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Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead

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From Cecile Richards—the president of Planned Parenthood, daughter of the late Governor Ann Richards, featured speaker at the Women’s March on Washington, and “the heroine of the resistance” (Vogue)—comes a story about learning to lead and make change, based on a lifetime of fighting for women’s rights and social justice.

Cecile Richards has been an activist since she was taken to the principal’s office in seventh grade for wearing an armband in protest of the Vietnam War. Richards had an extraordinary girlhood in ultra-conservative Texas, where her hell-raising parents—her civil rights attorney father and political activist mother—taught their kids to be troublemakers. In the Richards household, the “dinner table was never for eating—it was for sorting precinct lists.”

She watched her mother, Ann, transform herself from a housewife to a force in American politics who made a name for herself as the straight-talking, truth-telling governor of Texas. But Richards also witnessed the pitfalls of public life that are unique to women, and the constant struggle to protect and expand equal rights—both exemplified by her marathon congressional testimony, where she held her own against hostile questions for five hours.

As a young woman, Richards worked as a labor organizer alongside women earning a minimum wage, and learned that those in power don’t give it up without a fight. Now, after years of advocacy, resistance, and progressive leadership, she shares her story for the first time—from the joy and heartbreak of activism to the challenges of raising kids, having a life, and making change, all at the same time. She shines a light on the people and lessons that have gotten her through good times and bad, and encourages readers to take risks, make mistakes, and make trouble along the way. Richards has dedicated her life to taking on injustice, and her memoir will inspire readers to hope and action.

266 pages, Hardcover

First published April 3, 2018

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Cecile Richards

6 books33 followers

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5 stars
1,588 (46%)
4 stars
1,352 (39%)
3 stars
415 (12%)
2 stars
54 (1%)
1 star
20 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 436 reviews
Profile Image for Alisa.
385 reviews70 followers
May 21, 2018
This books feels like the conversation you want to have with people who don't know WTF they are talking about when it comes to women's health care decisions. Much more than that, however, it is a motivational story on the grit it takes to stand up, speak out, and fight for a worthy cause on the national stage. It is clear Cecile gets some of her hutzpah from her mother, Ann Richards (the firebrand former Governor of Texas), but just as clear that she is a woman of her own mind and means. Every bit of this was inspiring. Her narrative serves as a reminder that every little bit matters, than we can all make a difference, and that organizing and grassroots campaigns are fundamental to bringing forward the voice of those who might not otherwise be heard. I don't know what Cecile Richards plans to do next in her career, but it is clear she is not done making trouble.
Profile Image for Ariel ✨.
133 reviews75 followers
April 22, 2018
Cecile Richards gives us everything we'd expect out of her book. She talks about her mom, she writes extensively about her past as a labor organizer, and she acknowledges each scandal that took place during her time at Planned Parenthood. It's comforting to know how scared she was during her PP interviews. She didn't think she was qualified, she thought it was a long shot, and she couldn't believe they were even considering her for the position. I'm interviewing right now for a few big positions that would take me halfway across the country, and knowing that even Richards was intimidated before stepping into a position that would eventually come to define her public persona makes me feel more at ease. The book is full of advice and encouragement for women because it's true, our self-doubt tends to hold us back.

I listened to it on audiobook, which I would recommend. Richards is an excellent speaker. I also wonder if it was just the tone she used to narrate the book, but some parts seemed a little stiff. It reads like the kind of book someone would put out before they prepare to run for office. 👀 Richards hasn't said anything about running yet, but after learning about how deep her organizer roots go, it wouldn't surprise me if we heard a big announcement from her soon.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,406 reviews462 followers
July 24, 2018
Inferior got me revved up, now I need someone to tell me what to do with my ire.

Whatever else it may prove to be, the book is fundamentally a political memoir. As such, it's got that tone they all have: "let me tell you about this remarkable person I met, [full name], and share this enlightening anecdote about this one person that will perfectly illustrate the greater point I am making." I get that it works, but I dislike it in the same way I dislike the way famous women become progressively more blonde in middle age.

