Looking in a Mirror of the Past: A Biography of Cokie Roberts
Finding yourself in another's biography.
Posted May 31, 2022 | Reviewed by Michelle Quirk
- Reflections of our own history illuminate the present.
- Biographies are a source of insight into ourselves.
- Decisions consistent with our values strengthen our resilience.
My husband reads books like I eat chocolate—daily and only high quality. When he visits the library, he finds himself drawn to books that I might like to read and brings them home along with his stack. This time, he hit a home run. It was a biography.
I love biographies. I think that is because I love meeting new people, and while a biography is not in-the-flesh, it offers a way to touch the subject. When the biography also quotes from the writings of the person about themselves, it becomes a very personal touch. But let me give you some background so that you will understand why this book stood out.
I grew up as a professional in the '70s. I made it into the executive suite very early in my career mainly because I had studied mathematics for a job that required serious statistics. Also, the CEO believed in giving women a chance. I was treated as the little kid by the executive team, was ignored by the secretaries of the other executives, and had to figure out how to keep hands-off. It was an exciting and challenging time in my life when I grew by leaps and bounds.
Biography of Cokie Roberts
I had just about put that part of my life well behind me when I began to read the book my husband had brought home for me. It was the biography of Cokie Roberts by Steven V. Roberts, called Cokie: A Life Well Lived. Cokie Roberts grew up in the same period that I did. I loved getting to know her at another level, especially when I read Chapter 3 about the early years of being a journalist. I loved reading that she had followed her career path by following things that made for happy accidents—mostly.
It was when she was offered a particular post that would have been an excellent career step, she felt it would be “unfair” to her children. She was flattered but felt it would be wrong to take it. In her own journal, she wrote, “Flattering, yes, but also frustrating....They hired someone else to do it and now I resent it. I know it’s ridiculous and I don’t really regret any of the choices I’ve made but it would be nice to be able to do everything.” (p. 109) I stopped reading for a moment as I caught my breath. Cokie’s words captured so well the feeling that I had when I had to give up a position to attend to the needs of my daughter. It all came flooding back to me.
In my own work on nurturing resilience, I believe it is critical to get to know who you are. This simple line from Cokie Roberts shone a light on a time in my career that told me about my values. Suddenly, it made it clear all the decisions I have made along the way that others thought were crazy career moves. Knowing the evidence of an early decision—like that of other women in that period of time—strengthened my perception of myself. As a result, I am tackling today’s new crazy choices with greater resilience knowing that I have done it before.
Steven V. Roberts, Cokie: A Life Well Lived, 2021. Harper Large Print, Harper Collins Publishers, New York.