My Country, 'Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future

My Country, 'Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future

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by Keith Ellison
     
 

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The first Muslim to be elected to Congress speaks out about what divides Americans—and what can bring us together.

I raised my right hand and placed my left on the Quran, which was being held by my wife and mom. Suddenly I was blinded by a cascade of camera flashes.

Keith Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress. In fact, the

Overview

The first Muslim to be elected to Congress speaks out about what divides Americans—and what can bring us together.

I raised my right hand and placed my left on the Quran, which was being held by my wife and mom. Suddenly I was blinded by a cascade of camera flashes.

Keith Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress. In fact, the first nonwhite that Minnesota has ever elected to Congress. That wasn’t why he ran, however. Quite simply, he entered politics because he wanted to make a difference—to contribute to the future of his children, his community, and his country.

This memoir, while filled with delightful family anecdotes and Ellison’s personal recollections, is far more than that. Ellison speaks from the heart, talking about the ever-changing face of America: his “sweet land of liberty.”

In his own family, he sees an illustration of what makes America great. In three generations, his father’s family went from slavery to respected professionals. And while being black is a source of pride for the family, they also acknowledge being a “melting pot”: Ellison ancestors include a white French-Creole merchant and his African-born slave mistress, a Spaniard, and even a Croatian. And he sees in them freedom of religion and expression. The Ellisons have room to love and respect not just a Muslim but also a Baptist, a couple of Catholics, and even an agnostic.

Ellison talks candidly of himself and his dreams, his conversion to Islam, and how important his faith is to him. He is proud of his political role in pursuing justice for Muslim Americans whose constitutional rights are being imperiled by bigotry and ignorance. He dreams of his daughter growing into an independent, all- American woman who is also Muslim. But he emphasizes how his private beliefs play no part in his politics, because upholding the separation of church and state is fundamental to who he is.

His frank commentary on all that America has the potential to be doesn’t pull any punches, because Ellison believes true liberty grows and evolves. Just as our young nation slowly came to realize that we could achieve true liberty only when all people—including the black ones—were free, so we must now acknowledge as equals our new and changing population, no matter their color, country of origin, or creed. Ellison sees a country increasingly polarized by politics and religion, and like Martin Luther King Jr., he has a dream. A true United States of America—undivided by petty hatred and bigotry and kept strong by unity. That’s Keith Ellison’s dream.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/20/2014
In January 2007, Ellison stood with his right hand over his heart and his left hand on Thomas Jefferson’s Quran as he was sworn in as the first Muslim elected to Congress. Part memoir and part political reflection, Ellison’s lackluster and meandering recollections about his childhood and youth in Detroit, his college days and law school days, his eventual move to Minnesota, and his election to Congress reveal very little about the man or the ways that his faith informs his public service. Ellison admits that after 9/11, his candidacy went from being about inclusion and peace to being a defense of the freedom of religion. In a refrain he hammers throughout the book, he reminds us that “we are in a battle for our national soul,” yet he offers only the vague advice that “… to meet your goals and justify your existence—you must have a purpose. Purpose organizes your life.” Uninspiring, Ellison’s anodyne memoir will have little appeal to anyone outside his circle of influence. (Jan. 14)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-12-04
An engaging memoir on what it means to be a black Muslim in American government. Raised in the 1970s in Detroit and Minneapolis in a household where hard work and discipline were the rules, not the exception, Ellison's childhood was saturated with tales of the struggles his extended family had endured to achieve racial equality under the Jim Crow laws. He juggled being an upper-middle-class black Catholic youth on track to succeed despite the street gangs, unemployment and drug deals commonplace in Detroit. From these beginnings, Ellison created his own vision of a post–civil rights society, "a new inclusive perspective" of society for which he was willing to stand up and fight. His desire for a more balanced, kind and fair world corresponded with the views he found in the Quran, and Ellison quickly converted to Islam. As an activist, he recognized that the best way to create the changes he envisioned was to become an active member of government. "I understood that we could make a difference in our homes, and in our communities--but we also could make a difference in our country by participating in government instead of just criticizing it," he writes. This led to his ongoing career in national politics, eventually giving rise to his election to Congress, the first black Muslim to hold such an office. With insights into the famous leaders who have influenced him, Ellison passionately details the concepts that still divide America and offers suggestions on how the country can move beyond the color of a person's skin or religious belief to create a nation of the people, for the people. The empowering words of an insightful American who has risen to a place in government where his actions can really make a difference.
Library Journal
Elected U.S. Representative to Minnesota's 5th congressional district in 2007, Ellison is the first Black Muslim in the U.S. Congress and the first African American elected to the House from Minnesota. Not a memoir, though it contains personal anecdotes, his work decries the current political polarization and argues for an America that truly embraces all peoples and beliefs. Ellison has been in the news since his election; with a 75,000-copy first printing.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451666878
Publisher:
Gallery Books/Karen Hunter Publishing
Publication date:
01/14/2014
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Keith Ellison is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. He is the first Black Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress and the first African American elected to the House from Minnesota. He is also the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and one of the organizers behind the 1995 Million Man March.

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