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My Life on the Road

Cover of My Life on the Road

My Life on the Road

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | ONE OF O: THE OPRAH MAGAZINE'S TEN FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR | NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Harper's Bazaar • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Publishers Weekly

Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and inspiring leader—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of her life as a traveler, a listener, and a catalyst for change.

When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. Taking to the road—by which I mean letting the road take you—changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories—in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.
Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. When she was a young girl, her father would pack the family in the car every fall and drive across country searching for adventure and trying to make a living. The seeds were planted: Gloria realized that growing up didn't have to mean settling down. And so began a lifetime of travel, of activism and leadership, of listening to people whose voices and ideas would inspire change and revolution.
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.
Praise for My Life on the Road
"Like Steinem herself, [My Life on the Road] is thoughtful and astonishingly humble. It is also filled with a sense of the momentous while offering deeply personal insights into what shaped her."O: The Oprah Magazine
"A lyrical meditation on restlessness and the quest for equity . . . Part of the appeal of My Life is how Steinem, with evocative, melodic prose, conveys the air of discovery and wonder she felt during so many of her journeys. . . . The lessons imparted in Life on the Road offer more than a reminiscence. They are a beacon of hope for the future."USA Today
"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
"Steinem rocks. My Life on the Road abounds with fresh insights and is as populist as can be."The Boston Globe
"In person and in her writing, Steinem exudes a rare combination of calm, humility and honesty about her weaknesses that explains all she has accomplished."Jezebel
From the Hardcover edition.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | ONE OF O: THE OPRAH MAGAZINE'S TEN FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR | NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Harper's Bazaar • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Publishers Weekly

Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and inspiring leader—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of her life as a traveler, a listener, and a catalyst for change.

When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. Taking to the road—by which I mean letting the road take you—changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories—in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.
Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. When she was a young girl, her father would pack the family in the car every fall and drive across country searching for adventure and trying to make a living. The seeds were planted: Gloria realized that growing up didn't have to mean settling down. And so began a lifetime of travel, of activism and leadership, of listening to people whose voices and ideas would inspire change and revolution.
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.
Praise for My Life on the Road
"Like Steinem herself, [My Life on the Road] is thoughtful and astonishingly humble. It is also filled with a sense of the momentous while offering deeply personal insights into what shaped her."O: The Oprah Magazine
"A lyrical meditation on restlessness and the quest for equity . . . Part of the appeal of My Life is how Steinem, with evocative, melodic prose, conveys the air of discovery and wonder she felt during so many of her journeys. . . . The lessons imparted in Life on the Road offer more than a reminiscence. They are a beacon of hope for the future."USA Today
"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
"Steinem rocks. My Life on the Road abounds with fresh insights and is as populist as can be."The Boston Globe
"In person and in her writing, Steinem exudes a rare combination of calm, humility and honesty about her weaknesses that explains all she has accomplished."Jezebel
From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    I.My Father's Footsteps

    I come by my road habits honestly.

    There were only a few months each year when my father seemed content with a house-dwelling life. Every summer, we stayed in the small house he had built across the road from a lake in rural Michigan, where he ran a dance pavilion on a pier over the water. Though there was no ocean within hundreds of miles, he had named it Ocean Beach Pier, and given it the grandiose slogan "Dancing Over the Water and Under the Stars."

    On weeknights, people came from nearby farms and summer cottages to dance to a jukebox. My father dreamed up such attractions as a living chess game, inspired by his own love of chess, with costumed teenagers moving across the squares of the dance floor. On weekends, he booked the big dance bands of the 1930s and 1940s into this remote spot. People might come from as far away as Toledo or Detroit to dance to this live music on warm moonlit nights. Of course, paying the likes of Guy Lombardo or Duke Ellington or the Andrews Sisters meant that one rainy weekend could wipe out a whole summer's profits, so there was always a sense of gambling. I think my father loved that, too.

    But as soon as Labor Day had ended this precarious livelihood, my father moved his office into his car. In the first warm weeks of autumn, we drove to nearby country auctions, where he searched for antiques amid the household goods and farm tools. After my mother, with her better eye for antiques and her reference books, appraised them for sale, we got into the car again to sell them to roadside antique dealers anywhere within a day's journey. I say "we" because from the age of four or so, I came into my own as the wrapper and unwrapper of china and other small items that we cushioned in newspaper and carried in cardboard boxes over country roads. Each of us had a role in the family economic unit, including my sister, nine years older than I, who in the summer sold popcorn from a professional stand my father bought her.

