When I heard about the new book, A Glorious Freedom Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon, I was really excited. After all, it is one of my favorite subjects, and written and illustrated by a favorite artist and writer! She is not a personal friend, but I did get to meet her at her recent book-signing event at Elliot Bay Books (she is every bit as delightful as she seems in the photo!)
I pre-ordered the book, so I’d receive it on publication day, and I was not disappointed. It is a beautiful book, illustrated by Lisa with portraits of many of the extraordinary women in the book, as well as her own distinctive illustrations and graphics.
She chose to write the book because she is a “self-described late bloomer” who didn’t begin her illustration and writing career until she was 40. She is now 49 and has published 7 books, her 8th book is coming out next year. It takes courage to begin a new path at 40, or 50 as I did, and some of the women profiled started even later. This book explores the courage and resilience of women who either started “late” on careers or redefined their careers as they aged.
The women profiled are a mix of contemporary women and historical figures. Some are interviewed by Lisa, the stories of others are essays by the subjects themselves or by Lisa. This makes for a nice mix of style in the text, and every woman profiled made me hungry to learn more. I jumped to my laptop a few times to look up artists previously unknown to me, especially a collage artist named Della Wells. She is now a favorite, not only for her own amazing story and work, but for her work supporting and promoting other artists in her city.
The women profiled are not all well-known, nor are they all artists–there are athletes, scientists, authors, and business people. I think one of the most fascinating interviews is with Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest national park ranger in the US who is still working at the age of 95 as a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, CA.
She is a very articulate and thoughtful woman, and does a tremendous service telling the story of the war experience of women of color, highlighting how much social change has occurred since 1942, the remarkable thing is that she is telling the story from her own lived experience. It is no wonder she received a commemorative presidential coin from President Obama in 2015.
I love this book, and it’s subject is completely in line with my purpose writing this blog…it’s never too late to live your life with courage, creativity and wisdom.
My favorite quote from the book is from the interview with Debbie Millman, host and founder of the longest-running design podcast, Design Matters. Asked by Lisa to elaborate on her opinion that confidence is important, but courage is more important, Millman says:
“I think confidence comes from a repeated effort that continues to go well. so if you try something and you are successful at it, you feel that if you do it again you will be successful again. And that repeated success breeds confidence. I think it’s actually more important to have courage, because you tend to be more afraid of doing things that you’ve never done before and through which you have no previous experience of success. Courage is more important than confidence because it forces you to try new things, to move outside what is comfortable.” (emphasis is mine) page 126
Reading that paragraph made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I have not always been courageous in my life, not by a long shot, but being courageous is one of my core values as I age.
This is a terrific book, and I hope you will find it, read it, and try something new in your life. After all, it is never too late…