HOW WE LOVE NOW:
SEX AND THE NEW INTIMACY IN SECOND ADULTHOOD
By Suzanne Braun Levine, author of Inventing the Rest of Our Lives
For more information or to schedule an interview
with Suzanne Braun Levine, please contact:
Louise Braverman 212-366-2752 / Louise.email@example.com
Suzanne Braun Levine is a pioneer in charting the exciting territory women enter after fifty. Levine’s latest book HOW WE LOVE NOW: SEX AND THE NEW INTIMACY IN SECOND ADULTHOOD (Viking; On-sale: January 2, 2012; $25.95; 978067023226) is an inspiring exploration of the many ways women are finding love and redefining their relationships in their Second Adulthood. Levine’s research, surveys, and interviews tell a story of thousands of women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who are defying myth and expectations, and discovering that love can be even more surprising and fulfilling than ever.
The generation of women entering Second Adulthood is coping with their changing identities, dreams, desires, experiences, accomplishments, and the issue of finding love after fifty. Through the women Levine interviews, her research, and her own life experience as a journalist as well as a wife and mother of two, HOW WE LOVE NOW tells funny, poignant, and heartwarming stories of the frustration and exhilaration found in self-discovery. Women are still lusting and loving as they age, and although their needs and bodies have changed, they are enjoying it more than ever.
HOW WE LOVE NOW aims to help women understand their changing needs, navigate love and intimacy in their Second Adulthood, and explore new sexuality. It’s about risk taking, and finding, not losing yourself. Topics include:
- “From Dependence to Independence to Interdependence”
- “Turning On to Our Sexuality – Even If We Undress in the Dark”
- “A Second Chance at Getting it Right”
- “Love and Work – Together at Last”
- “Cyberspace—Where The Action Is”
- “Care Getting—The Next Frontier”
Many women can be disillusioned by the notion that life has to be stagnant and lackluster once you reach your fifties. However, this book delivers the message that love knows no age limits, and that the second half of our lives can be lived with freedom, joy, and satisfying intimacy that is even more enjoyable than ever.
A Q&A with
Suzanne Braun Levine, author of
HOW WE LOVE NOW:
SEX AND THE NEW INTIMACY IN SECOND ADULTHOOD
Q: You say in HOW WE LOVE NOW that women in Second Adulthood—those in midlife or Boomers—are living totally new love, sex, and intimacy narratives. What is going on?
A: The simple answer is that we finally know who we are. And what we want! We used to see being loved as filling a need; we were “needy.” By Second Adulthood we are beginning to take charge of our own lives, and we are paying attention to our emotional wants. We are ready to take more chances, explore new kinds of relationships, and refire long-term loves. The New Intimacy, as we are experiencing it, is about finding, not losing, yourself in a relationship.
Q: When it comes to love, what’s the good news for women in their 50s, 60s and 70s?
A: I am happy to report there is very good news! We’re learning:
- Being in love knows no age limits: The kinds of love we can experience in a lifetime are limited only by our imagination and our circumstances.
- The spark is still there: The sexual tingle or “click” when two people connect—doesn’t disappear with maturity.
- Physical appeal is still important: But respect, humor, trust and tenderness are important turn-ons too.
- What we call love now is not a replay of earlier relationships: Our requirements have shifted—the former “jerk” or “nerd” may be transformed into an adored and thoughtful companion, and the “bad boy” may have lost his appeal under our new priorities.
- The eyes-light-up glow of oxytocin: The so-called “cuddle” or “social bonding” hormone—is triggered by a wide range of loving relationships, including friends, grandchildren, colleagues as well as romantic partners.
- The “New Intimacy” goes well beyond the bedroom. With the “mellowness” that comes with experience, we love more deeply and with less judgment; we are able to appreciate the gift of a glass half-full.
- Friendships: Our intimate “Circle of Trust” and the “Horizontal Role Models” of our generation set the gold standard for nurturance, support and shared intimacy as we are redefining them.
Q: And how’s the SEX?
