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Meena Harris’ New Children’s Book Tells a Story Even We, as Adults, Need to Hear

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I’ve always considered myself a voracious reader. My parents’ love story began when they met while both working at Simon and Schuster, and growing up, part of the house was always filled from floor to ceiling with new reads. I clung to Eloise and Olivia and then eventually upgraded to Junie B. Jones and Anne of Green Gables. I craved independent female protagonists in my stories — and that’s something that has never changed.

When Meena Harris first announced her new book, Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, I knew it was a book I needed on my shelf. A story about her mother Maya Harris, a Senior Policy Advisor for Hillary Clinton, and her aunt Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator for California? Yeah, I was running for my wallet. Despite being twenty years old, I still can’t turn away a good picture book — especially one that tells a powerful feminist tale; in this case, Senator Kamala Harris and Maya Harris utilizing the power of community and perseverance to build a playground in their neighborhood.

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If you want something done, do it yourself

The story begins with Maya and Kamala daydreaming out the window about a brand-new playground in their apartment complex. They both immediately knew this was a very good and a very big idea, but they were going to need help. After talking to their mom about the idea, she suggested they write a note to their landlord.

Sure enough, the two girls wrote their landlord a letter about their idea, but he immediately shot their idea down. However, Kamala and Maya weren’t ready to give up. They wrote a longer letter after getting feedback and ideas from other kids in their building. The landlord gave it a little more thought, but ultimately decided this project was too big of an endeavor for his time and his money. Kamala decided she wasn’t going to give up. She then came up with the bright idea of asking if they could build this playground if they did it themselves. Finally, the landlord gave in and said, “Sure."

That's when the real challenge began. Kamala and Maya went door to door, asking their neighbors to help and hanging up posters in their building. Finally, one neighbor offered to help with his knowledge in construction for a sandbox. Then, another neighbor offered an extra tire for a teeter-totter. One by one, Kamala and Maya slowly began to find neighbors that could help them with this project. In the end, their landlord even shook their hands and commended them for a job well done.

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Dream big

When I first opened the book, my eyes darted to the “DREAM BIG!” followed by a heart and Meena’s signature on the inside cover. That messaging rings true throughout the whole book.

“When I started writing Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea nearly two years ago, I felt like it was a story the world needed, but I couldn’t have imagined how much more relevant it would become as the book hit shelves this summer,” Meena Harris, Founder and CEO of Phenomenal and author of Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea says. “In an era of unprecedented global challenges that at times can seem insurmountable, Kamala and Maya show us the power of persistence by teaching readers that, ‘No one can do everything. But everyone can do something.’ This isn’t just a mantra for young kids, though. It's a value that all of us can exercise every day—including young women in college.”

I really didn’t expect to get so emotional, but the recurring mantra of “no one could do everything, but everyone could do something” resonated so deeply. Kamala and Maya started with a big, bold idea, and even with immediate rejection, they weren’t ready to give up. Slowly, they found ways to organize and mobilize with the other children and adults in their community to build upon their collective power for a playground. Noes became maybes and eventually, those maybes became yeses, in the form of community support and organizing. Even in the face of adversity, Kamala and Maya, even at such a young age never gave up on the goal they wanted to achieve.

As we continue through college and enter the workforce, we're constantly going to face rejection and hardship. How we respond to these challenges determines our next steps. Kamala and Maya teach us that no goal is too big, too hard, or too impossible to achieve, as long as we continue to persevere and organize.

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Only the young

“Students and young people have led some of the most powerful social movements we’ve ever seen,” Meena says. “I’m constantly inspired by Gen Z’s ability to reject the status quo, organize, and fight for change — whether that’s in your backyard, on your campus, or all across the country.”

Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea teaches us that fighting for change can start right at home. If the two sisters could work together to turn an unused courtyard in their apartment building into a playground, what’s stopping you from doing the same in your community? No matter how big or how small, there are so many ways that we as individuals can take actions towards positive change in our very own neighborhoods.

Organize that protest. Build that community garden. Start that passion project you’ve been dreaming of. Apply for that position. Create that school club. Volunteer for that organization. Start your own. Your ideas and goals are limitless, and even if at first you face rejection — re-strategize, re-group, and try again. Kamala and Maya teach us that even if our initial idea doesn’t succeed or faces rejection, we can recreate our vision and build on collective power to achieve our goal.

“You don’t need to wait for anyone to invite you to the table, because you’re building a new, better, sturdier, and more welcoming table,” Meena says. “And these are skills that are going to serve you for the rest of your life as you pursue your dreams, make positive change, and lead us all.”

This book has taught me to stay determined and resilient in the face of adversity and that no goal is too big or too unattainable to achieve with the help and resources of others. I know that our generation can take these lessons to heart and create real, lasting change for our communities. 

Natalie B. Held is a senior at Boston University majoring in political science and minoring in women’s and gender studies. The B stands for Brooke except she doesn’t like Brooke. She just likes B and that’s all. When she’s not influencing, writing, or politicking—you can find Natalie scoping out new brunch spots, purchasing exorbitant amounts of lipsticks, and obsessing over the latest pink trends.
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