Can't Is Not an Option: My American Story

Can't Is Not an Option: My American Story

3.7 14
by Nikki Haley

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A rising star in the Republican Party shares her inspirational memoir of family, hope, and the power of the American Dream.

Decades before their daughter surprised the nation by becoming governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley's parents had a dream. Ajit and Raj Randhawa were well-educated, well-off Sikhs in the Punjab region of India. But despite


A rising star in the Republican Party shares her inspirational memoir of family, hope, and the power of the American Dream.

Decades before their daughter surprised the nation by becoming governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley's parents had a dream. Ajit and Raj Randhawa were well-educated, well-off Sikhs in the Punjab region of India. But despite their high social status, the Randhawas wanted more for their family-the opportunities that only America could offer.

So they left behind all they had known and settled in Bamberg, South Carolina (population: 2,500). As the first Indian family in a small Southern town in the early 1970s, the Randhawas faced ignorance, prejudice, and sometimes blatant hostility. Nikki remembers stopping at a roadside produce stand with her father, who always wore his traditional Sikh turban. Within minutes, two police cars pulled to make sure they weren't thieves.

But the Randhawas taught their children that they should never think of themselves as victims. They stressed that if you work hard and stay true to yourself, you can overcome any obstacle. The key is believing that can't is not an option.

The family struggled to make ends meet while starting a clothing business in their living room, eventually growing it into a multimillion- dollar success. At age twelve, Nikki started to do the bookkeeping and taxes after school. After graduating from college and entering the business world, she watched business owners like her parents battle government bureaucracy and overregulation.

Her frustration inspired her to get into politics and run for the state legislature. That first campaign, against an entrenched incumbent, led to racial and religious slurs and threats-but Haley, like her parents, refused to back down. She won on a promise to fight for reform, lean budgets, and government accountability, which is exactly what she did-much to the dismay of South Carolina's old guard politicians.

Soon she had a reputation as a conservative leader who could get things done. In the same state where her family was once ridiculed, she inspired a diverse grassroots following. In November 2010 she was elected South Carolina's first female governor and first nonwhite governor, and only the second Indian American governor in the country.

Haley's story, as told firsthand in this inspiring memoir, is a testament to the power of determination, faith, and family. And it's proof that the American Dream is still strong and true in the twenty- first century.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The daughter of Sikhs who immigrated to the States from India in the late 1960s, Haley grew up in small-town Bamberg, S.C. Though she asserts it's "a different place" today, Haley recalls being discriminated against: competing as a child in a Wee Miss Bamberg pageant, which gave prizes for a black queen and a white queen, she and her sister were given beach balls as consolation prizes, as there was no crown for Indian girls. However, her remarkable life is proof that she and the state have overcome their once tenuous relationship. She graduated from Clemson in the 1990s and began her political career shortly thereafter, mounting a successful underdog campaign that ended in the South Carolina House of Representatives. When Haley decided to run for governor, she earned the endorsements of Sarah Palin and the (deposed) governor's wife, Jenny Sanford, and she doesn't hesitate to invoke God's role in her election as well. An avowed advocate of the Tea Party, Haley insists that she and the party are a natural fit because "they understand the importance of putting principles before politics." Along the way she's learned that "Winners do what losers don't want to do." Haley's book details her impressive progress, but unfortunately reflects today's political practice of hurling criticism at one's opponents early and often.
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Kirkus Reviews
South Carolina's governor stakes out her red-blooded American credentials in a by-the-numbers memoir. Haley, as was reported back when she briefly made the news, was born Randhawa, the child of Punjabi immigrants. Since her father wore a turban and her kin looked different from the other denizens of the Piedmont, she suffered all the expected abuse and racism of the time and place. Apparently she never considered the political leanings of her tormentors in that redder-than-red state, though, because she jumped into GOP politics once she had the self-described epiphany that people listened to her when she talked. Perhaps that affiliation was merely the product of some perceived sense of loyalty, for the sense we get is that Randhawa/Haley has long gone along to get along: "I got a scholarship to go to Clemson to study textile management. Cotton, wool, and silk weren't really my areas of interest, but I thought, Fine, I'll do it. I just wanted to go to Clemson." Haley's approach to politicking is homespun and commonsensical: Ply the audience with Krispy Kremes, win over legislators by doing small favors, profess to love "the people." On the personal front, she allows that she doesn't watch TV or read newspapers at home so that her children aren't exposed to the meanness of politics (so much for education). There's scarcely a moment that approaches originality in these pages. Every note seems scripted, including her protestations that it's Washington that keeps her from doing her job: Obama bad, Reagan good, etc. Haley's prose rises above a monotonous whisper only when she gets on the subject of the Tea Party: "That's what I love most about the Tea Party. It's drawing the line on government arrogance and overspending with the taxpayers' money." If you're a fellow traveler, this is your book. If not, you likely won't pick it up.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Sold by:
Penguin Group
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Nikki Haley was elected to the South Carolina General Assembly in 2004 and reelected in 2006 and 2008. She was elected governor in 2010. She and her husband, Michael, an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, have two young children.

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Can't Is Not an Option: My American Story 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is not a "great day in South Carolina" despite the mandate handed down by Haley that all state agencies answer their calls with this phrase. Saying it doesn't make it so govenor! Don't waste your time on this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very poorly written and unbelievable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book What A Beauitful Lady
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Belle44 More than 1 year ago
This is the thoroughly engrossing story of Gov. Haley's life to date. It not only gives insight into her personal and political life, but gives a glimpse of the workings, good and bad, of the political scene in South Carolina. I highly recommend to to all, but especially South Carolina residents.
Theedg More than 1 year ago
Nikki is great. Her story is the American dream. Fast read.
readingsince3RS More than 1 year ago
I read the first Chapter, told my wife she MUST read it. She is and will not let me have it until she finishes. She is a computer geek and reads paper pages more slowly than I....working my way through my "stand-by" collection. Should have ordered two copies and gifted hers when she finised. I break bindings fold pages, notate and lovingly abuse all my books so that no one will ever want them to sell. This book will be unreadable after I highlite, underline, circle and notate....
skyeVT More than 1 year ago
This was good reading. She has a backbone of steel !!
wygrandmareader More than 1 year ago
Very interesting story by a very incredible family. Well written and fascinating.
shbb More than 1 year ago
I am enjoying reading this book. It is an enlightening book about politics in the South, someone who is a minority and a newcomer to politics. Her story and attitude are truly amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"cant is not an option" is a very inspiring memoir. gov haley at age 12 kept the books in her parents store and went on to bussiness school and went on to become one of south carolinas leading governors as well as one of the youngest one to serve in office so far. she is an amazing lady and I was impressed with her leadership skills in dealing with tough situations in not wanting to back down and always wanting to take the high road has alot of principles for every day life.