Page Count: 280
Publication Date: 2015
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Gloria Steinem has done everything. She's an activist, journalist, organizer, magazine editor, traveler, speaker, and listener. In her essay-style memoir, she recounts some of the most important events in her life and what she has learned from her travels and her long activist career.
This is my first Steinem experience. I was aware of her and her work before reading this, and I knew she was a person that I wanted to read about and from, so I thought her memoir would be a good place to start. I knew I would enjoy this, but I didn't know the writing would be so good. Steinem's writing is so engaging and entertaining, that even when she is discussing complex or distressing concepts, it felt like a casual conversation with a friend.
This memoir starts with a chapter on her childhood with a focus on her father. This was my favorite chapter of the novel. The way that Steinem writes about her always-traveling father with love, admiration, and introspective-reflection was quite beautiful. Steinem has a great outlook on life, and has accomplished so much in so many areas of life and activism, it's a bit insane.
The biggest take away from this memoir for me was the importance of listening. Steinem is a constant listener, and because of this, she is able to learn and experience so much life. She covers so many interesting topics and eras in the novel and recounts the stories of others rather than herself. While feminism is a large focus of this novel, as it is a large focus of Steinem's career, it is not the only focus. Steinem discusses racism, overcoming a fear of public speaking, AIDS activism, the rights of indigenous Americans, and of course travel. Her section on the primary election in 2008 between Obama and Hillary Clinton was fascinating. Her account of listening to democratic women who did not support Clinton was so interesting, and her conclusions were something that I had never thought of before.
Before this novel, I admired Steinem for her activism and barrier-breaking career. After reading her memoir, I still admire her for those things, but even more than that, I admire her ability to listen and communicate. Her chapter on talking circles and her audience-involvement at her public speaking events has really inspired me to listen more. I have always considered myself a good listener, but I could always do a better job of listening to individuals (particularly ones I disagree with or who think differently than me) and I think that is something that is universally true of humans. I can see myself revisiting chapters in this novel many times, and found myself marking many sections where I learned something new or was introduced to a new approach to a topic.
I highly recommend checking this out if you have an interest in Steinem, feminism, activism, or just want to learn something new. I want to search out more of her work, particularly her essays in the near future, as well as learn more about some of the activists I was introduced to in this novel.