A: My interviews have revealed that many women—many more than anyone imagined—are lusting, loving and enjoying sex more with a variety of partners; they’re feeling “Adult” not “Old.” We’re not slowing down, we’re:
- Having sex that is “hotter than a hot flash”
- Falling for the short, balding and very shy guy with GED who has “a Ph.D in life experience” instead of the “dream boat” or “knight in shining armor”
- Becoming a “serial monogamist” or finding the joys in no-stress hookups
- Exploring previously “forbidden” territory on the Internet
- Finding a high school sweetheart on Facebook and delighting in “Rekindled “Romance”
- Falling in love for the first time (the Real Thing at last!) or with a younger man
- Falling in love all over again with a husband of many years
- Feeling drawn to other women—discovering the eroticism, fireworks of same sex intimacy
- Enjoying foreplay at least as much as the act itself
- Finding love and marriage after a divorce—a second chance to get it right
- Seeing a “solo sex life” or companionship without sex as positive choices
Q: HOW WE LOVE NOW is filled with women’s stories and intimate details about their relationships. How did you get women to share this information?
A: I interviewed hundreds of women, used my own experience and that of my friends, and I sought out the available research. And I posted a short questionnaire on several popular women’s sites, the stories came pouring in! As I say in one chapter “Cyberspace—Where the Action Is!” the Internet changes everything; online it is possible to tell the truth without consequences and achieve intimacy without proximity. It also offers opportunities for trying on different personas, revealing intimacies we never dared share—“I can’t believe I’m telling you this…”—and finding community.
Q: What makes Second Adulthood a new stage of life for women?
A: We are not our mother’s generation, when women accepted the conventional wisdom that menopause—what used to call “the change of life”—meant the end of change and adventure. No other generation has had such an open field to play in. Statistically, we have twenty-five years ahead when our brains and bodies are still vibrant—from fifty through our seventies—to pursue work, relationships and intimacy with passion. Sex may be the first frontier a midlife woman crosses or the last, but “crossing the line,” is what sets us on new paths.
Q: What is the “Fertile Void”?
A: Around age 50, most women enter what I call the “Fertile Void”—a time of hormonal change and as seemingly confusing, creative and turbulent as adolescence. We appear to ourselves and may to others as if we are drifting aimlessly. But, we really are just giving ourselves important time-out to figure things out. Only then, can we begin to recalibrate, set our priorities, and continue to invent our lives as we go along. It is a time of confusion and of self-discovery.
Many women find themselves stuck in lifeless marriages or dead-end lives and can’t see a way out. For them, the idea of change, let alone love and intimacy at midlife is almost unimaginable. Getting unstuck is perhaps the biggest challenge of the Fertile Void. It is important not to expect yourself to transform yourself or find a hidden passion overnight; the smallest change can become the first step. From there, the world starts to look different. And you begin to understand that you are different—not who you were only older.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with this book?
A: My goal with this book was to map out the uncharted territory where women my age are experiencing love. HOW WE LOVE NOW is about how love feels different, why love feels different now, and most important: how we are different in this stage. We haven’t yet demystified this experience, but we have opened up the conversation; we are beginning to develop a new language for love and intimacy as we live it.
I want to encourage women to take inventory of the intimate connections that are already enriching their lives—women friends, work or volunteer relationships, children, children-in-law, grandchildren—and ask themselves what love means to them now. I hope that women reading the true and touching stories in this book will learn about themselves and be reassured by the knowledge that there are many other women on this same path.
Q: As the first editor of Ms. magazine, where do you think the women’s movement has had its greatest impact?
A: The freedom and expanded opportunities achieved in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies shaped our generation. Whether a woman was politically active or totally unsympathetic, to be alive then was to be affected, When that woman reaches Second Adulthood, she has the confidence and experience to explore what is behind the doors that were opened—many for the first time.
Work has become a primary relationship. We are the first generation to succeed at and even love our work. We also find community and emotional sustenance in the workplace even when the rest of our lives aren’t going so well—my colleagues and I once formed a “Thank God it’s Monday Club” to celebrate that gift. As we go forward, those who have been working in one area may look to an “Encore Career” —paid jobs that utilize and build on our skills, experience and passion, and provide opportunities to give back. Others become entrepreneurs or go back to school.
Women have become whole people. Our generation opened doors for women in sports, law and medical schools, and made women’s history part of everyone’s curriculum. We’ve challenged and changed laws, taken charge of our economic lives and our health. We made ourselves heard in politics, business and the home. We created a vocabulary for the previously “unspeakable” or unspoken of: domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and reproductive freedom. So many of the issues that were cutting edge then have majority support now and are part of all our lives.
