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Huzzah! My New Book Cover!

Here she is!! The cover of my new book, Listen, World!: How the Intrepid Elsie Robinson Became America’s Most-Read Woman. The book comes out September 27, 2022. You can pre-order it here

At 35, Elsie feared she’d lost it all. Reeling from a scandalous divorce in 1917, she had no means to support herself and her chronically ill son. She dreamed of becoming a writer and was willing to sacrifice everything for this goal, even swinging a pickax in a gold mine to pay the bills.

When the mine shut down, she moved to the Bay Area. Armed with moxie and samples of her work, she barged into the offices of the Oakland Tribune and was hired on the spot. She went on to become a nationally syndicated columnist and household name whose “Listen, World!” column ran for more than 30 years and garnered millions of  readers.

Elsie took a gamble on self-fulfillment, and I’m certain you’ll find her story as inspiring as I do – no matter what your goals are. I’ve come to love Elsie, and Julia Scheeres and I can’t wait to share her with you!

Why did I write a biography about a woman you’ve likely never heard of? I didn’t know anything about Elsie either when I began researching her life 11 years ago. But when I discovered a poem she wrote (I found it in my childhood home after my mother died), I was absolutely captivated and driven to learn more. Read the piece I wrote for Moms Don’t Have Time to Grieve about this life-changing moment.

Be first to hear Elsie updates by joining my newsletter list. Join a growing group of readers as we learn from Elsie’s triumphs (and mistakes!) and how she persevered to fulfill her most pressing professional and personal dreams. 

The Grief Crisis Is Coming

For each person who dies of Covid-19, experts say there are at least nine newly bereaved. We must begin to address the toll. Continue Reading

my favorite poem

After my mother died, I found this typewritten poem stashed in a book that had belonged to her. Reading it, so deep in my grief, I felt equal blows of tough-love and compassion. My mother’s parenting style was steeped in that dichotomy: She loved me so fiercely, so unconditionally, she’d sooner let me fail than rescue me. I’d learn best, she might have said, if I understood life as a case study in cause and effect. Reading the poem that day, attributed to Elsie Robinson, it was my mother’s voice that filled my ears. And that felt welcome, needed, and healing.

But who was Elsie Robinson? I had never heard the name before and have spent much of the last 20 years finding out. In my research for my forthcoming book, the first biography of Robinson (1883-1956), I’ve learned she was once the highest paid nationally syndicated female columnist at Hearst. She was a writer who gave a voice to a generation of women and launched a movement that decades later included Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Dorothy Pitman Hughes. Researching and writing this biography has created a new, living connection to my mother, as if she’s sitting next to me as I type. 

Below is the poem I found more than 25 years ago. I’ve written it out for you, in its entirety. I hope it brings you as much comfort as it’s brought me. To learn more about Robinson and keep up to date on the book’s progress, please join my newsletter list. I promise not to bombard you; I send notes only once a month.

 

PAIN by Elsie Robinson

Why must I be hurt?
Suffering and despair,
Cowardice and cruelty,
Envy and injustice,
All of these hurt.
Grief and terror,
Loneliness and betrayal
And the agony of loss or death –
All these things hurt.
Why? Why must life hurt?
Why must those who love generously,
Live honorably, feel deeply
All that is good – and beautiful
Be so hurt,
While selfish creatures
Go unscathed?
That is why—
Because they can feel.
Hurt is the price to pay for feeling.
Pain is not accident,
Nor punishment, nor mockery
By some savage god.
Pain is part of growth.
The more we grow
The more we feel –
The more we feel – the more we suffer,
For if we are able to feel beauty,
We must also feel the lack of it –
Those who glimpse heaven
Are bound to sight hell.
To have felt deeply is worth
Anything it cost.
To have felt Love and Honor,
Courage and Ecstasy
Is worth – any price.
And so – since hurt is the price
Of Larger living, I will not
Hate pain, nor try to escape it.
Instead I will try to meet it
Bravely, bear it proudly:
Not as a cross, or a misfortune, but an
Opportunity, a privilege, a challenge – to the God that
gropes within me.

