Our Shared Shelf January book review “My Life on the Road”

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On January 6, British actor and United Nations Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson tweeted that she’d been brainstorming names for a feminist book club, calling to action her nearly 21 million Twitter followers to pitch their ideas. Just a day later, Watson settled on Our Shared Shelf, an inclusive book club focused on equality, inspiration and empowerment, motivated into existence by Watson’s work with UN Women and her desire to share her thoughts on the wide range of works she’d been reading.

At the start of each month, Watson chooses a book for the club to read as a whole, and toward the end of the month, opens things up for discussion. As an Emma Watson fan and a feminist myself, I’ve decided to embark on the journey, adding myself to the long list (almost 100,000 to be exact) of Our Shared Shelf members. Here at The Young Folks, I will be posting reviews of each month’s pick, starting with January’s — “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem.

“My Life on the Road”official Goodreads synopsis:

Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of “My Life on the Road.”

“Girls need to know they can break the rules,” Steinem writes in her memoir detailing the trying times and triumphs of her life, covering the ground she spent travelling. And break the rules she does, making the most of her life by grabbing hold of the controls and taking the paths only she can choose.emma2 Steinem’s voice has always been powerful and electric, imbued with the wonders she has seen and lessons she has learned from countless people in countless different places.

“My Life on the Road” is sprinkled with anecdotes – my favorite of which involves a dinner party with Frank Sinatra – and musings of her own life, but also of the movements in which she played a strong role, the moments that made her an icon. The final chapter, written so fondly and with great weight about Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, was another standout. Altogether, it felt like a moving and poignant dedication to such a remarkable woman.

Throughout the book, Steinem recounts both grand adventures she’s had and the issues women face. From the 1977 Women’s Conference to the 2000 George W. Bush presidential election, the details brought forth by Steinem pull the reader into a tight embrace; you feel as though you’re sitting down, a mug of tea in hand, with the woman of the hour as she tells the tales of the past 50 years of her life. It’s intimate and warm, almost conversational at times, and perhaps a purposeful alternative to the more traditional works we see in the memoir genre.

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The subject matter, the chronicling of her travels and the way in which they are spoken about is wonderful – not a surprise from Steinem – but in terms of organization and the way things are presented, “My Life on the Road” is a bit disjointed. Oftentimes Steinem will jump between decades in a slapdash manner, which, when it didn’t confuse me, affected how I perceived the pacing of the book. It began with a slow start, then zipped about five decades, each stop feeling either clipped short or dragged out. In a similar vein, some of the focus felt repetitive and a few issues/topics – e.g. abortion, sexual assault, modern-day feminism – are skirted around, leaving me with a want for deeper exploration and a more open discussion.

Overall, Steinem’s immense fortitude, inherent charms and insights make “My Life on the Road” a potent read whose words will cling tightly to you.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10)

Earlier today, Emma announced she’d be interviewing Gloria Steinem at the how to: Academy on February 24, with a plan to upload the entire interview to the Our Shared Shelf Goodreads page. To catch Watson’s interview with Steinem, and to become a member of Our Shared Shelf, head on over to Goodreads and click “join group.” Keep up with Emma’s book picks on Twitter and be sure to check back here at TYF each month to see my reviews.

Until March, happy reading!

Alana Jane Chase is a 21-year-old writer from Naples, Florida. She recently graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University (go Eagles!) with a B.A. in English. She loves 80's rock music and old-school Saturday Night Live, rainy-day movie marathons and homemade pizza, and "Mad Men" and terrible puns.