Q: What about the future? What remains to be done?
A: Women are still considered the primary caretakers. We are the “sandwich generation” women who may still have the responsibility for children and are expected assume a primary caretaking role for elderly parents or spouses. We are only at the very early stages of being able to say “no” to some tasks and ask for and accept help with others. I see care getting as the next frontier—preserving, protecting, and defending that core where you go home to yourself no matter what.
Economically there is much to do. Women still don’t earn what men earn in many jobs, and both women and men are struggling to balance work and family in a society that does almost nothing to support working parents. Today’s economic stresses are causing some to see young and old pitted against each other for available jobs. We all have an interest in making the workplace more flexible and reflective of how people of all ages really live.
Ageism is rampant. And women suffer disproportionately. We are often socially invisible, and there is relentless pressure to look younger. Older women who are sexual beings are ridiculed as “cougars” while older men with younger women are admired. The medical profession doesn’t pay enough attention to the ways women’s bodies work—and age.
We are living a new stage, not old age!
FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY
Ten Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood by Suzanne Braun Levine author of Inventing the Rest of Our Lives
A Viking Hardcover ▪ On-sale: April 6, 2009
$25.95 ▪ ISBN: 978-0-670-02068-3
For more information or to schedule an interview with Suzanne Braun Levine, contact:
Louise Braverman, 212.366.2752 / firstname.lastname@example.org or www.penguin.com
In this inspiring new book, Suzanne Braun Levine follows her groundbreaking Inventing the Rest of Our Lives, with a collection of fresh insights, research, and practical advice on the challenges and unexpected rewards for women in their fifties and beyond. Rich with anecdotes from the front lines of self-reinvention, FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY: Ten Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood (Viking; On-sale: April 6, 2009; $25.95) captures the voices of women who are confronting change, renegotiating their relationships, and discovering who they are, now that they are finally grown up.
Fifty is the new fifty. It is not the new thirty or forty. With this book Levine empowers women to liberate their authentic selves. You don’t have to leave your job, your husband, your home, or your senses to move forward. Small steps, incremental changes—saying “no,” cancelling a lunch date, coloring your hair (or embracing the grey)—can all activate a renewed sense of self and well being. Shaped by Levine’s lively voice, this book reads like a conversation among women who know what they are talking about—and want to share what they have discovered.
Among the lessons are: “No” is not a four-letter word, on the energizing power of standing up for what you mean and what you want; Do unto yourself as you have been doing unto others, a new way of getting yourself to the top of the to-do list; and Your marriage can make it, reassurance that changing your outlook doesn’t have to mean walking away from your marriage. Other lessons include:
• Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes
• A “Circle of Trust” is a Must
• Every Crisis Creates a “New Normal”
• Age is Not a Disease
• You Do Know What You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Life
• “Both” is the New “Either / Or”
Drawing on the collective wisdom gleaned from communities of women, shaped by Suzanne Braun Levine’s own experience and empathetic voice, FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY is about wisdom, survival, joy, and camaraderie. It’s informative, makes for great storytelling, and a must-have for every woman as she heads into the next act—Second Adulthood—or is already in it.
“No more pretended youth! Suzanne Braun Levine shows us the wisdom and joys of living in our own personal present. For women who have been pressured into living the past over and over again, FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY is the first true Age Liberation.”
“FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY is just what I expected from Suzanne Braun Levine—useful, comforting, and smart.”
“Suzanne Braun Levine’s honest and empowering book is the antidote to all those anti-aging creams and glum pronouncements about life after fifty. It explains why for me, and for so many other women, this has turned out to be the most free, creative, and rewarding time of life.”
“Finally, fifty comes of age! Levine’s concept of Second Adulthood confirms what women have been telling each other in private—this is a wonderful stage and we can each claim it in our own way.”
“Suzanne Braun Levine is the best guide to what have become the best years of our lives. She tells you not only that you can do for yourself what you’ve been doing for others but also how.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Suzanne Braun Levine is the author of Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood, and other works of non-fiction, including co-author of an oral history of Bella Abzug in 2007. Levine was the first editor of Ms. magazine, and the editor of The Columbia Journalism Review. She produced the Peabody-Award-winning documentary, “She’s Nobody’s Baby: A History of American Women in the Twentieth Century.” An authority on women and family issues, she is a Contributing Editor to More magazine, lectures widely and is frequently interviewed in the media, including Oprah, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, Today and NPR. She lives in New York.
