As I mentioned in my previous post, this year I want to branch out from my typical genres. I want to explore books that others recommend to me, and not just those that I stumble across in my travels. On that note, I joined a book club set up by Emma Watson on GoodReads, and the first book on the shelf was this one. I don’t read a lot of non fiction. In fact I’m pretty sure the non fiction books I have read I could count on both hands. I didn’t go into this book club expecting anything other than having my mind and perspective opened up a little bit, and that’s exactly what the book did.
It’s a telling of the life of Gloria Steinem, and it just so happens to take place during a time in the world when the movement for equality was just starting out. What I found fascinating about this book was not the particular details about her life, nor her history growing up – but her interactions with others. Some of the sections of the book really made me think about things in a different way, see a new perspective, and that’s what I loved about it.
In one section that really moved me and opened up my mind, Gloria is talking with the American Indian and Alaskan Native Caucus.
“As one Native delegate said, “Other Americans have histories and families and gene pools in their home countries. If French or Arabic is forgotten in America, it’s still being spoken somewhere. We have no other country. If our languages are wiped out, they can’t come back. If we disappear here, that’s it.””
This quote really stood out to me. It was something I had never thought of before, and clarified why being able to keep their culture was such an important thing. The next moving quote is when Gloria is describing the lives of the various taxi drivers she had listened to over the years. This entire chapter was particularly moving for me, but one conversation stood out from the rest. She’s driving around New York City after 9/11 and talking with a taxi driver.
“There were also anonymous graffiti that had appeared as if by contagion all over New York with the same message: Our grief is not a cry for war. “Thats how New Yorkers feel,” the driver said. “They know what bombing looks like, and they know what hell it is. But outside New York, people will feel guilty because they weren’t here. They’ll be yelling for revenge out of guilt and ignorance. Sure, we all want to catch the criminals, but only people who weren’t in New York will want to bomb another country and repeat what happened here.””
Wow. Now, I know this quote probably doesn’t capture how 100% of New Yorkers felt, but that quote is so incredibly powerful and spoke to me on a level that I hadn’t anticipated.
It’s hard to describe how I felt as I read through this. It reads less as an autobiography and more like a novel, if that makes sense. It didn’t feel like what I was reading could possibly be real, or have possibly happened, and yet, it did. She teaches us to take the time to listen and makes the point time and again that ‘listening circles’ are powerful. All in all it was not what I was expecting (but then again, what was I expecting is hard to pin down) and quite an enjoyable read that really made me think.