However, my distaste for the form should not be read as a distaste for Richards. I have nothing but admiration for a woman who spent a significant portion of her life organizing workers in some of the worst conditions in the US. I have very little patience for anyone who denigrates unions, and none whatsoever for those enjoying the benefits of collective bargaining while they complain. Weekends, the forty-hour week, medical insurance: I am well aware that these benefits came at a painfully high cost. And that the USians with the worst pay and most dangerous working conditions are those still without unions.


Two best things I've gotten from this book so far: in activism all the little stuff makes a great deal of difference, the phone banking, the envelope-stuffing, the bumper stickers and yard signs, and just plain turning up; cumulatively they are significant. And maybe this is one everyone else already knew that I have just missed all these years, but in activism one is going to lose most of the time, but there's no way to predict which one you win, so you have to be there for every one.
Profile Image for Beth.
616 reviews24 followers
April 6, 2018
In some ways, it's hard to believe that women are still fighting for the fundamental right to health care and choice. And it's appalling that these decisions, particularly these days, are being made by old white men - many of whom have come from privilege and have never had to worry about health care access to treat things like endometriosis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pap smears...the only upside to all of this is the IMMENSE activism currently taking place. This book is both fascinating and infuriating (the kind of infuriating that covers the "Holy hell, why are we STILL having to worry about this?" kind of stuff...), and Ms. Richards does a great job of portraying both the ups and downs that have come along the way in her career. There is, of course, the infamous conversation with Jared and Ivanka...the congressional hearing where Jason Chaffetz showed his ability to look like a complete dumbass...the Women's March on Washington - Richards has been in the thick of so much of what will truly be remembered by history. She gives hope, and frankly - that's something we all could use more of right now.
14 reviews
April 8, 2020
This book is a MUST for any girl/woman who could use a bit of inspiration to start or continue fighting their own good fight. Cecile's story highlights incredibly useful life lessons from not only her own experiences, but that of the amazing women and men she's been surrounded by. It's a refreshing reminder that our own personal or professional imperfections are no reason feel discouraged, but can be embraced to benefit the people and missions we serve.

This book will provide the motivation you need to take the next step on your own goals. It's a great reminder that we never know where life will lead, so we may as well enjoy the adventure and help as many people as we can along the way!
Profile Image for Susan.
1,062 reviews200 followers
October 7, 2019
An interesting story and a reminder of how important Planned Parenthood is. As more and more states assault a woman's right to chose, it is imperative to have an organization that fights to keep our rights alive. It is also important to remember that Planned Parenthood offers many needed services to desperate women.

She has certainly lived an interesting life and I felt like my childhood was a failure. I organized no protests or led any sit ins. She started her advocacy so young. Of course, I didn't have a politically active mother who dragged her children along with her as she was trying to change the world. I was always so impressed with Ann Richards and it was good to get a perspective on her from her daughter.

All in all, it was an interesting biography.
Profile Image for Sharon.
Author 38 books376 followers
April 13, 2018
Cecile Richards' memoir is not only a look at her own story; it's also chock-full of advice for people who are looking to get into activism, no matter what their age.

Beginning with her early life in Texas, including her mother Ann's election as the first female secretary of the treasury and, eventually, first female governor, we see that Richards is interested in social justice across a variety of issues. Her first job out of college was working as a union organizer in New Orleans, trying to improve the lot of the numerous hotel housekeepers ... and that's also how she met her husband, Kirk.

Eventually, as we know, Richards becomes the president and public face of Planned Parenthood, facing the slings and arrows of conservative male politicians determined to chip away at women's rights to a full range of safe, legal health care.