A CONVERSATION WITH SUZANNE BRAUN LEVINE, AUTHOR OF
FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY: 10 LIFE LESSONS FOR WOMEN IN SECOND ADULTHOOD
Q: What is the book FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY about? What does the title mean?
A: The message of my first book Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood was that for many, many women life after fifty is better than it was at earlier stages. They feel better physically and emotionally, they are more confident and daring and just plain comfortable in their own skin (wrinkled as it might be.) When I talked this way, someone would invariably say something like, “Oh, I get it. Fifty is the new thirty!.” Not at all. The women I meet tell me—and my own experience tells me—that what is great and new about being over fifty is that it is not about feeling or looking younger than you are. It is about the richness of life right now, regardless of your chronological age. That is what is new about fifty and sixty and seventy for women. Very few of us would want to go back to our thirty-year-old selves again.
Q: How is FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY different from Inventing the Rest of Our Lives?
A: When I wrote Inventing the Rest of Our Lives, I was trying to demystify a bewildering stage of life I found myself in by identifying the challenges women like me were confronting in their fifties and sixties. Now, after a little more living and many more conversations with women and experts, I see that while this stage of life is unique to each woman, there are patterns too. Based on hundreds of women’s experiences and their real-life solutions, Fifty Is the New Fifty is a very practical guide through Second Adulthood.
Because we cannot look to past generations for guidance and inspiration, we are becoming one another’s Horizontal Role Models. The book celebrates us all – women who are experiencing change or making it happen…The woman who hears herself say: “I don’t care what other people think anymore” and loves the sound of it. Who is giving up high heels or belts simply because they are uncomfortable. Who is questioning the nature of her relationships and the meaning of her work. Who is ready to try some new and totally out-of-character experiences on for size.
Whether she is coping with a crisis that requires adjusting to a “new normal” or laughing her head off over coffee with her female “circle of trust” or standing up for herself by saying “no” loud and clear, one of the ten Life Lessons will apply and, I hope, inspire her to take charge of her life, get to know her new self—and go for it, in all the ways that matter to her.
Q: What lessons does one take away from reading FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY?
A: FIFTY IS THE NEW FIFTY is about the empowering lessons I have learned and discoveries I have made as I move through my Second Adulthood. It is enriched by the wisdom and humor and expertise of hundreds of women on the same journey. The Life Lessons in this book are the distillation of countless conversations and extensive research into this totally new stage of life for women. We have learned, for example, that saying No is good for you. That age is not a disease. That some relationships change as we move along, but others get richer. That friendship makes all the difference. Women like us are growing up anew, this time on our own terms; we are defining this stage by living it—and by telling each other how it is for each of us. Because the individual stories are so dramatic and heartfelt, I have included many of them in the book too.
Q: How has the perception of 50 changed over the last 10, 20, 50 years?
A: In our mothers’ day, menopause was quite simply the end of the road. When a woman lost her capacity to bear children, she lost her main role in life. (Grandmothering was a much diminished substitute.) It was called “the change of life” and the message was that when you hit menopause your life stopped changing. Then in the seventies and eighties, when the women I write about were young, the Women’s Movement changed so many attitudes about what we could aspire to, whether we could take care of ourselves, and what our worth was beyond beauty, sexuality, and reproduction. As we moved through our thirties and forties, we explored some new ways of dealing with the world and new ambitions for ourselves, but we also tried to live up to many traditional expectations. Now, as our children go off on their own, as our life skills are at their peak, as our energy is renewed by good living and positive outlook, we are quite simply rarin’ to go.
Q: While the primary audience is women either 50 or almost 50, what can someone younger gain from reading this book?
A: Young women often tell me that they are buying two copies of my books—one for their mothers and one for themselves. It is touching to me that those daughters are so close to their mothers and so tuned in to what they are going through, that they want to share a book that offered moral support. It is also impressive to me that those women in the midst of their first and very busy adulthood still want to look ahead. They are at the point in their lives when they are balancing responsibilities and making frequent choices and tradeoffs. My books reveal a future time when they can get back to some of those choices and when they will be able to use the experiences they are accumulating to write a new script for their lives. So in a way they are looking for moral support for themselves too.
