There are so many good stories in this book! This memoir focuses on Steinem's travels around the world, and her political and activist experiences in the United States.
When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. For more than four decades, I've spent at least half my time on the road.
I've never tried to write about this way of life, not even when I was reporting on people and events along the way. It just seemed to have no category. I wasn't on a Kerouac road trip, or rebelling before settling down, or even traveling for one cause. At first I was a journalist following stories, then a sometime worker in political campaigns and movements, and most consistently an itinerant feminist organizer. I became a person whose friends and hopes were as spread out as my life. It just felt natural that the one common element in that life was the road.
Steinem has had a fascinating life, and I was very engaged with her writing. Her experiences around the world usually involved talking with groups of women, hearing their tales and troubles, and seeing how the situation could be improved. I loved her stories about her travels in India, her activism on college campuses, and her role in various political campaigns. I was also surprised to learn that she dreads public speaking, despite it being a regular part of her commitments.
This is a hard book to summarize, but I mean that in a good way. It's almost as if Steinem didn't want her book lumped into a category in the same way she doesn't want women stereotyped and held back because of gender.
I listened to this on audio, read by Debra Winger, which was a delight. Highly recommended.Favorite Quotes
"What we're told about this country is way too limited by generalities, sound bites, and even the supposedly enlightened idea that there are two sides to every question. In fact, many questions have three or seven or a dozen sides. Sometimes I think the only real division into two is between people who divide everything into two, and those who don't."
"[T]he first reason for this book is to share the most important, longest-running yet least visible part of my life ... My second purpose is to encourage you to spend some time on the road, too. By that, I mean traveling — or even living for a few days where you are — in an on-the-road state of mind, not seeking out the familiar but staying open to whatever comes along. It can begin the moment you leave your door."
"It was the first time I witnessed the ancient and modern magic of groups in which anyone may speak in turn, everyone must listen, and consensus is more important than time. I had no idea that such talking circles had been a common form of governance for most of human history, from the Kwei and San in southern Africa, the ancestors of us all, to the First Nations on my own continent, where layers of such circles turned into the Iroquois Confederacy, the oldest continuous democracy in the world. Talking circles once existed in Europe, too, before floods, famines, and patriarchal rule replaced them with hierarchy, priests and kings. I didn't even know, as we sat in Ramnad, that a wave of talking circles and "testifying" was going on in black churches of my own country and igniting the civil rights movement. I certainly didn't guess that, a decade later, I would see consciousness-raising groups, women's talking circles, giving birth to the feminist movement. All I knew was that some deep part of me was being nourished and transformed right along with the villagers."