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Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables Paperback – October 21, 2010
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Gussow has written and taught extensively on food and politics (This Organic Life, 2001), but here she turns to a more personal subject, the period following the death of her husband of 40 years. She assumed (as did others) that she would be grief-stricken, yet she found herself able to move into the next period of life with grace and anticipation. This is due in no small part to long-term differences the two experienced (although they seem minor), and to her rededication to gardening. It would be incorrect to classify this as a guide to plant care or landscape design, however, as Gussow's view on life and living is far too broad. She writes about removing pests from the yard and then shifts gears to discuss national food policy, share recipes for zucchini, and reminisce about her son and butterflies. She rails against humanity's interest only in itself, yet expresses pride in her ability to still heft bags of soil and rocks. Gussow is an octogenarian who will not go gently in any direction, and certainly won't be ignored.
Gussow (Mary Swartz Rose Professor Emerita & former chair, nutrition dept., Columbia Univ. Teachers Coll.; This Organic Life invites readers into her life as a widow through journal entries spanning almost ten years. What's fascinating is that she found herself not lonely but content and fulfilled through her extensive garden and the animals that visited. She shares lessons of self-reliance and self-control in potatoes' tendency to stay put, bees' role in the food chain, and her own tenacity to cherish nature. Her compilation of life experiences would primarily interest gardeners or environmentalists.
"Once in a while, when I have an original thought, I look around and realize Joan said it first."--Michael Pollan, bestselling author of In Defense of Food, and The Omnivore's Dilemma
"In Growing, Older Joan Dye Gussow once again proves herself the consummate writer, gardener, cook, professor and-it turns out-philosopher, too. This is a memoir about death, but much like Joan herself, it's brimming with life. A vivid, unflinching, and unexpected self-portrait."--Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns
"Joan Gussow provides us with delicious inspiration by picking from her garden and cooking seasonally. She is an enlightened nutritionist who understands that our health and the health of the planet begin with stewardship of the earth!"--Alice Waters co-owner of Chez Panisse and author of Chez Panisse Cooking and The Art of Simple Food.
Top Customer Reviews
The collection opens with the death of Gussow's husband, her reaction to his loss (she "simply didn't miss him"), and her difficulty in sharing this truth with people who asked how she felt. What she actually felt was a "strange liberation," she says, "from things I hadn't known I was imprisoned by." (Some readers may find this measure of her marriage startling and perhaps even uncaring, but it is honest, direct, and authentic, qualities we value in a memoir, and which are characteristic of all Gussow's writing.) But if she is not devastated by her husband's death, there are other issues that do bring her nearly to despair: the frenzied consumerism of our culture, the media's "furious silence" about peak oil, the hidden costs and the obvious vulnerabilities of our food system, and climate change.Read more ›
After that beginning, she writes mostly about nature, the environment, her garden and some about getting older. I did enjoy certain chapters very much, especially the chapter on butterflies and I agreed with the author's criticisms of travelers who in the act of rushing to see remote areas of unspoiled natural beauty undermine the very thing that makes such areas special. She worries at length about global warming but mostly she worries about her garden on the banks of the Hudson River which floods repeatedly. Gussow says she's trying hard to pay close attention (to the flooding) "so as to extract the meaning of what happens to my tiny piece of the planet." It seems to me the meaning of the endless flooding (which becomes tedious to read about) is that a garden was not meant to be planted there. For an avowed environmentalist to be so determined to work against nature rather than with it, seems strange.
WOW !! was all I could say when I started to read. The author described to a T my own situation/experience regarding my feelings after my husband died. The eerie thing about it was our husbands had the same name, even spelled the same!! Her husband was much like mine and our relationships much alike. For me it was a relief to know there was someone else that had felt the same way I did after his death. The author is an inspiration to anyone heading down the path of aging. I have always been an avid gardener, it has always been a great source of accomplishmewnt and theraputic, like the author I will engage in it until I can no longer lift a trowel! I am one of those people that will never stop growing, never stop doing what I do .As a widow we find ways to get things done , we make some adjustments along the way but find we can survive just fine. This book is over flowing with life and what makes it so wonderful even after we lose our mate. She has passed along much inspiring wisdom that is good for the young and old!
Highly recommend. Thank you Joan Dye Gussow for a truely wonderful book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I find myself smiling, chuckling, underlining ...
Joan Gussow tells it like it is:truths hard to hear, but the message is attractively... Read more
I really enjoyed this book from cover to cover. Joan was open and honest about her feelings and her life and I highly admire that. Read morePublished on December 17, 2013 by April Hughes
I did not like the writer's style. I feel I could use my lecture notes and write a better book on gardening and growing older.Published on December 11, 2013 by Amazon CustomerAs
Joan is able to share her feelings in such an honest and direct manner that I was touched to the core and at the same time, learned so much about food production. Read morePublished on September 3, 2013 by Mary D McClure
"Growing, Older - A chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables" by Joan Dye Gussow was an interesting easy read as a series of essays, rather than a "how to" book, autobiography, or... Read morePublished on January 25, 2013 by J. Meisenbacher
I took my time getting into this book after it arrived from Amazon. Truth be told, it was the title and the book cover that put me off. Read morePublished on August 30, 2011 by Faithful Reader, USA
Having heard so much about Gussow's wide range of experience and knowledge of environmental issues, I was disappointed by this book. Even annoyed. Read morePublished on August 8, 2011 by Gail Rudd
I enjoyed this book even more than I expected when I ordered it. The author, Joan Dye Gussow, is a fascinating woman who has lived a productive and meaningful life. Read morePublished on June 8, 2011 by Charlene Rubush
This is a very interesting and entertaining, if often unrelated, collection of mostly short chapters or essays. Read morePublished on June 7, 2011 by jd103