Q: Do you remember what you thought of 50 and beyond before you hit that age group? How is it different from what you expected or is it not different at all?
A: Like most of us, I grew up totally turned off by most aspects of “old.” I had contempt for those “seniors” who tried to live young and about the same amount of contempt for those who didn’t. I remember when Gloria Steinem was forty and someone said to her, “but you don’t look forty,” and she replied, “This is what forty looks like!” Her point was that we didn’t know what a forty-year-old woman really looked like, because if a woman could get away with it, she would lie about her age. It was time to stand up for being grown up. And looking it. For me, the real revelation was that despite the conventional wisdom, my own life seemed to be getting better and better as I moved through those years. And the women I knew and met were also full of energy and new ideas. The problem was that we didn’t know what was happening, and although we were feeling good, we thought maybe we should feel bad about not acting our age. Now that we are learning from each other that we are not crazy and not alone, we can help each other explore this unknown territory.
by Suzanne Braun Levine
Farrar, Straus and Giroux ▪ On-sale: NOW
$15.00 ▪ ISBN: 978-0374531492
There was standing room only at the Riverside Memorial Chapel on April 2, 1998, as friends and admirers gathered to celebrate the life of a woman who believed she could nudge, inveigle, and wrangle the world onto a path of social justice. The speakers evoked a heady era of political possibility as they told “Bella stories”; they implored each other to preserve her legacy and carry forward her agenda. They began asking each other, as colleagues and admirers still do today, nearly a decade later, What would Bella do?
One of the first speakers was Geraldine Ferraro, the only woman to appear on a major party presidential ticket, as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984. “If there had never been a Bella Abzug, there would never have been a Gerry Ferraro,” she said. Bella “didn’t knock lightly on the door. She didn’t even push it open or batter it down. She took it off the hinges forever. So that those of us who came after could walk through.” Marlo Thomas told how happy Bella was to hear that she was finally getting married and then began to push her to have children. “I said, ‘Bella, I got married. Make Gloria [Steinem] have the babies!’ ” Marlo’s husband, Phil Donahue, recalled a gathering of intellectual luminaries at which he sat next to Bella. Minutes into each presentation, she would mumble, “Good. Sit down.” The historian Amy Swerdlow marveled at Bella’s “brilliance as a strategist” and recalled her appearance impersonating Marlene Dietrich, dressed in a tuxedo and singing “Falling in Love Again.” Jane Fonda wore a hat to commemorate Bella’s signature symbol. Shirley MacLaine—true to her faith in channeling—spoke “directly” to Bella, and the microphone mysteriously jumped to one side. Speakers recalled the pride she took in her two daughters and the “great love affair” with Martin, her husband of more than four decades, who had died twelve years earlier.
Gloria Steinem, one of the last speakers, tried to sum up this larger-than-life, braver-than-any leader. She described how frightened she was the first time she encountered Bella’s outsized voice and aggressive conviction. Then she took note of Bella’s independence and unremitting passion and pointed out that she had “come up through social justice movements, not through a political party.” In other words, she was beholden to no institution with traditions, trade-offs, and party lines; she was guided by her commitment to the ideas and the groups she believed were working to make society more responsive to the needs of the people.
As a lawyer and a congresswoman, Bella Abzug was an activist and leader in every major social movement of her lifetime—from socialist Zionism and labor in the forties, to the civil rights, ban-the-bomb, and anti–Vietnam war movements in the fifties and sixties; the women’s movement in the seventies and eighties; and, in the years before she died, global human rights, as, along with her lifelong collaborator, Mim Kelber, she founded the Women’s Environment and Development Organization to promote an international agenda of economic equality and environmental sanity.
She began her life’s work as an advocate and organizer, developing policy and legal arguments, making connections between ideas and constituencies. Then in 1970, at age fifty, she ran for office for the first time and was elected to Congress, representing a progressive district in Manhattan. Being on the inside was a new experience for her, but Bella became one of the most respected strategists in the Congress. Friend and foe alike marveled at her mastery of congressional procedure and her innovative approaches to legislation. Moreover, she continued mobilizing pressure on the government, organizing women around the country to participate in lobbying her colleagues, and securing funding and authorization for the First National Women’s Conference, which she chaired after she left office. Then she was appointed chair of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Women only to find herself on the outside again, when President Jimmy Carter fired her for the insubordination of insisting that the economy and even foreign policy were women’s issues.
