My Life on the Road

by Gloria Steinem

(Random House, $28, 304 pages)

Who is this author?

Gloria Steinem, now a hard-to-believe 81, is one of America’s foremost and most famous feminists. Steinem is a writer, editor and activist who, in 1972, co-founded Ms. magazine and also helped found New York magazine. She is the author of bestselling books and has won many major journalism awards, as well as a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Her new memoir is adding to her list of honors: a bestseller, it was named one of O: The Oprah Magazine’s Ten Favorite Books Of The Year and one of the Best Books Of The Year By Harper’s Bazaar , the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Publishers Weekly.

What is this book about?

In My Life on the Road, Steinem looks back at her early years when she gained her first taste of fame as a reporter who did a stint as a Playboy Bunny and wrote about it, and where that brave-for-its-time act of journalism led. Beginning with her growing-up years in the Midwest with a wandering but fascinating father and submissive and often depressive mother, and following her career as an advocate for the rights of women who barely understood that they had them, she pairs her story of personal growth with that of the Women’s Movement.

Why you’ll like it:

Steinem is an American original, one of the most influential women of the 20th century. Outspoken, plainspoken, erudite and empathetic, she fills this book with anecdotes that illuminate why she believes what she believes and what she has accomplished. Whatever your views on the feminist movement’s history and future, she is well worth listening to.

What others are saying:             

An Amazon Best Book of November 2015 review says: “To women “of a certain age” – a euphemism the author of this book would surely abhor – the idea that Gloria Steinem is a revolutionary thinker, a wonderful writer and a practical activist is not, perhaps, news. (But there is something joyful in the rediscovery of same.) To those who didn’t know or don’t remember the Steinem story – founding Ms. Magazine, fighting for reproductive rights, waiting to marry until she was in her 60s! — it might be a revelation. Long before Sheryl Sandberg leaned in at work, Steinem was preaching the gospel of empowered women by, among other things, travelling the country and the world listening to people, gathering stories and insights, offering support of the intellectual and emotional kind. From the very first page – in which she dedicates her book to the British doctor who ended Steinem’s pregnancy, illegally, in 1957 – to the tales of a supposedly shy woman who admitted she wanted to nail her sloppy husband’s tossed-anywhere underwear to the floor, Steinem recounts a life well-travelled in every sense. Now 81, the woman who at 40 replied to a compliment about her appearance with “this is what 40 looks like,” Steinem can still raise consciousnesses, including her own.”

Says The New York Times: “My Life on the Road…is a warmly companionable look back at nearly five decades as itinerant feminist organizer and standard-bearer. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to sit down with Ms. Steinem for a casual dinner, this disarmingly intimate book gives a pretty good idea, mixing hard-won pragmatic lessons with more inspirational insights.”

The New York Times Book Review  says: “[Steinem's] new book, My Life on the Road, provides a lesson in how to stay relevant when your name is synonymous with a decades-old movement that has fallen in and out of popular favor: Keep moving. And keep asking questions…As an author, Steinem is best known for her essay collections published in the 1980s and 1990s. Though they all contain first-person anecdotes, none are as autobiographically comprehensive as My Life on the Road. Steinem’s life has been so remarkable that her memoir would have been fascinating even without a central theme, but her decision to use travel as a thematic thread was a smart one.”

“Steinem rocks. My Life on the Road abounds with fresh insights and is as populist as can be. . . . Honoring its title, My Life on the Road ranges around subject-wise. One minute Steinem is writing about stewardesses on the shuttle, the next women who taught Gandhi. Now she’s railing against Betty Friedan, whose focus on white middle-class feminism Steinem argues damaged the movement. Still later she’s celebrating her friendships with Native American women, whom she sees as guides into the future. . . . Go, Steinemite!” saysThe Boston Globe.


Publishers Weekly’s starred review says:  “If you want people to listen to you,” iconic women’s rights activist Steinem underscores in this powerfully personal yet universally appealing memoir, “you have to listen to them.” And that’s exactly what she’s done for the past four decades, crisscrossing the country in search of inspiring women and women—and men—to inspire. Steinem, a staunch advocate for reproductive rights and equal rights for women, long before either was fashionable in the public eye, writes candidly for the first time about her itinerant childhood spent with a father who itched to be constantly in motion and mother who gave up her own happiness for the sake of others. Vowing to distance herself from both her mother’s dependent lifestyle and her father’s peripatetic ways, Steinem ended up doing exactly what she never imagined: being a public speaker who’s constantly on the move. Highlights include her role in the 1977 National Women’s Conference—“It was my first glimpse of how little I knew—and how much I wanted to learn”—and her accounts of conversations with taxi drivers across the country. Throughout her travels, whether visiting small college campuses in the South or attending a 1971 Harvard Law School dinner where her equality speech was met with animosity, Steinem strives to create positive, meaningful change. Her inviting prose as easy and enjoyable to read, even when the subject matter veers towards the painful.”

Library Journal’s starred review says: “Steinem  weaves an inspired personal narrative by sharing stories of the places she’s seen and people who have galvanized her, which includes everyone from poet laureates to cab drivers; and how their influence transformed a young journalist with a palpable fear of public speaking to the face of the modern women’s movement. The author doesn’t shy away from her flaws and doubts, and her anecdotes—specifically those about her nomadic, cheerful, and kind-hearted father—are deeply moving. What’s touching about this work is its hopefulness. Anger sparks activism, but optimism fuels it. (If you don’t believe things can be better tomorrow, why would you fight today?) Steinem’s confidence and faith—in people, ideas, and change—make this more than a collection of retold events; it tells how people can be encouraged in unexpected ways, in surprising places, with only one caveat: you have to be listening. VERDICT Poignant, accessible, essential. Activism is a people’s movement, and this is a people’s memoir. Ideal for readers who are familiar with Steinem’s work as well as those who aren’t.

Kirkus Reviews says: “A respected feminist activist’s memoir about the life lessons she learned as a peripatetic political organizer. Until she was 10 years old, Steinem grew up following two parents who could never seem to put down roots. Only after her stability-craving mother separated from her restlessly migratory father did she settle—for a brief time until [Smith] college—into “the most conventional life” she would ever lead. After that, she began travels that would first take her to Europe and then later to India, where she began to awaken to the possibility that her father’s lonely way of traveling “wasn’t the only one.” Journeying could be a shared experience that could lead to breakthroughs in consciousness of the kind Steinem underwent after observing Indian villagers coming together in “talking circles” to discuss community issues. Once she returned to the United States, she went to New York City, where she became an itinerant freelance journalist. After observing the absence of female voices at the 1963 March on Washington, Steinem began gathering together black and white women to begin the conversation that would soon become a larger national fight for women’s rights. In the 1970s and beyond, Steinem went on the road to campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment and for female political candidates like 1984 vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. Along the way, Steinem began work with Native American women activists who taught her about the interconnectedness of all living things and the importance of balance. From this, she learned to walk the middle path between a life on the road and one at home: for in the end, she writes, “[c]aring for a home is caring for one’s self.” Illuminating and inspiring, this book presents a distinguished woman’s exhilarating vision of what it means to live with openness, honesty, and a willingness to grow beyond the apparent confinement of seemingly irreconcilable polarities. An invigoratingly candid memoir from a giant of women’s rights.”


When is it available?

It’s at the Downtown Hartford Public Library now and on order for its Mark Twain branch.

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