Book Review: “The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off!” by Gloria Steinem

If I could conjure a patronus, I wouldn’t be surprised if it took the form of Gloria Steinem. 

This book fills me with hope. When I first picked up The Truth Will Set You Free, I’d only ever read one other book by Gloria – her memoir My Life on The Road, which I also highly recommend. The book came out in 2019, when things felt kind of hopeless, but not nearly as much as they would a year later, when both disunity and virus are spreading across the landscape as fast as the California wildfires.

This past year, I’ve often wondered if America will ever be cheerful again. Watching the news, I’ve often felt like the country is shuddering under a cloud of dementors sucking all the hope, joy, art, and possibility out of the nation.

This is a rough time in American history. There’s the pandemic, and the people who, while cheering the sacrifices of soldiers past and present, are unwilling to wear a mask to the grocery store to protect their families and neighbors from an invisible virus. There’s a president taking a swing at the institutions of our democracy, and refusing to disavow white supremacy and the militias that openly threaten the lives of elected representatives. There are children caged like factory-farmed chickens at the border whose families just wanted to clean your toilets and pick your avocados so their children could go to school without being murdered or raped by the gangs who own the crosswalk. It was in this context that I read Gloria’s book. (I know it’s more common to refer to an author by last name, but although we’ve never met, I’ve come to think of Gloria as a friend.)

This book led me to think more deeply about how to be more involved in changing the things I want to change. Even in stating the off-pissing truth, Gloria gives me hope. Yes, there is injustice. Yes, there are horrors. But rather than letting our outrage destroy us, Gloria showed me that being pissed off can lead us to find each other and build communities that transcend race, ethnicity, age, and every other category, and ultimately uncover a deeper truth about who we are and what we are capable of. And that is where we become free.

My favorite chapter is Chapter 5 “Laughing our Way to the Revolution,” Gloria calls laughter “the only free emotion” and “the essence of humanity and free will, an orgasm of the mind.” She encourages using laughter as a guide. Gloria helps us figure out how to hang on to those things and keep the despair at bay, and she goes beyond that to help us remember how to rise above, and how to laugh our way there. 

In conclusion, read this book.

If your local library doesn’t have Gloria’s book, consider buying it from a local bookstore, such as Austin’s’ Book People.

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