With each evolution her career underwent, her core commitment to social justice took on a new dimension. Thus, for Bella, feminism was a natural extension of her years in progressive politics; for many other women, the politics came later, growing out of the frustrating experience of trying to establish an equal footing in the culture. From the beginning she was committed to diversifying and enlarging the reach of any movement she became part of.
No matter how big the job she took on, Bella always made it bigger. As a member of Congress from New York, she became better known in most other districts than the representative serving there. Later, as an international leader and activist, she may have been better known in several other countries than in her own. To this day, women leaders in emerging countries will identify themselves as “the Bella Abzug of Nigeria” or “the Bella Abzug of Mongolia.”
Along the way, she ruffled plenty of feathers. But she stood up to all adversaries with fierce conviction, and frequently bested them with her trademark wit. In 1995, at seventy-five and in a wheelchair, she was attending the world conference on women in Beijing, when George H. W. Bush, who was in China on a private visit to give a speech to corporate executives, attacked her as an extremist. “I feel somewhat sorry for the Chinese, having Bella running around,” he said. Bella’s reply left no doubt as to what she thought of that remark: “He was addressing a fertilizer group? That’s appropriate.”
For over half a century, Bella Abzug was the standard-bearer for the politics of the powerless and disenfranchised. While others courted interest groups, she gathered her constituencies into a larger and larger coalition. Where did she get the chutzpah? Where did she get the resilience and optimism and tenacity? Where did she get the brilliance?
Most perplexing, where are the contemporary voices of outrage and defiant optimism? In recent years the executive branch of government has reconfigured the relationship of the United States with the rest of the world from trusted alliances to unilateral exercise of power, with barely a murmur from our elected representatives. Until recently, momentous issues were being decided virtually without public debate or accountability from Congress. In the lead-up to the 2008 elections, it is inconceivable that Bella would keep quiet. Even if she couldn’t immediately change minds, she would raise the issues—and her voice. She would prod and poke; haggle and debate; educate and galvanize. If she were still among us, what would Bella do? If we are to carry forward her legacy, what should we do?
The question is repeated over and over again in conversations with those who knew her personally and worked with her. It is echoed by those who only know of her and long for a resurgence of the kind of fierce outrage and creative stubbornness she stood for. Bella’s real legacy may turn out to be the inspiration her life offers us and the model she sets for the kind of leadership we are so desperately looking for today.
Because we both knew and worked with her, we know how uppity and vivid she was, how passionate and loud. We were convinced that the way to bring her persona to life was to build a memoir in many voices from her own testimony and the words of those who knew her. The stories told by fellow politicians, family, friends, and enemies evoke one of the most colorful, controversial, effective, courageous—and very cantankerous—women of the twentieth century. The image that emerges has many layers. Her complex relationships with family, friends, and colleagues could generate deep conflict and bitterness as well as joy and appreciation.
No one is able to talk about Bella without reciting a “Bella story,” frequently assuming her unmistakable New York accent in the telling. (Norman Mailer, not an admirer, said her voice “could boil the fat off a taxicab driver’s neck.”) Everyone had a favorite Bella phrase that nailed an issue. The journalist Myra MacPherson singled out a favorite with typical Bella vocabulary: “Abzug even stressed equality for the mediocre, cracking that the goal was not to see a ‘female Einstein become an assistant professor. We want a woman schlemiel to get promoted as quickly as a male schlemiel.’ ”
We assembled a list of people to interview, from those who knew her as a girl growing up in the Bronx through those who were beside her in the historic moments she helped create as well as those who worked for her (now that was an experience). We also had access to her incomplete memoir and to oral histories taken at Columbia University. In addition to evoking one of the most audacious and outrageous women of her time, the testimony brings to life many compelling people who shared moments in her political legacy.
We edited those interviews into a “conversation” in which the story unfolds through anecdote, embellishment, contradiction, flashback and flash-forward, asides, commentary, speculation—as if the wide-ranging and ill-assorted cast of characters were gathered around a fireplace reminiscing about someone who stomped into their lives and left an indelible mark. It is not necessary to know who’s who to follow the plot, but we have also provided thumbnail sketches of all the speakers. To set the stage, each chapter begins with a short chronology of events in Bella’s life and the world at large.
