Daring: My Passages: A Memoir


The author of Passages, a book that changed millions of lives, now lays bare her own life passages in a captivating memoir that reveals her harrowing and ultimately triumphant path from groundbreaking 1960s "girl" journalist to fearless bestselling author who made a career of excavating cultural taboos—from sex, menopause, and midlife crisis to illness, caregiving, and death. Daring to blaze a trail in a "man's world," Gail Sheehy became one of the premier practitioners of New Journalism at the fledgling New York...

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Daring: My Passages: A Memoir

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The author of Passages, a book that changed millions of lives, now lays bare her own life passages in a captivating memoir that reveals her harrowing and ultimately triumphant path from groundbreaking 1960s "girl" journalist to fearless bestselling author who made a career of excavating cultural taboos—from sex, menopause, and midlife crisis to illness, caregiving, and death. Daring to blaze a trail in a "man's world," Gail Sheehy became one of the premier practitioners of New Journalism at the fledgling New York magazine, along with such stellar writers as Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem, and Jimmy Breslin. Sheehy dared to walk New York City's streets with hookers and pimps to expose violent prostitution; to march with civil rights protesters in Northern Ireland as British soldiers opened fire; to seek out Egypt's president Anwar Sadat when he was targeted for assassination after making peace with Israel; and to break the glass ceiling in a media world fueled by testosterone, competition, and grit.

Daring: My Passages is also the beguiling love story of Sheehy's tempestuous romance with Clay Felker, the charismatic creator of New York magazine and the mentor who inspired her to become a fearless journalist who won renown for her penetrating character portraits of world leaders, including Hillary Clinton, both Presidents Bush, British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, among others.

Sheehy reflects on desire, ambition, and wanting it all—career, love, children, friends, social significance—and coming to terms with waiting until midlife to achieve it all. With candor and humor, she describes her early failures; the pain of betrayal in a first marriage; her struggles as a single mother; the flings of an ardent, liberated young woman; the vertigo of becoming an internationally bestselling author; her adoption of a second daughter from a refugee camp; the poignant account of Clay's decline; and her ongoing passion for life, work, and love.

Fascinating and no-holds-barred, Daring: My Passages is a testament to guts, resilience, and smarts, and offers a bold perspective on all of life's passages.

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    Daring: My Passages  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An overlong memoir by the investigative journalist and prolific author Sheehy (Passages in Caregiving; Sex and the Seasoned Woman, etc.) tracks four decades of her astonishing ability to catch America’s swiftly changing moods, from undercover operations in gynecology for the New York’s Herald Tribune and prostitution for New York magazine, to books on “pop psychology” and caregiving. She attended college (the first of the women in her Westchester family to do so) in the late 1950s , married early, and worked to put her husband through medical school. Sheehy had drive and chutzpah, asking her first boss—Mr. James Cash Penney of Manhattan’s JC Penney—if he paid the “girls the same as boys.” The gritty, testosterone-fueled world of journalism attracted her, and as a single mother of a young daughter, she moved from the women’s page of the Trib to Clay Felker’s brand-new New York magazine by the late 1960s, making her name swiftly within the ranks of the New Journalists (which included talents like Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, and Joan Didion) with a piece about Bobby Kennedy shortly after his assassination. Romancing the boss turned into a long, tumultuous relationship that eventually led to marriage. Sheehy and Felker became a New York power couple, hosting Henry Kissinger and David Frost for a memorable dinner over Peking duck in 1972, and later weathering the takeover of New York by Rupert Murdoch in 1976. Passages made Sheehy a wildly popular and bestselling author, followed by her groundbreaking work on menopause, The Silent Passage. Sheehy’s ponderous chronicle dwells on her uneven relationship with the ambitious, larger-than-life Felker, whom she nurtured through his death in 2008. There is so much spectacle in terms of a cultural record that the reader loses sight of Sheehy as the focus and heroine of her own life. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Sheehy is best known for Passages, a New York Times best seller about milestone moments in adult life that was named by the Library of Congress one of the ten most influential books of our times. Here's a reminder that she is also a veteran journalist who has served as contributing editor to Vanity Fair for three decades, won the New York Newswomen's Club Front Page Award seven times, and profiled everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein—thus breaking ground for women in journalism. We also hear about her marriage to New York magazine creator Clay Felker. With a 125,000-copy first printing.
Kirkus Reviews
A journalist recounts her risks, fears and triumphs. Author of 16 books, Vanity Fair contributing editor Sheehy (Passages in Caregiving, 2010, etc.) has made a career out of examining life stages. Passages (1976) stayed on the New York Times' best-seller list for three years, followed by Silent Passage (1993), New Passages (1995) and Understanding Men's Passages (1999). Passages in Caregiving was motivated by the last illness of her husband, publisher Clay Felker; now, she reflects on her own transitions in a brisk, gossipy narrative complete with handsome hero (Felker), villain (Rupert Murdoch), nail-biting adventures (Bloody Sunday, for one), scores of celebrities (including interview subjects Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Bobby Kennedy and Anwar Sadat) and famous friends (Gloria Steinem, Tom Wolfe and David Frost). Like Wolfe, Sheehy is a practitioner of New Journalism. "We treated the protagonists of nonfiction stories like characters in a novel," writes Sheehy. "What was their motivation?...What was it like living inside their reality?" The author reprises her own reality in three parts: the Pygmalion Years, when she was a young, ambitious journalist trying to establish her reputation and overcome editors' prejudices about women writers, whom they commonly assigned to stories about food and style; the Passages Years, when she was a star writer for, among many other venues, Felker's New York magazine, Helen Gurley Brown's Cosmopolitan and Tina Brown's Vanity Fair; and the Bonus Years, focused on Felker's cancer and Sheehy's gradual recovery from alcohol abuse and depression following his death. After Passages, Sheehy felt she had to "justify" that success with "an academic-level study." The result was Pathfinders (1981), about people who risked "choosing the less-traveled path." Raising a daughter on her own, adopting a Cambodian girl after visiting a refugee camp and helping to found the Women's Refugee Commission to advocate for survivors of genocide are among many reasons—aside from her career choices—why Sheehy, too, is one of those audacious pathfinders. Daring, the author amply shows in this spirited life story, defines her.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062291691
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/2/2014
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 259,935
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Gail  Sheehy

