BOOKS

Radical Endurance

Growing Old in an Age of Longevity

Andrea Gilats
University of Minnesota Press
forthcoming in 2024

Author’s preview:

It came out of nowhere. One fragrant May morning two months before my seventy-fifth birthday, as I was mindlessly sipping my coffee, I experienced a shattering leap of consciousness, literally hurtling from older to old in the blink of a suddenly widened eye. From that precipice, Radical Endurance traces my truths and transformations as I enter old age, including the shock of facing my timeworn self; the choking fear of losing my health and with it, my independence; the terror of being vanquished by ageism; the profound pleasure of “growing up again” as I reconsider transformative experiences from my young adulthood; my awakening as I embrace, once and for all, my later life vocation as a writer; my struggle, at the same time, to come to terms with a past that is longer than I am now able to recall; and my unexpectedly optimistic journey toward contentment as I contemplate my future, ready at last.

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The unvarnished true stories that comprise Radical Endurance help show us that we become who we become mostly by virtue of our influences: our families and ancestors, our cultural mores and biases, our heroes and friends, our experiences, our vulnerabilities, our reckonings. To tell the stories that have enabled me to endure for over three-quarters of a century, I call on some of my most cherished heroes, from health and justice journalist Barbara Ehrenreich to feminist scholar and writer Carolyn Heilbrun, from heroic gynecologist Jane Hodgson to heroic singer Joan Baez, from Seneca archeologist and activist Arthur C. Parker to groundbreaking educator Herbert Kohl, from psychiatrist Gene Cohen to poet May Sarton, and from Nobel literature laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer to all my predeceased loved ones who now reside in my ever-expanding “archive of spirits.”

As an earnest personal narrative about aging should, Radical Endurance seeks to affirm that we are enlivened by the life stories of each other. In each of us, there is something for all of us. If we are alive now, chances are still excellent that if we are not already old, we are going to grow old, an achievement I never counted on until it happened to me. No matter your age now, I hope that you will find nourishment for your soul in the true stories offered here, and that they will help light your way into the rest of your life.

Photos of Andy by Sara Tucker

Books bring meaning to our lives at times when we most need to feel that we are not alone.

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Books bring meaning to our lives at times when we most need to feel that we are not alone.

Books bring meaning to our lives at times when we most need to feel that we are not alone.

Photos of Andy by Sara Tucker