The cumulative testimony speaks to a particularly powerful moment in which vital social movements converged in the second half of the twentieth century, every one of which featured Bella as a catalyst and creative force. It sheds light on how she mobilized followers and used whatever tools were at hand—the pressure of protest, the force of law, the give-and-take of the legislative process—to move forward on a broad agenda. And it gives insight into the personal qualities that fired her courage. Her life stands as an example of those rare and crucial public figures who stand up—and do so again and again, without losing faith—to “speak truth to power.”
“Abzug was certainly a major player in our change in attitudes in the second part of the past century. The two authors here, Suzanne Braun Levine and Mary Thom, give us a fascinating glimpse into that inspirational but undeniably peculiar period that is receding, all too quickly, into the past.” —Washington Post
Inventing the Rest of Our Lives
by Suzanne Braun Levine
Plume ▪ On-sale: NOW
$15.00 ▪ ISBN: 978-0452287211
For more information or to schedule an interview with Suzanne Braun Levine, contact:
Louise Braverman, 212.366.2752 / email@example.com or www.penguin.com
“Never having been one to face facts about aging, I was glad to learn from Suzanne Braun Levine that there are some swell facts–our brains actually increase in power after fifty, for example–and women especially are creating second adulthoods that are unique, creative and joyful. If you want to be inspired, just read this book full for personal, practical, surprising stories about what matters, what works–and best of all, what’s next.”
Marlo Thomas, actor, editor The Right Words at the Right Time and Free to Be You and Me
“I found so many resonances with my own experiences in Suzanne Braun Levine’s book. And the information is astonishing. Inventing The Rest Of Our Lives will have a huge impact and will clarify so many things for so many women.”
Carol Gilligan, psychologist, author In a Different Voice and The Birth of Pleasure
“Inventing The Rest Of Our Lives is that rare book that creates a new paradigm of the life cycle. Nothing could be more overdue, needed, and filled with hope than a vision for the last and most productive third of life. By reporting the nuanced stories of a wide variety of women who have experienced growth in maturity, and grounding these narratives in new brain-centered research that show the scientific reasons for such possibilities, Suzanne Braun Levine permanently changes our belief that growth is only for the young. Especially for women whose authentic voices often wait to be heard until family responsibilities are over, Inventing The Rest Of Our Lives is a life-extending and even life-giving companion.”
Gloria Steinem, activist and author
“In her book Inventing The Rest Of Our Lives, Suzanne Braun Levine made me understand why I always envied older women. As she clearly and carefully reveals, it just gets better and more outrageous, more radical, more passionate, less fraught, wiser, deeper and kinder. No grudges, no waiting, no bleeding, no apologies.”
Eve Ensler, creator of “The Vagina Monologues”
“Inventing The Rest Of Our Lives is a treasure trove of inspiration and information, statistics, real-life examples, strategies and words of wisdom from masterful mature women. Suzanne Braun Levine’s book enables us — no, implores and empowers us — to chart a satisfying and meaningful course for the second half of our lives.”
Susan L. Taylor, Editorial Director, Essence magazine
“Rich in vision, intelligence and heart, this valuable book guides women through the universals of Second Adulthood while helping each reader to forge her own unique path.”
Harriet Lerner, Ph.D, author of The Dance of Anger
“If you are fifty, sixty, seventy, or older or if you plan to reach those ages, this is the book for you. Levine does not ignore the brambles on the path of life, even as she encourages us to pluck the flowers. Practical, unsentimental, and inspiring, this book illuminates the way forward.”
Carol, Tavris, Ph.D., author of The Mismeasure of Women
“Like a series of rare, deeply insightful, and deeply meaningful conversations with very wise friends, Inventing The Rest Of Our Lives gives us an entirely new perspective on our own lives as we reshape what it means to be and beyond.
Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute
by Suzanne Braun Levine
Harcourt ▪ On-sale: NOW
The “triple crown” for today’s father includes success at work, intimacy with family, and time for friends. Not unlike the false promise of “having it all” that women faced in the 1970s, this goal is nearly impossible to achieve. The pain of “never getting it right” can be felt across the nation. Others have described the malaise, but until now, no one has described this revolution or pointed to the light at the end of the tunnel. Journalist and feminist Suzanne Braun Levine, a founding editor of Ms. magazine, has interviewed scores of men and learned about the difficulties fathers face in parenting. Since men don’t tend to use each other as sounding boards, Levine does it for them. Taking a lesson from the women’s movement, she puts her finger on what makes it so hard for men to put family first. Readers will turn to Father Courage to discover what men are experiencing. At home, their parenting learning curve is steep, and moms don’t want to give up the role of the General. The workplace is much less family-friendly to men, and the 24/7 life of corporate America takes its toll. Levine shows that fathers and mothers aren’t crazy, but stressed, and she offers solutions that range from the commonsense to the revolutionary. This is a brilliant and bracing new look at what is right-and wrong-in American family life.