Gail Sheehy is the author of sixteen books, including the classic New York Times bestseller Passages, named one of the ten most influential books of our times by the Library of Congress. A multiple award-winning literary journalist, she was one of the original contributors to New York magazine and has been a contributing editor to Vanity Fair since 1984. A popular lecturer, Sheehy was named AARP's Ambassador of Caregiving in 2009. She lives in New York City.


Bestselling author and cultural observer Gail Sheehy has changed the way millions of people throughout the world look at their lives. Her original landmark work, Passages, made history, remaining on The New York Times bestseller list for more than three years and appearing in 28 languages. A Library of Congress survey named Passages one of the ten most influential books of our time.

In other recent bestsellers, New Passages and Understanding Men's Passages, Sheehy revisited the stages of adult life and mapped out a completely new frontier -- Second Adulthood. In The Silent Passage, Sheehy broke the taboo surrounding menopause and opened a dialogue vital to maturing women's health. The book presents a common-sense approach for managing the 20-year transition from early peri-menopause to the lengthened stage of post-menopause. She culminated a decade of Hillary-observing with the biography, Hillary's Choice, soon to be a two hour movie on A&E. Exploring the life of one of the nation's most intriguing women, Sheehy raises fundamental questions for every woman juggling career, family and personal ambition.

Sheehy's next book will be about a whole new universe of lusty, liberated women over 50 and their experiences in sex, love, dating, new dreams, marriage, and remarriage. It will be published by Random House in early 2006.

A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sheehy received a graduate fellowship to Columbia University where she studied under anthropologist Margaret Mead, who became her mentor. As a literary journalist, she was one of the original contributors to New York magazine. A contributing editor to Vanity Fair since 1984, she won the Washington Journalism Review Award for Best Magazine Writer in America for her in-depth character portraits of national and world leaders.

Sheehy is a seven-time recipient of the New York Newswomen's Club Front Page Award for distinguished journalism, most recently for her 2001 Vanity Fair article "September Widows." The American Psychological Association recently presented a presidential citation to Sheehy for "her unique ability to combine journalism and psychology." Other honors include the National Magazine Award, the Penny-Missouri Journalism Award and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Race Relations (which she earned for her book, Spirit of Survival). She is one of the founders of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and recently launched a Writing Scholars Community for re-entry students at the University of California, Berkeley. For more information on Sheehy, please visit her website: www.gailsheehy.com.

Sheehy resides in New York and California.

Biography courtsy of the author's official web site.

Good To Know

Sheehy is the mother of two daughters: Maura, a psychologist and writer, and Mohm, an artist and art therapist.

Some of her favorite activities include writing plays, playing with her grandson Declan, and traveling with her husband, Clay Felker, professor at the Felker Magazine Center at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York City and Berkeley, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 27, 1937
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Vermont; M.A., Columbia School of Journalism

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