How Kamala Harris’s Immigrant Parents Found a Home, and Each Other, in a Black Study Group

The Harrises’ marriage would fray as Mr. Harris took short-term teaching positions at two different universities in Illinois. When he won a tenure-track position at the University of Wisconsin, Ms. Gopalan Harris settled, instead, with her children in Oakland and West Berkeley.

The break was apparent to their 5-year-old daughter.

In “The Truths We Hold,” her 2018 memoir, Senator Harris wrote, “I knew they loved each other very much, but it seemed like they had become like oil and water.”

She wrote that “had they been a little older, a little more emotionally mature, maybe the marriage could have survived. But they were so young. My father was my mother’s first boyfriend.”

Mr. Harris’s career would flourish. A left-wing critic of neoclassical economic theory, he was a popular professor, and became the first Black scholar to receive tenure in Stanford’s economics department. But a deep freeze had settled in the marriage.

Ms. Gopalan Harris, a research scientist who published influential work on the role of hormones in breast cancer, filed for divorce in 1972. The split left her so angry that, for years, she barely interacted with Mr. Harris. Senator Harris has recalled that, when she invited both her parents to her high school graduation, she feared that her mother would not show up.

“She was quite unhappy about the separation but she had already got used to that and she didn’t want to talk to Don after that,” said her brother, Mr. Balachandran. “When you love somebody, then love turns into very hard bitterness, you don’t even want to talk to them.”

Mr. Harris has since expressed frustration at custody arrangements that, he said, brought his close contact with his daughters to “an abrupt halt.” His daughter has made little mention of him during the campaign, and he has declined previous interviews, explaining that “the celebrity-seeking business is not my thing, and I have tried hard to keep out of it.”

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