Drawing from social science, anthropology, media, psychology, and many other sources, Father Courage wades into the currents of modern society, not only to recast our understanding of fatherhood, but to remind us that changes in fatherhood also alter motherhood and the very fabric of family life. This connection, deeply feminist at its core, explains why a woman would be invested in championing the rights of fathers. Levine even offers fathers a rallying cry: “Pick up your power,” she says. “Use it to turn around the very institutions that are bestowing it on you.” Why? Because as Gloria Steinem once put it, “You will never have a true democracy without democratic families to nurture it.” –Byron Ricks
From Publishers Weekly
Can men have it all? Raised to be breadwinners and also nurturing parents, many contemporary fathers “disappoint those they mean to impress more than either would like.” Levine has talked to fathers who are challenging “the traditional separation of church (home) and state (paid work)” about the rewards and frustrations of trying to co-parent. Frequently letting the men speak for themselves, she draws a convincing picture of an underground movement just waiting for the right moment to coalesce and set about the unfinished business of the women’s movement: “It is all of a piece, the entry of women into the workplace and the integration of men into the family.” Many fathers in this “transition generation” feel they face their difficulties alone and are surprised to find how many others are like them. From the birth experience at the hospital through the early months of parenthood and beyond, men often receive conflicting messages from society that encourage them to be supportive but not to get too closely involved in the dailiness of raising children. Women, too, are often unwilling to “relinquish the mystical powers attributed to motherhood” that is for many the only power they have. Levine also contends that a double standard in the workplace favors women who need to take time to be with their families but discourages men from putting family first. Writing at the “equity frontier” of “family politics,” Levine provides a useful sourcebook for would-be revolutionaries and makes an eloquent plea for more public conversation about private pressures. Agent, Michael Carlisle; 10-city tour. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
According to this analysis, we have entered a new age of domestic relationships oriented toward shared parenting and household equality. A greater balance between work and family life should emerge and benefit society as a whole. However, the revolution has just begun, and pitfalls abound. Levine, a founding editor of Ms. and a former editor in chief of Columbia Journalism Review, blends an overview of current literature and interviews with twenty- to fortysomething-year-old men who are shaping the movement. Their attempts to integrate home and work life “seamlessly” despite skepticism from wives and co-workers are chronicled in a well-written, thoughtful, and entertaining narrative. Levine includes advice for those muddling through uncharted social terrain and presents policy perspectives on how institutions like schools might ease the burden on young families. A solid contribution to the family values debate from a feminist perspective, this book also provides an enlightening glimpse into the mindset of a select group of Generation X men. Recommended for public library parenting collections.
—Antoinette Brinkman, Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Levine, a journalist and founding editor of Ms. magazine, interviewed a cross section of fathers of different races and economic backgrounds, all “trying to become the fathers they wish they had.” Although she profiles couples, Levine focuses on the men to avoid the eye-rolling skepticism of their wives about the true extent to which the men are involved. That skepticism is one of the problems some men face as they seek deeper involvement in childrearing: wives who berate and second-guess their efforts at home. At work, men have far less institutional support for childrearing than women, despite more enlightened social policies. Leaving work early and taking paternal leave are still frowned on in corporate America. Levine’s subjects talk about being sons of distant fathers and how, despite groups such as the Promise Keepers, American culture sends mixed messages about men being more engaged fathers. Levine also examines how feminism and other social trends are affecting men’s attempts to balance careers and family responsibilities. Vanessa Bush
Suzanne Levine’s book is a smart, humane, nuanced look at the lives of men and women who are proving that men can do what women can do. It’s the other half of the revolution. I think readers will welcome its inspiration with open arms.
This wise and deeply serious book charts the next step forward. Levine’s ear and eye for the telling phrase and detail make her a brilliant guide in a journey toward a world where men put family first and we all benefit