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Book By Local Author Profiles Women Who Refuse To Be Defined By Age

December 6, 2018 1:58 p.m.

Book By Local Author Profiles Women Who Refuse To Be Defined By Age

GUEST:

Marlene Wagman-Geller, author, “Great Second Acts: In Praise of Older Women”

Related Story: Book By Local Author Profiles Women Who Refuse To Be Defined By Age

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

It's a book about women who refuse to be defined by age and stereotypes great second acts in Praise of Older Women. It was written by Merlene Wagman Geller. She's also a high school teacher National City. But the lesson she wants to teach with her new book is for women. Marlene thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me. So the lesson of your book great second acts is that women can do anything anytime at any age. Tell me about that.

Well I just wanted to get rid of the old stereotype that you know the older woman did a rocking chair and sort of the philosophy is they can rock. I mean don't be defined by the number on your birth certificate. And I think that mindset has to go the way of the dodo bird.

And you talk about a lot of women in your book who embody that lesson like Mother Teresa and Jane Fonda. Why did you choose those women in their stories.

Well basically I just thought that they were examples of the philosophy that I was trying to propose that they were indefatigable. They just kept on going. They were the Eveready batteries and they didn't let anything stop them or be defined by you know you're a certain age put out for pasture.

And so when we look at the women featured in your book there are stories in some way reflect that there really is no such thing as being past your prime or being too old for greatness right. Exactly. And you write in the prologue that we have a youth obsessed culture why do you think that is.

I don't know like even since the hippie days and said Never trust anyone over 30. And I think even though we've come that's been many years ago. I think that's still the mindset that you know youth is the paradigm of everything. But it's changing a little bit. We have older models for the first time walking the runways and magazines. So it's getting you know one baby step for it.

Do you think that this youth obsession is as prevalent in other cultures.

Well you know if you look at other cultures like China for example they revere their old. And it's in Western society they're put into homes for the aged and you know they're almost looked at as a burden while like I said the eastern philosophy there the patriarchs are the matriarchs. So it's a completely different mindset. It's like the old and not as bad as the old Eskimo flow where they put the elders on the ice floe and just set them off because they were no longer useful members of society.

And you've had a bit of a second act in life.

Tell us about that. I've always wanted to be a writer and that was always my aspiration. But in the meantime you know you had to make a living and it was in 2008 that I sort of found why when I published my first book.

And did you identify with one of the women you profiled in the book more than others.

Basically not definitely more so one than the other. The woman I found that was the most interesting is she was the one who rescued and Frank's diary from the sledged pile which I never knew. And then she goes. And she's a publisher in the United States and she found the Art of French Cooking. So I hadn't known that the same woman was behind those two monumental works. So she changed literary history and she worked in a publisher until she was 86 years old and that's a time when women were not even in publishing.

And one of the women you profiled in the book is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What would you say was Ginsburg second act.

Well she was just such a remarkable woman because when she came of age in the 1950s women stayed at home and she decided that was not the path she wanted to forge for herself. So she had to undergo prejudice against she want. She was a lawyer and she had she couldn't get a job because she was female. She was Jewish. She was married. She was pregnant. That was four things against her. And even though by far she was the sharpest card in the deck. She could not get a job.

And you've dedicated this book to your mother and daughter what do you hope your daughter would learn from the women you profiled in this book.

Just no matter what obstacles you have whatever road bumps just keep on going because the alternative is not a viable one.

You know you found a niche and writing about about strong women. Why is it so important to you to tell these stories.

Well when I grew up I was growing up in the 50s and I remember I came home one day and I said to my father I can't do math. And he goes that's OK. You know women are supposed to be dumb in math. And while my brothers my three brothers were expected to go on Jay university and get a profession. Their mindset was Well you know you're going to be a mother anyways or you can be a teacher. And I just thought that we've come a long way baby as the Virginia Slim caption says.

And I think that's really important to impart to her the girls of today.

And what would you tell a woman who is having anxieties about getting older who's out here chasing youth something that bad is fleeting. What would you say.

Well really inspired the book is I'm from Candida originally a Toronto and through Facebook I connected with her old friend and I wished her happy birthday. And she said don't remind me. And that sort of sparked something because when breathe a little when we have our birthday it's a cause for celebration. Something to look forward to. And here she was looking at it like something to her birthday with something to hide onto the rug. And I said no Weaver and her wrinkles and they're not a badge of shame. They're a mark of honor and we should celebrate our age.

We've overcome this attitudes. We've gone this far. And so don't say that. And what's the alternative to getting Goldhar. So I think we have to rethink our mindset about the aging process.

And then also know that it's not too late.

Yes that's the main thing that it's not too late unless you think it's too late and that it is. And what's your next project. My next project will be out in today and it's going to be called Women of Means. And basically the premise of that book is to profile fantastically wealthy woman but their lives retrained wax. So the paradigm these people always think if I won the lottery if only I were rich well we might read fate that by that quested if we look at these women because their wealth did not equate for great happiness.

Marlene Weideman Geller author of great second acts in Praise of Older Women it's been a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks for joining us. Thanks so much for having me.