The Journey Inward

Bookstores, libraries, and newsstands are filled with the autobiographies of the rich and famous, of the heroic and brave, and of the historic and contemporary personalities that form our world. At one time or another, we all have gotten hooked on autobiographies. We enjoy reading the life stories of provocative people. We want to experience their triumphs and their disappointments. We want to meet the people they know and to learn the hows and whys of their lives.

Accompanying a writer on his or her life’s journey takes us on a journey into ourselves as well. We cannot escape reflecting on our own lives and remembering the people, the places, and the events that have shaped us.

“The Journey Inward” focuses on women’s autobiographies. Some of the women are well known—Margaret Mead, Isadora Duncan. Others are writers—Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston. One is an “ordinary” woman who was a pioneer in the American West. What links these women to each other and to ourselves are their attempts to understand and to interpret their lives. Through their autobiographies, these women are willing to try to tell the truth about themselves, and, in the process, encourage us to do the same.

Book List

  • One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
  • Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
  • Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston
  • My Life by Isadora Duncan
  • Blackberry Winter by Margaret Mead

Program Brochure

The humanities scholar’s essay was written in 1987 by Elizabeth R. Baer, Dean of the Faculty and Professor of English at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.

Download scholar’s essay, annotated book list, and supplementary texts (PDF). Please note: The American Library Association is the copyright owner of this essay and annotations. The credit lines embedded in the program materials and/or sponsor and funder logos must remain on all published (print and web) materials derived from these materials.

How-To Discussion Programming Guides

Developed to aid participants in “The Millennium Project for Public Libraries,” this how-to guide (PDF) provides basic information about developing and promoting book discussion programs.

When planning a “Let’s Talk About It” program, you may wish to consult the planner’s manual (PDF) for general how-to information about program format, selecting a scholar, promoting your series, evaluation, and more.