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Madeleine Kunin is the former three-term governor of Vermont who served as the deputy secretary of education and ambassador to Switzerland under President Bill Clinton. In her newest book, a memoir entitled Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties, the topic is aging, but she looks well beyond the physical tolls and explores the emotional ones as well. And she has had an extraordinary life: governor, ambassador, feminist, wife, mother, professor, poet, and much, much more. As recently reported in the New York Times, a girl born today can expect to live to the age of ninety, on average (boys, on the other hand, can expect to live until age eighty-five). Life expectancy, for many, is increasing, yet people rarely contemplate the emotional changes that come alongside the physical changes of aging. Madeleine wants to change that. Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties takes a close and incisive look at what it is like to grow old. The book is a memoir, yet most important of all, it is an honest and positive look at aging and how it has affected her life.
"This book makes an important contribution to the literature on aging—and 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
"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. As readers, we experience the affirmation of sisterhood." —Liz Bankowski, Governor Kunin’scampaign manager; served in leadership positions in business and government
"Coming of Age 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
“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.
About the Author:
Governor Kunin has written three previous books: Living a Political Life (Knopf), and The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family (New York Times Editor's Choice) and Pearls Politics and Power. She has more energy than two 40-year-olds. She is currently James Marsh Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont, where she gives guest lectures on feminism and women and politics. She also serves on the board of the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), a nongovernmental organization that she founded in 1991, and she recently launched Emerge Vermont to encourage and support women in politics. She lives in Shelburne, Vermont.