"Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. Every fall, her father would pack the family into the car and they would drive across the country, in search of their next adventure. The seeds were planted: Steinem would spend much of her life on the road, as a journalist, organizer, activist, and speaker. In vivid stories that span an entire career, Steinem writes about her time on the campaign trail, from Bobby Kennedy to Hillary Clinton; her early exposure to social activism in India, and the decades spent organizing ground-up movements in America; the taxi drivers who were "vectors of modern myths" and the airline stewardesses who embraced the feminist revolution; and the infinite, surprising contrasts, the "surrealism in everyday life" that Steinem encountered as she traveled back and forth across the country. With the unique perspective of one of the greatest feminist icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, here is an inspiring, profound, enlightening memoir of one woman's life-long journey"--
When she was a young child Steinem’s father ran a lakeside music venue in the summer, but once fall came he’d pack everyone in the car to spend the rest of the year driving around the country buying and then selling junk or antiques or whatever, earning enough of a profit to make it to the next town--an enterprise in which the whole family participated. Steinem thought she longed for a permanent home, but when she reached adulthood that didn’t happen. After college Steinem got a 2-year fellowship to study in India, but when she showed up at the ashram of Vinoba Bhave, one of the leaders in the land reform movement inspired by Gandhi, almost everyone was gone. Caste riots had broken out in nearby, now cordoned off villages, so the ashram residents had formed teams to slip under police barriers and travel from village to village hoping to help contain further violence. One more team wanted to go out, but they needed a women so Steinem was drafted, her first experience of traditional talking circles and modern community activism.
Working as a journalist back in the US, Steinem was dismissed by some of her male colleagues as a token “pretty girl” which helped lead her to the women’s movement and a continued life of organizing, activism, and travel. If you are expecting something dour and humorless, that’s not what you’ll find in this book. Steinem comes across as warmhearted, eager to learn from the people around her, and open to new experiences, all of which makes her wonderful company. I enjoyed learning more about mid-century politics and the growth of the women’s movement, but I also loved the personal glimpses she gives of people as diverse as Cherokee Nation chief Wilma Mankiller, who was a personal friend, and Frank Sinatra, who Steinem spent one awkward Thanksgiving dinner with--he didn’t talk much to anyone but he did let them watch while he put on an engineer’s hat and ran his toy trains around an elaborate track.
Steinem even works in interesting bits of older history, mentioning for instance that the American Constitution is partially modeled on the Iroquois Confederacy, but when Benjamin Franklin invited two Iroquois men to the Constitutional Convention to act as advisers, one of their first comments was something like--why aren’t there any women at this meeting? Good question.
Loved the candidness of her writing, the good and the bad but there was a serious lack of organization in this book and some repetitiveness. My nerdy brain had a hard time overcoming this. Still this book is very much worth reading and what bugged me may not phase you at all. We owe woman like Steinem a debt of gratitude, women who fought hard for a long time with slow or no results. But without them where would we be?
Fascinating vagabond life growing up with a faller that could not stay put and a mother who was not well. I do like that she feels you should talk to everyday people and not listen to political hacks to get a gauge on what is really happening. I was also struck by her honesty when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were running for President and she explains her reasoning by who she ended up getting behind for the election.
Which after reading this book I felt she had a double standard when she was recently on the news for her comment against any women who would support Bernie Sanders were only doing that for a date. Just a reminder that women can be our own worst enemy instead of respecting our differences.
I also enjoyed the political history she gave of the time she was the most active.
A note that the audio version is read by the author.
I found out so much information that I hadn't known before. I felt like I was there with her taking the journey. I will be reading it again.
The book was a national bestseller, of course. I mean it's Gloria Steinem, for cripesakes. And I have a tremendous amount of respect for all she's accomplished. I used to read her Ms Magazine on a fairly regular basis back when it was new, in the 70s. But not since then. (Is it still around?) This book, though, well it just kind of meanders along with no particularly compelling forward momentum. I tried to finish it, but finally, after nearly 200 pages, I gave up on it. And I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of those people who bought the book and made it a bestseller did too. Three stars? I think that means a book is 'okay.' That first chapter was in fact VERY good, so, along with a few other minor revelations scattered here and there, yeah, I'll give it an okay. But I probably wouldn't recommend it. I suspect I am just not the right audience or demographic.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
As for the book itself, I actually learned so much I did not know, not just about Steinem herself and her background, but about the politics and struggles of several decades in the United States. Also, about some of the players in those struggles that I had not necessarily known about before (maybe I would have, if I were American but I'm not). I probably would have enjoyed it much more if I had read the hardcopy myself.
