'The road is messy in the way real life is messy'

My Life on the Road
Gloria Steinem

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 27th 2015 by Random House

I knew of Gloria Steinem but not about her and this book is my introduction to the woman and her work.  My Life on the Road is a highly quotable memoir full of observations, anecdotes and pearls of wisdom.
Steinem starts with the simple question of what makes me want to keep on the road travelling from place to place and for Steinem it starts with her Father.  As it was her Father that pack the family in the car to go travelling with no end date to the journey.
I loved the descriptions that evoke life on the road ‘we see an acre of motorcycles around each isolated diner and motel’ and ‘stopping to cool off in shallow streams or find shade in groves where chai and steamed rice cakes called idlis were sold from palm-roofed shelters.’ Her years as a journalist have given her a wonderful skill to simply and quickly catch the beauty and the ugliness of situations.
The section on taxi drivers and how they individualised their cabs was one of my favourites. That is something that does not happen here in Australia. In fact I loved all the recollections of the people Steinem has met over the years. I was especially moved by the young man who was sexually abused; it is a gut wrenching tale.
Being a political junkie, I found Steinem’s insights into the political process intriguing. Especially when she talked about how politics became personal and the hope American women had that Hillary Clinton would succeed. I like how Steinem analyses the difference between the way the media treat male candidates and female candidates.
You would think that Steinem would be prepared at a drop of a hat to call out sexism or any other affronts to injustice.  However, Steinem was refreshingly honest in admitting those moments when she could back and make a stand. How many times have we all had someone say something insulting only to later on think of the perfect retort?
What Steinem advocates is for Americans to travel their own country first. That people do not see travelling in their homeland as exciting and would rather go overseas to travel. I would argue everyone wants to travel overseas as it is seen as ‘spicier’ than travelling in your own country. I think everyone should take time to travel their own backroads first as there is a great deal to learn and appreciate.
This is a memoir about a woman who has travelled, experienced, listened, learned and is humble. I did not expect any of that to come through this book.

For more on this remarkable woman check out her website.

Comments