Tuesday, November 24, 2015

audiobook review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

narrated by Debra Winger

The basics:  "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."--publisher

My thoughts: I've been fascinated by Gloria Steinem for a long time, as she was one of those public figures I just always seemed to know about. Yet I remember when I discovered she was born in 1934 and couldn't believe it. Not only did she seem younger, but it made her achievements that much more impressive; she was that much more ahead of her time. For someone I feel like I know so well, for the sheer number of years she's spent in the spotlight, when I heard about this memoir, I realized how little I actually knew about Steinem.

I've always been a fan of asking "where are you from?" I love to hear people's origin stories. Part of it is because I've always felt somewhat nomadic. We moved around what felt like a lot in my childhood, and I continued to move around a lot in my early adulthood. I've also been blessed to travel a lot all of my life. I love to make connections with people and places. (The modern equivalent: seeing mutual friends on Facebook, delights me when unexpected friends also know one another or find one another.) So a memoir about Steinem's 'itinerant childhood' and her life on the road seemed to combine three fabulous things. And it is all of those things, but it was also surprisingly dull at times.

Even as I listened, I felt early on this memoir would be inconsistent, and it was. As I tried to figure out why, I didn't think it was all because of my high expectations. I imagined listening to this memoir as someone mostly ignorant of Steinem and her work, and I imagined that person would ask, "but why should I care? Who is this person?" As a reader, I gravitate more toward fiction than non-fiction, so I don't need fame or glory to be interested. I do, however, need the details. At times, it felt like there wasn't enough Steinem in this memoir. She told stories, but I wanted more insights into her thoughts and reactions. The structure of this memoir is also somewhat odd. At times it felt more like vignettes than a cohesive narrative. I don't believe memoirs need to chronological, but this one jumped around too much, and the reasons weren't always clear. What most kept me from loving this memoir, however, is the lack of name dropping. Steinem rarely shared names or even any identifying details (to make the guessing fun.) These stories needed the context to make them more interesting.

The verdict: I know I'm being hard on My Life on the Road; it's a good book, but how could it not be given the subject and Steinem's writing chops? I can't get over my disappointment that it wasn't great. It had moments that delighted me, but it had too many moments that bored me.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 9 hours 27 minutes (304 pages)
Publication date: October 27, 2015
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy My Life on the Road from Amazon (Kindle edition.) 

Want more? Visit Gloria Steinem's website, like HER on Facebook, and follow HER on Twitter.

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