With Mia Love: The Rise, Stumble and Resurgence of the Next GOP Star, a biography of Mia Love by Salt Lake Tribune reporter Matt Canham, with Robert Gehrke and Thomas Burr, readers are fortunate to find a glimpse into the history and biography of Utah’s newest Representative to Congress, the first black, Republican woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. The book (which you can find at mialovebook.com or at the Amazon link below) is not authorized by Mia Love or her campaign.
Americans should be so lucky as to have such books about every member of Congress. With an incumbency reelection rate above 80%–and often much higher even—for over a half a century, it’s rare that new members join Congress. It’s even more rare that voters have any opportunity to learn the behind-the-scenes backstory before they even take office.
Over the last three years, first Utah and then America has watched the meteoric rise of Mia Love from relative obscurity to the brightest new light in the Republican constellation of stars after the midterm elections of 2014. With any new politician comes a narrative, a story that brings them to office and becomes their brand. With Mia Love — The Rise, Stumble and Resurgence of the Next GOP Star voters get to go beyond the carefully crafted and controlled messages to learn who Love is, where she came from, and, well, how she got here. The authors neither pull their punches nor swing them. Their intent seems to be to tell a story, present the facts, and let readers form a picture on their own.
The research seems thorough and the narrative doesn’t seem to depart far from what’s already been reported in the press and by Love campaign during the 2012 and 2014 races. However, what the book adds is details about her childhood, conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also called the Mormons or LDS Church), courtship with Jason Love, and some of the backstage drama preceding her speeches at the 2012 Utah Republican Party Convention and the 2012 Republican National Convention.
The reporting is great, even if it does come off as a really long news piece at times. The authors stick to what they know best, and the writing at times feels like an extended article that might appear on any given day in the Salt Lake Tribune. In many respects this choice of how to tell the story lends it a greater air of credibility. It’s hard to fault the book as biased, slanted, or otherwise critical of Love. Rather, the authors appear to take pains to keep the writing anesthetized of comment, critique, and color. It’s not a bad way to go and it leaves all of the drama to Mia Love’s story itself.
Because there is drama here.
The upshot of a drier writing style is that Mia Love’s story stands on its own. There’s plenty in her sometimes unlikely trail to Congress give it Hollywood scale proportions and plot twists (and I’m waiting every day to hear that she has optioned the rights to the story off). It’s hard not to see echoes of Erin Brockovich at points, or Robert Redford’s Bill McKay at others. Mia’s story stands on its own, and the authors’ style stays out of the way.
The authors are careful to consider areas and provide helpful description of subjects in which the reader may not be well-informed. For example, Canham and Co. take pains to explain aspects of the LDS Church to outsiders who may not be familiar with the often insular faith that Mia shares with former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The result is explanations that are concise, but helpful and fair. As a Mormon myself, it can be difficult to watch others describe my faith, but Canham, Gehrke and Burr deserve props for their treatment of the LDS faith.
When Mia Love gets past early biography–youth, college, conversion, and courtship–and finally arrives at the politics of Love’s runs for Congress, the narrative occasionally puts a fine point on how small Utah’s political community really is. If everyone on Earth is just six degrees of separation apart, then degree of separation in Utah politics is smaller still – no more than one or two degrees, perhaps. It’s no wonder that interference from Washington, D.C. consultants puts such a bad taste in Utahns mouth—we all know each other, and it rubs when someone who doesn’t know Utah shows up and tries to dictate how campaigns should be run. In Mia’s rise, it becomes clear that she did great when she stuck with local talent, winning the 2012 Utah Republican Convention with Casey Voeks and the 2014 General Election with Dave Hansen, but struggled when she spent time listening to consultants who parachuted in for the 2012 general election.
After filling out Love’s biography, political history, and election story, the authors spend a few pages laying out the geography that Representative-elect Love will face when she reaches Washington. For me, though, reading to know the history of Utah’s newest Representative, her past was more interesting than predictions about her future. Only time will tell whether Love is a flash in the pan or continues to rise as a leader in Washington and Utah.
Mia Love: The Rise, Stumble and Resurgence of the Next GOP Star is an interesting read, a must read, even, and not only for political junkies like myself, but for anyone curious about Love’s story as a fulfillment of the American dream and promise.
With any luck, this won’t be the last book that Canham, Gehrke and Burr write, but will be just the first to expand on the stories and biographies of Utah’s elected officials. Writing this book is a good thing for the public, and well in line with their roles as journalists. That said, I can’t help but wonder why they haven’t done this yet for other Utah politicians. Take, for example, Speaker Becky Lockhart. As Utah’s first female Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, she was arguably the most powerful woman in the state during her term, and I know we haven’t seen the last of her, yet. Or another might cover former Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, two conservative politicians who once enjoyed a high level of popularity in their own right, only to be brought down by hubris and corruption.
Few are as well-positioned to write these stories as this trio of authors, and Utah, and the country, could only be served by the effort.
Mia Love: The Rise, Stumble and Resurgence of the Next GOP Star is available on Amazon for $6.99 for the e-book and will be available in print for $12.99 later this week.