Gloria Steinem’s new memoir, My Life on the Road, is just a gift. This is a person I would so like to know. Steinem has always projected a cool and confident mystique — she is thoughtful, rational and stratgic. Yet it is clear from her stories that she had a very challenging, impoverished and unsettled childhood. While her parents’ cross-country wandering may have been the source of Steinem’s love of travel, it is also true that they provided her with precious little security and nothing came easy for her. Certainly there was nothing inevitable about Steinem’s success.
This book is a collection of life stories and travel writing. It moves gracefully among autobiographical stories and an eclectic mix of travel encounters and gives a good sense of how Steinem evolved into a feminist organizer. She is an eager and avid traveler and comes across as a low-maintenance companion. Steinem doesn’t just see new places — she relishes new experiences and new people. All sorts of people come up do her and share their own stories, and she loves it. She chides herself for sometimes making unfounded assumptions about people and relishes the surprises people present to her.
This is by no means a self-help book, but it is certainly inspirational. I hope I will think of Steinem the next time I am confronted with travel snafus or have the opportunity to meet new people. Say yes to the trip, and never assume. More importantly, it is always the right thing to try to help people, to do whatever needs to be down and to be kind.
It would be nice if the women’s movement had succeeded, such that this book could be an anachronism. Sadly, it remains terribly relevant. The struggle continues, and we all need to try harder to advance equal rights for all women.
This is a great book. Please read it!