My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem


I was moved to listen to this book by an interview Gloria Steinem did with Terry Gross. She is an impressively vital woman — she was born in 1934 — and sounded much younger than her years. In the introduction to the book she considers how her time on the road, beginning with her childhood, affects her outlook on life. Her father, from an upper middle-class Jewish family, did not live the settled life beyond running a dance band resort in the summer seasons. Come fall, he packed the house-trailer with small antiques and his family and hit the road, selling and buying along the way. Despite such an unrooted childhood including having to care for her mother when she became mentally ill, Steinem was a successful student at Smith College.

Though she thought of herself as rejecting her father's life, her work as a journalist, organizer, political activist, and feminist has kept her on the road for much of her life. She extols the virtue of traveling on her own as a way to counter assumptions and prejudices about other people. In the introduction she tells about traveling to Rapid City, South Dakota to attend a Native American gathering near the Badlands. Apparently she was there around the time of the annual gathering of motorcyclists in Sturgis as there were many alarming looking people in her hotel. One day a woman with a leather-wearing, tattooed man approached her to thank her for her work and for Ms. Magazine which she said her husband also read. She recounts many assumption-shattering encounters throughout the book. The world has an Irish woman who drove a taxi in Boston to thank for the famous line, "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."

With her recounting of insights learned from taxi drivers, flight attendants (when they were called stewardesses), fellow passengers, and other strangers encountered on the road, she encourages all of us to be open to thoughts from unexpected places whether we travel or stay in one place. 

Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road, Random House, 2015, 304 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available at the UVa and public libraries.

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