Nearly all of my Audible books are nonfiction selections, with most of them falling into either the psychology/self-help genre or memoir read by the author (pretty much the only way I'll buy a memoir).
My current Audible "read," Dinners with Ruth by Nina Totenberg, is no exception, falling squarely into the latter category. The Ruth in question is the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom I find fascinating. And, as a long-time NPR listener, I recognize journalist Nina Totenberg's name, so I was interested to hear how the lives of these two ladies intersected.
I have to say that the book, while interesting, is not what I was expecting. More memoir than the interwoven story I anticipated, it took me a little while to get into. But, true to her journalistic background, Totenberg is an excellent storyteller and, after tweaking my expectations to match the story that was unfolding, it wasn't long before I got pulled in.
While RBG is a featured player, Totenberg is the star of the show, at least so far (I've just begun Chapter 10). In all fairness, I should have figured this out based on the subtitle of the book (A Memoir on the Power of Friendships), but I blew right past that, focusing instead on the primary title.
Kudos to the marketing department at the publisher.
Still, the book doesn't disappoint. I lived through the time period when Totenberg was coming of age professionally and when Ginsburg was appointed to (and served on) the Supreme Court, but I was in a very different stage of my life than these two women. Listening to the stories Totenberg shares, I am once again reminded of the egocentrism of high school and the cocoon of college that allowed me to live through the same era while being blissfully unaware of the fact that, as a woman, I was still very much a second-class citizen when it came to civil rights, salary, and so many other things.
It is thanks to women like Nina Totenberg, Anna Quindlen (whose book on writing I just finished reading) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (along with all the others Totenberg mentions in the book) that these gaps have grown smaller. In weaving her own story together with today's narrative, Totenberg gently reminds us that these rights are not something we should take for granted but, rather, important things that we need to guard against losing, even decades later.
Or at least that's what I hear. I suspect that other readers might take other messages away as well, as there are many concepts that are part of the fabric of the narrative. But, as the mother of a daughter who is (thankfully) more cognizant of history, politics, and civil rights than I was at her age, I'm grateful to all those (female and, in many cases, male) that Totenberg writes about, not only for my own sake, but for my daughter's.
Like most memoirs (or at least the ones I find interesting), it's the stories that make it worth the read. The fact that I'm brushing up on my history is just the icing on the cake. And, that being the case, the RBG tidbits are the (appropriately) delicate yet delicious sprinkles on that frosting. As the only person in my family who's not a history buff, I'm grateful for character-driven narratives that feature history as a part of the setting, teaching me things I should perhaps have know all along.
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