Michael Tubbs Pours Life Testimony Into New Memoir ‘The Deeper the Roots’
In SummaryFormer Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs is getting candid about his life, his father's absence and the challenges he's faced along his political career in a new memoir.
Michael Tubbs grew up with adversities that caused others to count him out, but he didn’t let that stop him. He also rarely told the truth about his circumstances until now.
Tubbs was the first Black mayor of Stockton, California, and had an impressive political career which made him a standout. He was also the city’s youngest mayor, taking on its major issues at just 26. After gaining a form of notoriety in the political space, he’s getting personal and vulnerable in a new memoir titled The Deeper the Roots: A Memoir of Hope and Home.
For Tubbs, the time to tell his story was now. “I just felt that there was so much nuance, so much grit, so much in the now that I want to make sure I capture,” he said. “I also figured right now I’m still young. Still a little bit brash, still very honest. I worried if I wait until I was 40 or 50 maybe I’m gonna erase some parts. Maybe I don’t want to say it like that.”
The brashness that led him to that thinking is evident throughout the text, with Tubbs discussing the details of his childhood. He said there is so much written about being a child in the 80s during the crack epidemic, but little written about being a child in the 90s, where the impact of the post-Reagan America and the war on drugs still deeply permeated through America’s Black communities.
In order to write with such brashness, Tubbs had to get real about things that have happened in his life and how he felt about them. In the memoir, he discusses topics which still cause intense feelings, like his father’s absence due to incarceration and being arrested for driving under the influence in 2014, a charge that could’ve shattered his political career. “I still get embarrassed talking about it, but I know it was so important,” Tubbs said. “And I figured that the point of writing the book was to put something out in the world.”
His relationship with his mother, who he calls “She-Daddy,” also takes center stage in the book. He touches on the tensions in his relationship with her, a single mom as a teenager who sacrificed a lot so her children could succeed.
When it comes to his dad, Tubbs’ father is serving time in prison for a robbery he committed when his son was just a child. Growing up, he used to tell people he didn’t know his father or that his father had died because he didn’t want to be a statistic in the eyes of others. Writing the memoir forced him to get candid about the feelings his father’s absence caused in his life. “I realized I hadn’t really forgiven my father,” Tubbs said. “The father stuff was hard because I had to really unpack feelings and I’m super pragmatic, super practical.”
Writing about his father and reliving the embarrassment from the DUI was hard, but recounting the loss of his failed reelection campaign also brought sadness back to the forefront.
While the book touches on some darker times in his life, it is also a celebration of “Black girl magic,” the vision Black women have and the support they offer to help others succeed. That much has been true for Tubbs, whose life was impacted by his grandmother, mother, aunt, author Alice Walker, Jan Barker, his mentor at Stanford University, and his wife.
These Black women poured into Tubbs and that plays out in the pages of the book. Tubbs said Black girl magic is much more than what’s on the outside. To him, it’s “about seeing greatness in others and doing everything in your power to wield them to the next level.”
Tubbs makes it clear the book is not a political memoir, but rather a memoir about someone “who happens to be in politics.” He hopes it will serve as an ode to the power of love and a celebration of where you’re from.
He also wants it to be understood that this book is not a sob story but rather a triumphant tale about how he overcame. In the past, he avoided this level of vulnerability and truth about his circumstances because he didn’t want to be the “stereotypical” Black person in predominantly white spaces, academically and politically.
Despite this, he now knows his story is one of success. It’s something he realized when he won an essay contest by Alice Walker as a high school student in 2007. He realized it again when Oprah donated to his city council election campaign in 2012. The realization came again when he won the Stockton mayoral election. And it came again writing this book. “I realized there’s strength in your story,” he said.
Citing Revelation 12:11, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death,” Tubbs is now embracing the power in his story. He wants others to understand that their testimonies also deserve to be shared and heard. “I want folks to realize that their stories matter. They matter not as a platitude because they give us insight. They’re instructive for all of us,” he said.
Though he is a success story, he understands that not everyone with circumstances similar to his will have a similar outcome. His view of The Rose That Grew From Concrete and his understanding of growing from tough spaces have changed as he navigates through life. At first, he thought the concept was one of just beauty. “It’s gonna be beautiful because the roses grow from concrete,” Tubbs said. Today, he sees the poem’s sadness. “Now, I’m like roses shouldn’t grow from concrete…There’s probably a whole bunch of other roses that were planted in that concrete that didn’t grow and we have to really interrogate.”
The release of his memoir is just one part of what the young leader is doing. He is focusing on a new initiative called End Poverty in California (EPIC), promoting and teaching the guaranteed income concept to mayors across the country, and doing angel investing for Black founders looking to create technology that helps the world. Additionally, the husband and father of two wants to focus on being present for his family, something he takes great pride in.
The Deeper the Roots: A Memoir of Hope and Home is available now. For more information, click here.