ReRead: My Life on the Road Review

Title: My Life on the Road
Author: Gloria Steinem
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Random House

Blurb: My Life on the Road is the moving, funny, and profound story of Gloria's growth and also the growth of a revolutionary movement for equality--and the story of how surprising encounters on the road shaped both. From her first experience of social activism among women in India to her work as a journalist in the 1960s; from the whirlwind of political campaigns to the founding of Ms. magazine; from the historic 1977 National Women's Conference to her travels through Indian Country--a lifetime spent on the road allowed Gloria to listen and connect deeply with people, to understand that context is everything, and to become part of a movement that would change the world.

In prose that is revealing and rich, Gloria reminds us that living in an open, observant, and "on the road" state of mind can make a difference in how we learn, what we do, and how we understand each other.

Me: Revisiting this old favorite was such a necessary decision. It has brought me clarity and a solid foundation in navigating the new year.

The Ups: Steinem might be famous for her work as a feminist organizer and icon, but I think she deserves so much recognition for her prose. Her writing reads like an insightful conversation with an old friend. It is easy, touching, and unapologetic all at once. My Life on the Road is best described as a collection of people- so many personal stories and glimpses of interactions are laid out in this book. It could seem really overwhelming for anyone who wasn't present at those moments, but Steinem knows exactly what details to point out, and how to weave the stories into one grand flow. 

I love this book so much partly because it was my first book that talked openly and mainly about the women's movement. It inspired me to create a feminist book club at my school and to read more literature that presented complex, realistic women. 

But I truly love this book for not only what is says about feminism, but about the basics of creating change. Steinem's whole message is that real positive change does not come from thinking in isolated pods of theories and possibilities; it comes from listening to real stories, connecting with people on a deep level, and allowing the victims of society to take control of their own lives. In her words: 

"As Robin Morgan wrote so wisely, "Hate generalizes, love specifies". Thats what makes going on the road so important. It definitely specifies."

Then she goes to prove her point by describing chance encounters with taxi drivers, flight attendants, native tribal leaders, and everyone in between. Every chapter was an inspiration in the direction of listening and learning from others, and of the importance of sharing stories. Each story mentioned people that whole books could be written about. I was reminded of how the basic human connections in our lives are what vitalize us, a great thought to start off 2018 with. 

I'm also continually stunned by Steinem's grace, both in her writing and in her public persona. Her position as a feminist icon is an incredibly difficult one- she is subject to intense criticism by both those opposed to feminism and those for it. Yet her humility never wavers, and I think a lot of it comes from her wisdom that she has gained in her travels. 

The Downs: I think this book is not necessarily the most relevant to the debates regarding feminism that are happening now. Steinem doesn't try to address things like cultural appropriation, LGBTQ+ erasure, and the wage gap in depth. But I don't think that's detrimental to the overall quality of this work; after all, the lesson is to just sit and listen and connect with people, something that applies to all situations and times. 
"One of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak." 

"If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them. If you hope people will change how they live, you have to know how they live. If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye-to-eye.

"Feminism is memory. The root of oppression is the loss of memory." 

Rating: Beat my scale!! 

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