasted much longer than I’d expected—a full ten years, in fact. My own life threaded through, of course, with graduations and funerals and grandchildren of my own. When that battle ended, I picked up another, and then another and another—a total of five big fights in all. They ranged from fighting for a fresh start for families who had suffered a job loss or a serious illness, to trying to force the government to be transparent about what was really going on with the bank bailout, to tangling with the big banks over dishonest mortgages. But the way I see it, even as they took me this way and that, all five battles were about a single, deeper threat: America’s middle class is under attack. Worse, it’s not under attack by some unstoppable force of nature. It’s in trouble because the game is deliberately rigged.

This book tells a very public story about fraud and bailouts and elections. It also tells a very personal story about mothers and daughters, day care and dogs, aging parents and cranky toddlers. It’s not meant to be a definitive account of any historical event—it’s just what I saw and what I lived. It’s also a story about losing, learning, and getting stronger along the way. It’s a story about what’s worth fighting for, and how sometimes, even when we fight against very powerful opponents, we can win.

I never expected to go to Washington. Heck, for the most part I never even wanted to go. But I’m here to fight for something that I believe is worth absolutely everything: to give each one of our kids a fighting chance to build a future full of promise and discovery.

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Warren

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Warren is the senior senator from Massachusetts. A former Harvard Law School professor, she is the author of eight books, including All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan and The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke, written with her daughter, Amelia Tyagi.

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A Fighting Chance 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book! I can't seem to recommend it enough! The personal accounts, the plain language, and the work ethic are enough o make it amazing. The geniue love of people, especially hard working American, is so refreshing! She is the real deal, never stooping to name calling or ugly political tricks, grace under fire! Looking forward to reading more! Also love that she thoroughly researches her information, which is cited at the end of her book! Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing! Warren is a treasure; her book is interesting and informative and impossible to put down.
nikki1CO More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read, & believe me I have read many, that clearly & concisely explains the crash of 2008. Ms Warren does not talk down to her readers, she simply explains the government situation & what was done to correct/ or not correct it. I came away from this book so inspired, Ms Warren came from a loving, but terribly poor family, she pulled herself up from nothing, became a working mother when that was frowned on, & an expert in bankruptcy laws. This book is riveting, I cannot recommend it enough
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful autobiography of a woman with a deep and abiding social consciousness. Warren not only exposes the reprehensible behavior of the financial industry but has been instrumental in creating an agency that is helping to protect us all from financial predators. This book should be required reading for every voter regardless of party.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is good to get a firsthand insight into the Senator's thoughts and background after knowing her mostly through PBS videos and speeches. She is living up to expectations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am so impressed with Elizabeth Warren's fortitude and concern for all struggling families. Her stories show how close many of us are to financial collapse and how so many of our congressional leaders do not have our interests at the forefront of their objectives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We need more people in office like her that fights for ordinary people Well written great read about an accomplished, highly educated but down to earth women
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It sure opened my eyes u to the corruption in our government. I am going to read her other books now. I tell everyone they need to read this, it will scare them to death about banking.
Anonymous 10 days ago
Worst book I ever had the misfortune of buying and reading. Do not waste your money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Totally enjoyed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gt "eri" to join
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: look up age:15 wepons :dimond katanas ;sameri swords; and a rose whip aperrince:black everything and pericing blue eyes and a brand on her neck moods:shes mostly depressed and numb history:hates talking about it power:she is fire but human she strikes with it and eats it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
- Hal
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Yeah, what would be a tournament, without me?"(Bio at Athenian Constitution bios.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Signing up. Bio at 'Persist' result 5. ((Or 4? O.o))
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sign up here!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She's been caught making up lies for her financal advantage. Put this in fiction.
GRACIE9492 More than 1 year ago
She's already been proven to be a liar....why would anything in this book be different!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Recommended for anyone interested in politics and/or trying to affect change in today's world
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very passionate woman. We need more people like her in politics. Restores the belief that you should keep pushing for the world to be a better place.
BeadQueen More than 1 year ago
Very important messages are in this book for anyone who is concerned with the direction our country is going.  If you can - read this before voting!!