This book was published as Richards is stepping down to retire, but I suspect her retirement will be anything but quiet. I found her authorial voice both entertaining and well-informed. Highly recommended for those interested in the subject matter.
Profile Image for Lauren.
480 reviews
April 11, 2018
Honestly I was disappointed with this book. I really like Cecile Richards and her work with Planned Parenthood and although she’s lived a full and trouble making life, she is a HORRIBLE story teller my god! I found her stories to be boring even if the information was interesting it was not presented that way. Her book reminds me a lot of Hillary Clinton’s and I’m wondering if she read that and like modeled after it? I just found this to drag on and couldn’t wait for it to end. That being said it was not a terrible read so I think 3 Stars is a fair assessment. Not sure I’ll read anymore memoirs by Cecile but I’d definitely be interested in reading more about Planned Parenthood.
Profile Image for SarahJessica.
161 reviews3 followers
July 12, 2018
I didn't expect to get to learn so much about Cecile's late, beloved, much missed mother, Ann Richards, but what a pleasure it was to get to know her a bit as well as Cecile. My de was a tremendous fan of Gov. Richards, and this felt like a surprise connection to him. No tremendous surprises in here, but lots of grassroots organizing goodness. What a career Cecile Richards has had. We are all better off for it.
Profile Image for Ann.
755 reviews
April 27, 2022
I listened to the audiobook, read by the author, which was great. If you’ve been overwhelmed by how things just keep getting worse, this will inspire you to get back out there to fight for women…again.
Profile Image for Leigh.
62 reviews
October 10, 2018
This book is great. It is an excellent testimony of the recent/current political climate. I think this is a book I can look back to in years to come to remember what we are currently fighting for and how hard this fight is. This book was read as part of the Popsugar reading challenge as a book that you saw a stranger reading in public.
49 reviews
December 4, 2022
Cecile Richards is amazing! Hope I can harness my anger and her inspiration to do something positive.
Profile Image for Gina Christo.
115 reviews2 followers
June 13, 2018
This book was such a beautiful overview of important organizing victories of the past and the present. I am so grateful to have Cecil as a leader in this country. Please read this book!!
11 reviews
March 26, 2020
Outstanding inspiring content, written with witty biting truthfulness that makes me want to make some serious trouble.
A must read for our upcoming female leaders and their constituents.
Bring. It. On.
Profile Image for Traci Reed.
229 reviews21 followers
June 6, 2018
Like most people, I didn't know who Cecile Richards was until her hearing about the fraudulent "Planned Parenthood sells baby body parts" videos in front of congress. I simply adored hearing her story (the daughter of Texas governor Anne Richards) and how her family raised her to raise hell. Her life story is truly fascinating, however the real gem of this book is the lessons on activism, staying true to yourself, and understanding how much good Planned Parenthood does for women's health.

I have long been an ardent supporter of Planned Parenthood since they handled all of my maternity care 15 years ago when I was a young, scared and penniless 19 year old staring at a positive pregnancy test. The care and compassion I received from Planned Parenthood during my first pregnancy tops any doctor experience I've had since, including during my second and third pregnancies and two miscarriages.

I believe that if you're ardently against abortion (which, though I am pro-choice, I am obviously anti-abortion for my own body) this is a great book to read to understand how, via Planned Parenthood's tireless work, the unwanted pregnancy and teen pregnancy rates (and thus, abortion rates) hit an all time low when the ACA made birth control no-cost to women. And it will help you understand how blocking women's access to health care and birth control actually makes the abortion rates skyrocket.

If you're wanting to make a difference in this world and current political climate but don't know where to start, this is an excellent book to understand why activism is so important and how every voice matters.

I can't recommend this lovely memoir enough and I hope that everyone gets a chance to read it, no matter your political leanings.
Profile Image for Sharon Orlopp.
Author 1 book378 followers
June 26, 2018
Cecile Richard's memoir, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead demonstrates the power of "strong kick-ass women." Early in her life, Cecile knew she was an outlier as the first child of progressive parents. A key incident in sixth grade where she asked herself, "Do I accept things the way they are or question authority" defined that moment and her life's legacy.

Much of the book shares what life was like with her mom, Ann Richards. Ann's motto was "Life isn't fair but government should be." Great illustrations about various public races and the shifting sands around inclusion, school textbook entries, and women's reproductive rights.

A few phrases really stood out:
*Anything worth doing has its challenges
*Is activism your vocation or avocation?
*Decide who you are and what you stand for
*Question authority and be an equal opportunity agitator
*If you are branded as a troublemaker, wear it like a badge of honor
*Focus on the people who are counting on you, not the ones dragging you down
*You can't win unless you compete

There are parts of the book that I found moved slowly and had too many details that dragged down the movement of the narrative arc and the engine of action.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,014 reviews13 followers
May 15, 2018
This was even more inspiring than I expected. Definitely a must read (actually I would listen) for every young activist/every young woman in the US today!

