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Sunday, October 29, 2006

On Becoming Fearless: Arianna Huffington Tells Women How to Become Their Best Advocate

Book Review

On Becoming Fearless; In Love, Work and Life
Arianna Huffington
Little, Brown & Company
Hardcover, 240 pp

We've all seen the photographs of ourselves or someone else as a small child reaching for the flaming candles of a first birthday cake. The young one's eyes are focused intently on the dancing flame, the desire to capture it in a chubby fist plainly visible in the forward energy of their stance and their reaching hand. They want to experience the flame directly, to have it dance upon their palm, because they don't know that fire burns.

Inevitably, there's an adult standing guard--ready to pull the child's fingers away before harm is done--before the harsh lesson that beauty can mask danger is learned. Later, they may show the child another heat source, bringing their hands just close enough to feel the heat--without the price of the burn.

In the introduction of her largely biographical book, On Becoming Fearless, Arianna Huffington discusses how life experiences and social expectations, small failures which loom large in the mind, being bombarded with unrealistic images of feminine beauty, the expectation that women will be largely seen and not heard--even in this comparatively progressive era, the desire to have a family and a career pitted against one another rather than supported, etc. often leave scars that batter and bruise the fragile self-esteem and confidence of young people, especially young women. Huffington discusses watching the transformation of her daughters from confident adventurers in the world to more hesitant and doubtful versions of themselves and notes that this phenomenon appears to affect many if not most girls as they enter adolescence. She proposes that this erosion must be prevented and repaired if women are to live fulfilling and successful lives. Huffington also explains that she penned this book in order to tend the spirits of the girls, young women and older women in search of that ever ephemeral state, success.

Huffington's book is special, because rather than offer self-help advice as a soloist, she does so as part of a chorus of fearless sisters. She punctuates her personal notes with the anecdotal experiences of others. Each chapter is segmented into topics, work, love, beauty, etc. which Huffington discusses in terms of examples from her life and the lives of other women, as well as great leaders both male and female. She allows the book's contributors to illustrate in their own voices how they surmounted or channeled their fears to obtain their goals; each section is followed by brief personal essays or meditations on the topic by other women. Among the featured contributors, are actress Diane Keaton, author Agapi Stassinopoulos and documentary producer Kathy Eldon.

The quotes, studies and slice of life stories Huffington uses to support her case, every woman can live their dream and every person possesses the capacity to help make the world a better place, provide supporting evidence as well as inspiration. This book should not be read in one sitting. It should be sampled and savored--it's lessons and wisdom slowly absorbed.

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