I’ve just read Rise by Gina Miller.
In 2016 Miller took the UK government to court for attempting to force through Article 50, the mechanism for starting Brexit, which would have lead to the nation leaving the EU without parliamentary consent.
Its title a reference to the Maya Angelou poem Still I Rise, the book is partly the author’s story of how she has been shaped by the successes and failures in her life, and partly a personal manifesto stating that every person can stand up and make a positive difference, even in the face of adversity.
Miller begins with her fight, in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and the “festering wounds” it exposed, to ensure that the UK’s democratic process and constitution be upheld. She traces her background as a child born in Guayana, a British colony at the time. As the daughter of a self-made man who became the country’s attorney general, she and her family saw Great Britain as the promised land, “a culture where the rule of law was observed and decency was embedded in the national fabric.” Since moving to the UK, forging a successful career and speaking up for her beliefs, that notion of justice and decency has come under scrutiny as she has been met with racist and sexual prejudice and abuse from all walks of society.
The author goes on to describe some of the specific challenges she has faced in her life including vicious hate mail, attacks by the press, being in an abusive marriage, and raising a daughter with special needs. In the end however, as a successful businesswoman with a happy family, hers is a story of strength and survival and a message of hope.
As a man, at times I felt that the book – which often returned to themes of female empowerment – perhaps wasn’t intended for me. Then on other occasions I felt that these stories of sexist bullying, discrimination and abuse told from the female perspective were perhaps as important – if not more important – for me and other men to absorb as for anyone else.
Other core messages of the book were universal: finding your voice, speaking up when it is important to do so, overcoming adversity, and demonstrating tolerance in a divided society.
This was a book I picked up on a whim as a departure from my usual reading subjects, and I’m glad I did.