This is not a book I would have chosen to read. I am not an ultra progressive. However, I have always considered myself to be a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. The author is nothing short of an extremist on the side of the progressives. She has written a book which is interesting about the places she visited and the people she met. Her family history is touching. Her father never liked domestic life and preferred the open road. He was known as a kind man, if not a man who was well groomed. Her mother would have liked a life in an urban setting as a journalist but seemed to sacrifice her own dreams for her family. She was emotionally challenged and could not live alone after being hospitalized with a breakdown. They rarely had a normal home or home life. Gloria’s life was challenging, but she harbors no ill will toward her family. She seems to love them and respect their different views on life.
However, the book is so left-leaning and biased that I had a hard time finishing it, and truthfully, if I had not already paid a handsome sum to hear her speak at an author breakfast in the spring, I would have walked away from it. I found many of the comments about people on the right not only unfair, but insulting. Gloria does not seem to approve of any views other than her own, and at times her words seemed hypocritical, like this obvious example when she stated that George W. Bush would not have been President without his family while mentioning nothing about Hillary Clinton hanging onto her husband’s coattails.
On the other hand, she paints a broad picture of her life of giving and fund-raising for many worthy causes like women’s rights, civil rights, and American Indian rights. She also speaks of her knowledge and relationship with Shirley Chisholm, Maxine Waters, Ho Chi Minh, Hugo Chavez and George Soros. There were times reading the book that I thought that she could rival Jane Fonda in her beliefs about several issues and in her stand on them. I will not mention them because a reader of her book should read it without anyone else’s positive or negative influence. We all come from different places and will have different emotional reactions to her past and present actions. There were times when I wondered about her remarks about America and religion, but others may not find them disturbing.
She never balked at venturing into unknown territory. She did work tirelessly for women’s issues and that effort bled into many other issues that needed reform and/or support. She covered many topics from The Hmong to effigy mounds. She campaigned for Lyndon Johnson and supported Hillary Clinton, among many other prominent liberals. She lived in an ashram, mixed with truck drivers, engaged with cab drivers and always, throughout her life attempted to find out their needs, their thoughts and their dreams. Then, if she identified with their plight, she worked hard to help further their cause, publicizing and fundraising to raise awareness. She made many friends and traveled far and wide. She espoused following your dreams so long as your dreams did not oppose her beliefs.
The book was a simple read. It was narrated by a left-“winger” of like mind and it was obvious in her presentation. Had the book not been filled with comments about those who disagreed with her obvious political positions, I might have actually liked it because of the unusual bits and pieces of information that were previously unknown to me. She should have written it for a broader audience. To me, it was nothing more than a free advertisement, promotion, or commercial for the left wing of the United States. I do not like to be hijacked into reading things that are not what I expect, and this was not what I expected. I felt that it was not about her life on the road as much as it was about having a platform to rail against those who disagreed with her so she could support the causes she favored. Her travels were interesting, her personal observations about people were insightful, but her remarks about her opposition were offensive to me. Some of the well-known people she insulted and denigrated were people for whom I have great respect. In America, we are supposed to have the ability to voice our opinions equally, and yet, it seems more and more that progressives only want to hear the sound of their own voices echoing back at them and to silence others. I thought she was a cheering squad for herself and those she appreciated, and that she placed a halo on all of their heads, including her own, while painting horns on the heads of those who opposed her.
My Life on the Road helped me to really understand how far women have come in this country and how much I owe to my predecessors, women like Steinem. There is a lot in her life that I cannot relate with, but the person that she tries to be is similar to the person I too am striving to become. This book humanizes the feminist movement for me.
I must admit that some of the book was painful for me, specifically the strong Mormon opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and the excommunications that took place during that time. It's reminiscent of the fallout with Prop 8 and reminds me of my many issues with the religion and culture I was once completely immersed in.
Anyway, it's a worthwhile read that I would actually recommend most to those who think "feminism" is a naughty word.
You cannot think yourself into right living. You live yourself into right thinking.
Well, after all the flurry of press and blog posts about Watson's idea for the book club, I was a little surprised how quickly it all died away. After I bought my copy, I was curious about the strength of Watson's book bump, and looked for analytics on this book's sales both before and after he pick, but could find nothing. One or two articles mentioned how many thousands had signed on to the group on goodreads, but how many bought it? checked it out? read it?
As for the book itself -- I had a middling reaction. I liked learning more about Steinem, I liked learning more about pivotal moment in American feminist history, I liked the glimpses into her offbeat upbringing -- her family spending months at a time on the road. But I was often frustrated by the fragmentary nature of this book of essays. Steinem is accomplished at storytelling, and she's collected some good ones here -- but there were a lot of dots I wanted to see connected. Some deeper feminist analysis of issues touched on here only glancingly.
Interested in seeing how much momentum there is on this experiment, and where Watson hopes to take us.