NY Times: Pandemic Grandparenting, Beyond the Dreary Video Calls

As a veteran television journalist, Sally-Ann Roberts knows how to tame an unsteady landscape and will it into submission. She survived 40 years reporting and anchoring the news for WWL-TV in New Orleans, covering 10 races for mayor and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a storm that submerged four-fifths of the city in water and left her rebuilding her home for nearly two unforgiving years. But as far as grandparenting during the coronavirus pandemic, she says she’s met her match….Continue Reading

NY Times: How New York Changed After the Worst Tragedy Too Few Remember

Thirty years ago, an arson fire at the Happy Land Social Club left 87 people dead. The effects are with us still.

Before the fire was out and the smoke had lifted, Ruben Valladares was already in the emergency room with second- and third-degree burns covering half his body. The ambulance call report, handwritten at 3:47 a.m. and updated several times over the next hour, detailed the locations of this injuries. …Continue Reading

NY Times: Rejecting the Name My Parents Chose

I was named for the main character in “Little Women.” Changing my name may be the most Jo March-like decision I could have made. Despite the byline you see on this article, the name my parents gave me was Jo. Not Josephine, just Jo. Inspired by the main character in “Little Women,” they dreamed I’d grow to become every bit as norm-bashing as Louisa May Alcott’s fictional character, Jo March….Continue Reading

NY Times: Gilding the Gutters

MONTCLAIR – JESSICA de KONINCK knew that when she put her home of nearly 21 years on the market, she would need some help. “If I ever have any free time, the last thing I’d ever want to do is spend it decorating,” Ms. de Koninck admitted.

Lack of time and interest had indeed taken a toll on her house. Ms. de Koninck had never redecorated while raising her two children, now grown, and her inclinations certainly did not shift after her husband became ill and died three years ago….Continue Reading

 

Option B: Transitioning from passive mourning to active remembering is key to building resilience after loss

Option B Journalism piece by Allison GilbertIf you’re lucky, like me, soon after your loved one dies, a swarm of friends will embrace you in all sorts of meaningful ways. They’ll pack the funeral home, attend the wake or shiva, and a few may even leave homemade meals wrapped in tin foil by your front door so you won’t have to cook for a while. Rituals surrounding loss tend to kick into gear automatically and I benefitted from being the passive recipient of support when each of my parents passed away. Yet my greatest fortune ultimately caused me the most pain…Continue Reading

MariaShriver.com: 5 Ways Spring Cleaning Can Help You Build Resilience After Loss

After my parents died, I felt a responsibility to hang on to nearly all their belongings – my father’s neckties, my mother’s scarves, their mortgage records, car titles, passports, books, home videos, photographs, and more. For a while, keeping these possessions made me feel closer to my mom and dad. But years later, doing so became a burden and certainly didn’t bring me pleasure. Over time, I figured out that repurposing objects, or simply parting with them, made me feel happier and more connected.

Purging objects (and upcyling others) enhances our connection to loved ones and drives our sense of resilience…Continue Reading

O, The Oprah Magazine: Why Looking at a Photo Can Ease Loneliness and Grief

o-mag-november-coverIn the photograph, my mother and I are sitting on the stone lip of a large circular fountain in Paris. Shoulder to shoulder, we’re leaning into each other, fingers interlaced, my head tilted toward her cheek. It’s Saturday, August 31, 1985, and I’m 15 years old. We are in the Tuileries Garden, giddy tourists on a mother-daughter adventure that began just that morning when we landed in France from New York.

Studying the photo now, I see not just that moment, but so many other joyous times I shared with my mother: horseback riding in Central Park, the raucous annual holiday parties she hosted.    Continue Reading or View on Oprah.com

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