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About the Author

Image credit: Tony Rinaldo

Works by Drew Gilpin Faust

Associated Works

Writing the Civil War : The Quest to Understand (1998) — Contributor — 115 copies
Macaria (1864) — Editor — 52 copies
Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison (1998) — Foreword, some editions — 29 copies
Slavery, Secession, and Southern History (2000) — Contributor — 12 copies


Common Knowledge



Drew Gilpin Faust writes about growing up in a privileged Virginia environment in the mid-20th century, and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights Movement, among other causes of the day. Her southern, traditional upbringing came into conflict with her experiences at Concord Academy for high school and Bryn Mawr for college. While just 15, she took the first of 2 trips to Eastern Europe, quite unusual during the Cold War. She also became an activist traveling in the south in the Jim Crow era. The book traces her youth and ends at her graduation from college.

I have mixed feelings about the book. She has an interesting story to tell about mid-century America, but it is a story of privilege that I found hard to relate to. Despite a difficult relationship with her parents, there is never a mention of the funding of her exceptional lifestyle, which helped give her such insight into the larger world. She went to a boarding school, and then could choose pretty much any college she preferred, which in her writing she doesn’t seem to recognize as privileged. I appreciate what she did and learned given her background, but coming from quite a different background myself, it feels like quite an elitist perspective. I tip my hat to her accomplishments, but they seem a little less remarkable given her background.
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peggybr | 3 other reviews | Oct 4, 2023 |
Gilpen Faust writes about breaking away from her traditional southern family and coming of age when women were to conform and not push the boundaries. She was definitely a boundary pusher. She was aware of the black people around her, but didn't understand why they didn't go to her school or church. Because of her intellect, she was able to go to boarding school and then Bryn Mawr college where professional women became her role models.
mojomomma | 3 other reviews | Sep 26, 2023 |
My favorite bookstore recommended this read, so I started it without knowing anything about the author; I finally hit Wikipedia in the middle of it and found out she was the first female president of Harvard. The setup is interesting because she grew up very white and privileged in Virginia in the 1950s but was able to become a teenage activist (including participating in the Freedom Summer of 1964) apparently without her parents knowing about it (I actually would love to know how much her father found out later about it all because that’s a story I’d love to hear).

I almost gave up at the beginning because she straight up gives long biographies of her grandparents and parents before finally telling her stories and experiences; I’m not sure exactly what the point was considering it sounds like they had no affect on her determination and work for justice. For me it was most interesting because she was born in 1947 exactly three days after my dad, so it was the first chance I got to see what was happening in the country for him too (especially since he never told his story and passed twenty years ago). She tells a fascinating tale of a very short period which ends as she turns 21 and can vote for the first time, but it’s all of such an important time in our history and worth sharing.
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spinsterrevival | 3 other reviews | Sep 12, 2023 |
I was looking forward to reading this because a friend of mine was friends with her in the seventies, and because I was interested in her trajectory from graduating from Bryn Mawr to becoming president of Harvard - but then the book ended with Faust becoming 21 in 1968. It was much more a history of the fifties and sixties, leavened somewhat by her personal encounters, than a memoir; but as I too grew up surrounded by these events I skimmed quite a bit of it.
bobbieharv | 3 other reviews | Sep 9, 2023 |



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