"As one of the first woman governors, Madeleine Kunin knows how to make history and chart a positive course for women."Ellen Malcolm, founder of Emily’s List
"This book makes an important contribution to the literature on agingand an original one. It’s unsurprising, somehow, that Madeline Kunin, so often a trailblazer in the public world, would mark new paths and stopping points down the path to a private old age. She’s an excellent guide and companion on our shared winding road." Nicholas Delbanco, author of Lastingness: The Art of Old Age
"Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties provides a fascinating glimpse into the private thoughts and feelings of one of Vermont’s most distinguished public figures. Using a brilliant alternation of poems and essays, Madeleine Kunin manages to express the poignant emotions that many of us, her companions in the aging process, have been experiencing in silence. She portrays this final phase of life as one characterized by losses of all kinds, but illuminated by love of a profundity and complexity that would have seemed unfathomable to one’s younger self. Anyone currently in this state of “coming-into-old-age” will find solace and new insights in this candid and moving memoir of a remarkable life, one lived largely and deeply." Lisa Alther, author of Kinflicks and Other Women
"When little girls visit the Vermont Statehouse at least they see one portrait that looks like them among those of Vermont's governors. Madeleine's entire public life has been about making women's experiences visible, inspiring the possibilities. With this deeply personal and heartfelt memoir, she tells a private story that feels like our own. What it's like as a woman to get old. It is full of humor, honesty and meaning. She is as good a poet as she was a politician" Liz Bankowski, managed Madeleine's campaign for Governor and has served in leadership positions in business and government
“Governor, Ambassador, Secretary of Education, Madeleine Kunin has long been a trailblazer for many of us women as we were coming of age, breaking glass ceilings with elegance and talent, wit and good sense. A woman whom we long admired as a model of public service, a leader who made the world of politics a more compassionate, honorable, and inclusive place. Now, she leads us into that little-talked-about territory of aging with the same grace and engaging qualities she brought to public service. Lyrical and tender, intimate in its revelations of the challenges and joys that come with the years, mature love, the inevitable losses and deepening appreciation for the little miracles of every day, Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties is a companionable and lovely book. We have many coming-of-age memoirs to help us understand how to make our way in the world, but very few coming-of-old-age memoirs that bravely address the last years of life. Once again, Madeleine Kunin breaks ground for us. Among her many titles, we can also add: wise woman with a poet’s soul, a writer’s art.” Julia Alvarez is the author of numerous works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s books, including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of the Butterflies. She received a National Medal for the Arts from President Obama in 2014
This memoir includes anecdotes, self-analysis, and original poetry from a Vermont politician and author as she embarks on her eighth decade.
Kunin (Living a Political Life, 1994, etc.) broke the rules in a major way more than two decades ago as Vermont's first elected female governor. She also served as deputy secretary of education during President Bill Clinton's administration and spent three years as the United States ambassador to Switzerland. But not even this dynamo can reverse the aging process. In her fourth book, the author looks ahead to age 84 and beyond. She reflects on the late-in-life romance with her second husband, John, whom she met in her 70s and his 80s. (After they agreed to get married, John told Kunin, "I can give you ten years," and she mused, "That seemed like forever.") When John was stricken with health problems and subsequently confined to a wheelchair, he and Kunin made the decision to sell their condo and move to a cottage in a retirement village. As the author cared for her ailing husband and packed up the remains of their old life, she thought about her career and relationships, not just with John, but also with her brother, Edgar, who was a thriving politician and writer before he died. Kunin intersperses ruminations and stories of daily life with John with original poetry contemplating the veins in her hands and the arrival of autumn. A veteran of working in government as well as writing books, the author chooses her words carefully, using prose that is short and to the point but no less powerful. Her poetry is just as lovely, particularly "Can There Be More to Say," a look at a morning marital conversation. Kunin's take on "coming of age" as an elderly woman rather than an adolescent is unique and should appeal to readers young and old. Her tales of her mother, a Jewish immigrant who brought her two children to America after her husband's suicide, are both poignant and indicative of the success stories Kunin and Edgar would become in adulthood.
A beautifully written and emotionally sound look back—and forward—from a woman who has broken the glass ceiling and lived to write about it.