    But once the first frost turned the lake to crystal and the air above it to steam, my father began collecting road maps from gas stations, testing the trailer hitch on our car, and talking about such faraway pleasures as thin sugary pralines from Georgia, all-you-can-drink orange juice from roadside stands in Florida, or slabs of salmon fresh from a California smokehouse.

    Then one day, as if struck by a sudden whim rather than a lifelong wanderlust, he announced that it was time to put the family dog and other essentials into the house trailer that was always parked in our yard, and begin our long trek to Florida or California.

    Sometimes this leave-taking happened so quickly that we packed more frying pans than plates, or left a kitchen full of dirty dishes and half-eaten food to greet us like Pompeii on our return. My father's decision always seemed to come as a surprise, even though his fear of the siren song of home was so great that he refused to put heating or hot water into our small house. If the air of early autumn grew too chilly for us to bathe in the lake, we heated water on a potbellied stove and took turns bathing in a big washtub next to the fireplace. Since this required the chopping of wood, an insult to my father's sybaritic soul, he had invented a wood-burning system all his own: he stuck one end of a long log into the fire and let the other protrude into the living room, then kicked it into the fireplace until the whole thing turned to ash. Even a pile of cut firewood in the yard must have seemed to him a dangerous invitation to stay in one place.

    After he turned his face to the wind, my father did not like to hesitate. Only once do I remember...

About the Author-
  • Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, editor, and feminist activist. In 1972, she co-founded Ms. magazine, and she remained one of its editors for fifteen years. In 1968, she helped found New York magazine, where she was a political columnist and wrote feature articles. Her books include the bestsellers Revolution from Within, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Moving Beyond Words, Marilyn: Norma Jeane, and As if Women Matter (published in India). Steinem has received the Penney-Missouri Journalism Award, the Front Page and Clarion awards, the National Magazine Award, the Women's Sports Journalism Award, the Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Writers Award from the United Nations, the James Weldon Johnson Award for Journalism, and many others. In 2013, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 10, 2015
    “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 is easy and enjoyable to read, even when the subject matter veers towards the painful.

  • Jezebel "Like Steinem herself, [My Life on the Road] is thoughtful and astonishingly humble. It is also filled with a sense of the momentous while offering deeply personal insights into what shaped her."--O: The Oprah Magazine "[Steinem's] new book is a lyrical meditation on restlessness and the quest for equity that has taken her from the women-only rail cars of India to myriad university campuses where she has helped generations of women and men rally their collective voices. . . . Part of the appeal of My Life is how Steinem, with evocative, melodic prose, conveys the air of discovery and wonder she felt during so many of her journeys. . . . Whatever one's politics, such candor draws you in. And as the country continues to struggle with painful questions about race relations, reproductive rights and the plight of immigrants, the lessons imparted in Life on the Road offer more than a reminiscence. They are a beacon of hope for the future."--USA Today "My Life on the Road, Ms. Steinem's first book in more than twenty years, 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 "Steinem beautifully illustrates how her perpetual motion has shaped her professional life. . . . [She] has gained wisdom from cabdrivers and fellow airplane passengers, and gotten story tips from strangers at rural diners and truck stops. . . . 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."--The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice) "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!"--The Boston Globe "In person and in her writing, Steinem exudes a rare combination of calm, humility and honesty about her weaknesses that explains all she has accomplished and why she's become the figurehead she has. . . . Her secret appears to be a surprising willingness to be open to learning from her incredibly varied audiences. . . . [This is] a memoir--but really, it's a lens through which to see a great many people, a vessel for their stories, a mouthpiece to share them."
  • Anne Lamott "It's amazing to have a lifelong heroine who is also one of my favorite writers. Gloria Steinem is a deeply revolutionary woman. She steered us through the contentious years of the women's movement without losing her humanity or her wonderful sense of humor. She changed America in a fundamental way without being damaged by it or losing her joy. My Life on the Road is filled with beautifully told stories of the people she has spoken with and listened to, been changed by, helped organize, got radicalized by, could get lost in, could get found in. It is soul material, human and political, funny and touching, deeply spiritual. I began it again the day after I finished."
  • bell hooks "Rarely do women have the opportunity to travel as Steinem has done--living a life full of radical adventure. Everywhere she goes, she carries with her the vitality of democracy, of freedom for women and men, and her profound love of justice. Now she offers us the g
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