Books by Carolyn G. Heilbrun

Released: Nov. 1, 2001

"A tough and lovely memoir, one that stokes deep admiration and gratitude for those who went before."
A memoir of hero worship lost and a woman's self found. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1997

This very satisfactory collection of essays celebrates the author's seventh decade as she looks back on it from her serene and energetic eighth. Heilbrun is a former Columbia University professor and a writer noted both for her feminist scholarship (Writing a Woman's Life, 1988, etc.) and her Amanda Cross mysteries. Satisfactorily married for half a century, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother, she nevertheless planned to commit suicide when she reached 70. But when that magic number arrived, she discovered in looking back that living through her 60s had been an ``astonishing'' pleasure. Unlike some of her peers—Doris Grumbach and May Sarton among them—she has not grown crankier as she has grown older, and she attributes that in part to a life with ``many advantages,'' including good health and the discovery of close women friends. At first glance, the essays encompass a broad diversity of subjects, from Bianca the black dog to the joys of E-mail to androgyny and bisexuality (in a liberating section called ``On Not Wearing Dresses''), and including thoughts on living with men and on the fantasies of a lifelong Anglophile. Yet in fact, the range is narrow. Each piece, more or less fruitfully, discusses coming to terms with the past and formulating the terms of the present ``without a constant . . . stream of anger and resentment, without the daily contemplation of power always in the hands of the least worthy.'' In essence, the author describes a state not of growing older, but of being older, a state that incorporates both grace and growth. Drawing elegantly on the poets and authors she has taught and written about, from Andrew Marvell to Gloria Steinem, Heilbrun offers a glimpse not only of the rewards of aging, but of feminist battles fought and won. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 15, 1995

Former Columbia University English professor Heilbrun (Hamlet's Mother and Other Women, 1990, etc.) turns her considerable writing and analytical skills to understanding an icon of the women's movement. Heilbrun begins with an introduction that acknowledges the inevitable biases of the biographer; the more a biographer claims to be neutral, she writes, the more suspect he or she becomes. That said, Heilbrun clearly states that she is a fan of her subject (who cooperated with the project), whom she sees as ``the epitome of female beauty and the quintessence of female revolution.'' Balance can be provided by others, she writesand in Steinem's case, many have been more than happy to fill her detractors' shoes. Heilbrun eventually discusses the hostility and derision Steinem has drawn from all sides of the political and social worldthe fear she's inspired in conservative men, the jealousy in less attractive and intelligent womenbut she begins with Steinem's family: Her early feminist paternal grandmother; her obese, peripatetic, irresponsible, and charming father; her well-meaning but frankly insane motherall these and more contributed to the making of the complex adult Steinem. From her unconventional and impoverished youth in Toledo, Ohio, Steinem went on to the privileged world of Smith College and then to India, where she firmed up her understanding of the need for social and racial equality. Her realization that women were underprivileged in a unique and insidious way would not come until many years, causes, and men later, in the late '60s; but when she did discover it, she would adopt it with her characteristic wholeheartedness. Steinem's feminism, like her well-known project Ms. magazine, was criticized for being too glossy and bourgeois by some, too radical by others. But while Heilbrun admits Steinem's numerous errors in judgment, she argues convincingly that what is never in doubt is Steinem's sincerity. Unapologetically one-sidedand nobody could ask for a more eloquent, lucid, or intelligent advocate. Read full book review >