Pioneering journalist Gail Sheehy has lived a life jam-packed with work, love, politics and writing. Best-selling author of 1976’s Passages, which revolutionized the way Americans thought about the phases of their adult lives, Sheehy has spent a lifetime documenting American culture. Now in her 70s, she casts a retrospective eye on the chapters of her own life in an absorbing new memoir.

Daring: My Passages is a “life and times” memoir: It’s as much about journalism, politics and culture as it is about her life. Sheehy had a career-long knack for capturing the zeitgeist in what we now call long-form journalism. Back in the late 1960s at New York magazine, they were calling it “the new journalism,” as famously practiced by Tom Wolfe. For New York, Sheehy put on hot pants and walked the streets with prostitutes in the early ’70s; she wrote about divorce and the Black Panthers; she found herself in the middle of the shooting in Belfast on Bloody Sunday. But she really hit her stride with Passages, which touched a nerve with readers and has been the template for many of her subsequent books.

Sheehy’s on-again, off-again romance with Clay Felker, legendary editor and founder of New York, is the emotional center of this memoir as it was of her life. A powerful and influential figure, Felker was an early mentor for Sheehy, before becoming her lover and, after many years, her husband. Her decade spent caring for Felker at the end of his life offers an unforgettable portrait of the evolution of love over a lifetime.

Sheehy’s theme for her memoir is “daring”; she suggests that the way to thrive is to dare to make changes as we move through adulthood. This fascinating memoir also suggests that our lives mirror our times, and that we flourish by looking outward as well as inward.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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