Part of my love of this book is how much our bios line up but the practical advise for protesters or activists is also great! This is a pretty typical political memoir of an amazing women who has a rock-star mom, has been a labor organizer, and lead one of the largest health care organizations in the US while fending off attacks on women's health care. I loved the stuff about Ann Richards who was the first Governor I remember and the conversations with her kids were so real and just capture her values perfectly. This is mostly Cecile's story and it reads like the kind of book someone would put out before they prepare to run for office (YAY!) although she has denied any plans at this point.

I definitely recommend the audiobook. Richards is an excellent speaker and there are times where you can hear her emotions especially in sections about her mom.
Profile Image for Andrea.
618 reviews2 followers
February 16, 2019
Rounding up for a world class mensch with an incredible work ethic and career.

For any feminist parent who loves their mother, this is a great read and very instructive and relatable. It is an ode to her mother, a love letter to Nancy Pelosi, and much more.

She writes of dropping off their daughter when daycare opened and picking her up a minute before it closed. She didn’t stress about grades or piano lessons,but wanted her kids to be good people. I agree with her experience of parenthood making her more efficient.

She has great sayings of her own and of her mom’s, like describing someone as loving but tough as a boot.

She talked about the sadness and beauty in hearing stories about her mother for the first time when she was lying in state, which reminded me of Shiva.

I loved reliving history in this book, including Sister Simone and the nuns on the bus and Wendy Davis’s filibuster.

Richards is smart and funny and pretty nerdy, because there is font talk in here.
160 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2018
What a great read. If you didn't already admire Cecile Richards, you will after reading this. She has serious organizing and grassroots chops, for one, and a tenacious commitment to serving others and pushing boundaries. Learning more about her mother was fascinating, too.

The chapter on the 2016 election made for hard reading, but she makes an inspiring call to push onwards.

While I'm sure this is a bit breezier than the reality of many of the stories she tells, I also think it reflects how she manages to work on such hard issues and stay sane--keeping her sense of humor, keeping her family close, and baking a lot of pies. Oh, and having a house in Maine. That seems pretty key too.
Profile Image for Cassie.
343 reviews26 followers
September 7, 2018
I loved this (audio)book. Cecile Richards has been on the front line of so many causes and movements, and she hasn't lost her sense of humor or sense of urgency. This book is inspiring--just the right amount of stories of real life experience and call to action.

Let's all be troublemakers.
Profile Image for Vicki.
565 reviews
May 4, 2018
Finally got a chance to finish the last few chapters once school was over. This book was INCREDIBLE! Every chapter gave me goosebumps or brought tears to my eyes. Cecile is the Real Deal - she's so genuine, determined, and kind. She's complex, in all the ways that women are. She's honest. She gives so much credit to so many other people in this book as well, another testament to her strength of character.

Reading a book like this is so necessary during tough political times. I cannot recommend it enough!
Profile Image for Kelly Staten.
147 reviews8 followers
May 23, 2018
Politics aside, this is a pretty well written book. Richards life story is interesting and she’s definitely been a hard worker her whole life. One can admire that, even if they don’t support some of her causes. This will inspire a lot of young women who are already left wing activists to continue their fight for what they believe is right.

Those on the other end of the spectrum will probably feel completely alienated by the tone in which she addresses conservatives. But this book really isn’t written for them anyway.
Profile Image for Jenn Cervella.
47 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2020
This book made me sob. From cover to cover I'm reminded why Cecile Richards has inspired me my entire career. It's a reminder that it is never too late to make trouble in service of making the world a better place. This book is timely and I highly recommend for anyone who needs a boost before the election.
Profile Image for Janet.
670 reviews15 followers
October 19, 2018
I knew the author's mother was Ann Richards but I didn't know her father, David, was a labor and civil rights attorney. His mother was the founder of a local Texas branch of The League of Women Voters. What a pedigree! This is an extraordinary memoir written by a smart, dynamic woman.
Profile Image for Kris Patrick.
1,498 reviews72 followers
June 18, 2018
Memoirists take note: Around 300 pages. Lacks excessive boring details. Avoided gratuitous name-dropping. Fun photos. Nuggets of leadership wisdom along with way.

