Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Americans to write a political memoir. Penned late in his life to settle debts, it sold tens of thousands of copies. Ulysses S. Grant, dying of throat cancer, also sought to raise money for his heirs by writing an account of his Civil War experiences. Grant’s hugely successful “Personal Memoirs” earned the equivalent of $12 million today.

Since then the political memoir genre has exploded. In the past 50 years more than 100 senators have written them, including, most memorably, Margaret Chase Smith, Barry Goldwater, Bill Bradley, Gary Hart, John McCain, Alan Simpson, Paul Tsongas, Lowell Weicker and Paul Wellstone.

Some use their political memoirs to settle scores, others to advance their careers. The most successful and satisfying make a significant political argument or draw back the curtain to reveal previously unknown details and truths about the authors and the events they have witnessed. In this regard “Heart of Fire,” which traces Mazie Hirono’s journey from poor immigrant to U.S. senator, is partially successful.

When Hirono writes about her childhood, her mother and family, their arrival in Hawaii from Japan, and the poverty, hardship, fear and struggle they faced, “Heart of Fire” is a revelatory, evocative, deeply moving book.

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The sections dealing with Hirono’s political rise in Hawaii and her time in Congress are more guarded and less compelling. It is no surprise that Hirono, a Democrat who has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump and Republicans in media interviews, frequently uses colorful and salty language in expressing her opposition to them here.