Joining a book club is intimidating. It’s jumping into a community of like minded people who share a commitment to something bigger than themselves and want to discuss it. This is the mindset that I kept when jumping into the Goodreads group Our Shared Shelf.
January’s pick was Gloria Steinem’s ‘My Life on the Road.’ It’s a peek at the life of an iconic women’s rights activist and inspiring leader who experienced the world out on the road. In these pages she recounts how various anecdotes changed her way of thinking and became part of her.
This post starts off a monthly roundtable where we discuss the book of choice. We’ll touch upon things we liked, things that we will carry with us for ages to come, and things that just didn’t work for us. Nothing is off limits. Let’s talk about it!
Overall thoughts of the book?
Overall, Gloria Steinem’s book My Life on the Road is a disjointed companion piece to a woman’s love for travelling. In these pages she gave us a glimpse into all sorts of facets of her time on the road. She took us on a journey through her childhood, weeks spent with her family exploring America. She also helped us trek through the changing tide of the feminist movement with inspirational insights from the people she met. Her commitment to what she believed in makes one want to go out and experience the world on their own. The biggest let down of the book is its nonlinear format of events. It left one confused when she jumped from one time to another without a proper hand off from one topic to the next. I found losing focus and starting over quite often because of this.
From as unbiased perspective I can have given the nature of social media and how it’s not quite possible to let Gloria’s recent comments cloud my opinion of the woman who I met in My Life on the Road with the one who is presently campaigning hard for Hillary Clinton; the Gloria I met in this book was fascinating and just the right amount of rambler that I like from narration about personal travels. A bit disjointed in a jarring way from story to story, but sometimes that’s how people process and tell their stories if speaking and so not necessary a negative, but definitely could be seen as a turn off for readers in need of segues and transitions. Ultimately, I would recommend the book for a look at someone, in particular a feminist, who from the moment she stepped into a professional capacity fought, still fights brilliantly to be seen as an equal in a male-dominated world.
I enjoyed it at times, and then, most of the time, I just found it boring. Gloria’s recent comments really didn’t help, either, because, despite my best intentions, they colored my appreciation of her life, in general, and I was reading about her life, not reading fiction. Overall, though, the woman I met in the book didn’t even seem to be the same person to the one campaigning for Hillary. And that’s probably a good thing. I liked the Gloria from the book, she was fun, engaging at times, and though I couldn’t really imagine living the kind of life she’s lived, I appreciated the fact that she did. What I didn’t appreciate so much? The way the story was told. Some people might not need their books to have any kind of structure (I’m not even asking for a linear one), but I do. And this book was just too messy in that respect for me to truly enjoy.
Is the life out on the road for you?
No it is not. I like vacations as much as everyone else. Exploring new areas and meeting people is fun. But I love planning *insert heart eyes*. Flying off at a moments notice without planning hotels, flights, events, or fun activities isn’t the least bit attractive. Not having a schedule more often than not leads to missed opportunities with like minded people. It might have worked for Gloria but it certainly wouldn’t for me.
Suppose that actually, the “wandering organizer” explanation does suit me quite a lot. If I didn’t have children, I’m quite certain that I would always find a way to be going places. My favorite moments in life include exploration of new worlds, albeit in my little Floridian community, the USA or overseas. Frankly, there’s never a time I’m not up for a road trip! Or flying. Or by train. It’s all good. As for the spur of the moment elements, with modern technology, you should go with the flow. You could miss out on so many opportunities to stop over at the Coliseum or take a quick trip to Winchester England or discover little hole in the wall places that you’d miss if you stick to a rigid schedule. On that aspect of adventuring, Gloria and I do agree.
I don’t think life on the road is for anyone, at least not to the extent Gloria’s lived it. I do love traveling, and I love everything associated with it, from the packing to the discovery. I can even do traveling without planning. I can’t, however, imagine it as a way of life. I enjoy it as much as I do because I know it won’t last forever, if that makes any sense.
Which anecdote stuck with you after reading?
I’ve got to say my favorite anecdote belonged in the beginning of the book. She was so sure that the people around her (bikers were scary in her eyes) were a specific way because of their leather wearing ways. Gloria read a book by it’s cover. When she finally saw past that she was surprised to find that they were intelligent, dedicated, and unique people. Like she said, “What seems to be one thing from a distance is very different close up.” It’s a lesson we should all apply to our lives.
Eh… nothing stood out in particular to me as in oh I relate to that adventure you had Gloria, but with all her public appearances right now turning me off to her, I feel that maybe that influenced me greatly while reading My Life on the Road. If anything stood out to me it was her political portent in regards to Hillary Clinton and how she believed it a betrayal to vote for someone other than this woman. Along with her comments on Bill Maher where she attempts to publicly shame women in particular for their political leanings saying younger women only are deciding to vote for someone other than Hillary Clinton because of men, is actually an awful anti-feminist sentiment. Between these two remarks, she felt very much out of tune with feminists today. Which makes no sense to me! How is this woman who has fought for women’s rights not capable of understanding such simple human support?! You cannot support women and then degrade them in public just because they do not lean the same way politically that you do, Gloria!
That’s just it, I feel she gave me a lot of thoughts, and yet nothing that stood out in particular. When I finished the book and put it down, that was the end of the adventure for me. I didn’t think about it again. And, when I love a book, I just can’t get it out of my head.
Did you feel like Gloria pulled you in for a riveting recounting of her life’s adventures? Or was it less riveting and more doze worthy?
I’d like to say it’s a little bit of both. Since the events were all over the place I lost interest a lot. And when I got back into it I had a hard time remembering where I left off. I appreciate what she has done to change the political atmosphere when it comes to women’s issues. I just wish the book was a little bit more engaging. I would’ve come back for more if I felt connected with what Gloria was telling me. Let’s not forget the nonlinear aspect of it. Get rid of that and it would be golden.
Do so agree with Lyra that the nonlinear aspect pulled away from some of the pertinence, urgency of certain stories that could’ve used the boost of a timeline. However, that said, My Life on the Road read smoothly for me, even if it was not as engaging as I would’ve liked. Gloria’s determination to be more, come across as more than a pretty face definitely deserves kudos from her fellow female. She has worked, fought hard to elevate women to the same respectful position in society as men. That’s a tiring, thankless task and it’s ridiculous the amount of misogyny she puts up with even today. What every female has to put up with… so in that respect, it was fun to read her life as an exploratory adventure touching down in various places and seeing a peek into a life always in movement. She is indeed one busy, influential lady!
Half the reason I didn’t stop reading was because I had to answer these questions, so honestly, the answer was no. That had nothing to do with Gloria in particular, it was mostly the stylistic choice of how to present the book, I think. And then, yes, her recent comments just colored my appreciation of her life, which just made it all worse.
Leave us any comments or thoughts in the section below if you want to join in on the discussion!