L2T Book Club: Talking Circles with Gloria Steinem

Dear Friends,

This letter is part two of a series on Gloria Steinem’s new book My Life on the Road.  To catch up on part one click HERE.

We both were impressed by Gloria’s ability to create change from simply having conversations.  The trick to making this work is that the people in the conversation must feel safe and that they will be heard.  She underscores this very basic principle in the book with each story about her life.

Do you think you could solve the most difficult problem in your life simply through conversation?

We decided to write our thoughts about the second half of the book in a note-taking style that includes quotes, page numbers, and impressions.  We hope you pick up the book and seek out our reference notes for inspiration. Gloria turned many of her conversations into positive actions for change.  We finished the book feeling inspired.

Tina’s Notes

Gloria inspires people to think….and change their ways.

  • “You’re always the person you were when you were born…you just keep finding new ways to express it” (191)
  • “You know the hospital shows on television when someone’s heart stops and has to be restarted with electric paddles? That’s what you and Margaret did for us.  Please tell her (Margaret) daughter our hearts have been going ever since” said to Gloria about her talks with Margaret Sloan.

Life is not linear but full of curves and unseen paths yet to be discovered.

 “A journey- whether it’s to the corner grocery or through life is supposed to have a beginning, middle, and end right? Well, the road is not like that at all.  It’s the very illogic and the juxtaposed differences of the road, combined with our search for meaning, that make travel so addictive” (179)

  • “On the road, moments of surrealism may come and go in a second: I’m looking out the scenic window of a train speeding through miles of empty moonlit desert- when acres of neatly arranged abandoned refrigerators flash by.  They may also last for hours: I’m returning tired to a sterile hotel lobby, and am invited into a reunion of the last living members of a Negro baseball league, whose stories take me into another world” (181)
  • In my personal experience, these same types of surreal experiences happen to me on a daily and yearly basis.  These moments make this life worth it.
  • I enjoyed reading about her friendship with Catholic priest Father Harvey Egan and his willingness to confront the hard questions with Gloria in a conservative church. (read more 202-209)
  • The writing on Ho Chi Man is fascinating. These people we often see as horrible dictators can also be seen as human beings. This one is a hard one, but remember we were all kids once with a pure heart. (read more 198-202)

Laura’s Notes

As a life long learner, I really appreciated how Gloria continues to learn and grow by listening to others. I have learned so much and have shifted my perspective on many topics through conversation. This is at the heart of her work and something I value deeply.

  • “For me talking and organizing after a campus or any other lecture is the big reward because then I am learning.” pg. 120
  • “Stepping out of the hierarchical setting and sitting in a circle. It’s as if the whole audience creates its own magnetic field that draws out stories and ideas.” pg.120
  • “I’ve noticed that great political leaders are energized by conflict. I’m energized by listening to people’s stories and trying to figure out shared solutions. That’s the work of an organizer.” pg. 137

I like how Gloria shined a light on things I hadn’t considered.

  • “A just law can be flexible. To be just, a law has to be flexible.” pg. 122 
  • I admire how she recommends trying grassroots organizing for a week, a month, a year or a lifetime – “working for whatever change you wish to see in the world.” pg. 123
  • “Campaign season is the only time of public debate about what we want for the future. It can change consciousness even more than who gets elected.” pg. 132
  • “Laughter is the mark of wanderers/laughter is the only free emotion/laughter is the orgasm of the mind.” pg. 181 

Sometimes you have no idea the impact or influence you have on others. I think Gloria is a true example of what can happen when you travel and discuss ideas.

  • “You will realize that growth for me came from seeds you planted or watered or carried from place to place-and you’ll be rewarded in a way that we as a communal beings need most: you’ll know you made a difference.” pg. 124
  • “The first step towards speaking for others is speaking for ourselves.” pg.209
  • Read more on changing classrooms into learning circles (people tend to learn better this way) pg. 244

We hope you enjoyed this book as much as us! Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or forward this onto a friend you think may enjoy it.

Many thanks!

P.S. Part One of this book club can be found HERE


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