Julián Castro’s book—perhaps memoir is a better characterization—chronicles a familiar tale of American exceptionalism … and for that reason is not exceptional. Julián, the identical twin of Joachim, served as mayor of San Antonio and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama. Currently, he is crisscrossing the country in pursuit of national office.
The book has a curious and unclear subtitle: Waking Up from My American Dream. However, as he campaigns from New Hampshire to Iowa, the dream appears to be continuing in full bloom and in his consciousness. Castro paints a sympathetic portrait of growing up in el barrio with all the attendant disadvantages of poverty and a family subjected to myriad challenges. Women, especially his mother, created much needed stability and comfort while providing inspiration and motivation to struggle and succeed. He recalls at an early age a repeated message from his mother:
As a citizen, you need to participate in the democratic process. If something is wrong, you can change it. Your efforts may pay off in the long run even if you don’t get your way right now.
This charge is the trope that guides the author and reflects the progress of his development through education and politics. While Castro’s journey may be unlikely, it is far from unique, and this memoir does not communicate any singular life lessons or events that have not been described in many other success stories.
Castro reveals that he was vetted as a potential vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, but comes up short in offering details of the process to curious political nerds such as this reviewer. However, there may be a future chapter to this unlikely journey.