She is a spectacular woman!
Profile Image for Margot.
227 reviews20 followers
October 17, 2018
I listened to a great audiobook this week enhanced by the reading by the author, Cecile Richards. She’s the recently resigned President of Planned Parenthood. Her book is aptly titled. It’s Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead. This is a conversation with Cecile Richards as she shares the story of her life. I was fascinated listening To this great storyteller talk about her early years organizing women who worked in hotels for nearly nothing. Then she shared how she met her husband and all the activism they did together.

Cecile also shared the story of her mother Ann Richards who had been a busy wife and mother until her own activism led her to run for office. She ultimately became the celebrated governor of Texas. Cecile and her husband quit their jobs to help run Ann’s campaign. The job Cecile is most well-known for is that of President of Planned Parenthood. She shared the joys and trials/dangers of having that job. As the leader of that group she was involved in so many other activities involving women, most notable Hilary Clinton’s run for president. All of this experience was riveting to listen to.

As I read I felt as if I was having a personal visit with Cecile. She was so open and personal and passionate about her beliefs in helping people, especially women. I’ve been a supporter and advocate of Planned Parenthood since my twenties. Reading this book made me wish I’d done more. The ability of women to have control of their own decisions and the right to adequate health care seems so obvious. But, here we are still fighting to hang on to those same rights sixty years after I first became aware of them. I thank God for activists like Cecile Richards and all those who have devoted their lives to women’s rights.
Profile Image for Amanda.
752 reviews11 followers
July 9, 2018
A perfect book to read if you're feeling defeated by the recent political climate. Cecile Richards' story is inspiring. I had no idea she was so involved in activism throughout her life outside of Planned Parenthood. Her constant message is that someone has to create the change you want to see, so it might as well be you. She describes so many instances of believing something needed to happen and taking the first initiative to fight for it, and she gives practical advice for anyone looking to do the same. It's a timely reminder that grassroots activism is powerful and necessary, and that anyone can get involved.

It was also reassuring to hear that she didn't always feel totally prepared for the roles she took on, but went ahead and did it anyway. I felt motivated after reading this book, especially since I'm about to start a demanding new job I'm already feeling overwhelmed by. I needed the reminder that it's okay to have to learn as you go sometimes, and that even the people I look up to as leaders have to do the same.

It was a bit surreal to read about the 2017 election from her perspective. As I read about her campaigning for Hillary, I found myself hoping somehow for a positive outcome even though that's impossible. I felt totally transported back to the time when a Trump presidency still seemed ludicrous. And I felt the utter shock and devastation of his win all over again, too. But ultimately, her message is one of hope and empowerment.

"There are a ton of great ideas floating around in the universe, but the ones that end up becoming reality are those someone commits to doing, no matter what. Why not you?
Profile Image for Vicki.
269 reviews8 followers
November 8, 2018
I don't think this possibly could explain how much I loved this book. This has been my favorite read of the year, hands down.

1) Cecile Richards is a badass woman who knew from a very young age the importance of working with and amplifying women's voices. This makes the book a who's who of amazing ladies, and I've added about a trillion books to my TBR based on the women/organizations mentioned in the book.

2) This book is full of great advice and encouragement about getting up and organizing, which is both A) something I was originally not that familiar with, and B) something I am now *extremely* hyped about.

3) I finished this book on midterm election day, 2018, and it was excruciating to be reading Richards's account of the disappointment of 2016 through that time. I was vividly recalling that night as I read, especially as she had been in NYC (as I had) through the whole time. This and the rest of the book was very well written, and gripped me as I read.

I cannot strongly enough recommend this book if you're feeling down about the state of our country right now; Richards advocates strongly for organizing in a hugely inspirational way. It makes you feel empowered to get out and change the world.
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