When reading this book, I was immediately sucked into the private lives of two famous people who interacted and moved in legendary social circles. Before I began page one, I started out knowing a great deal about Anderson Cooper. My childhood was spent seeing him as a correspondent for the nightly news along with being the host of one of my favorite reality TV shows, The Mole, and by the time I entered college, he had his own show, Anderson Cooper 360. Gloria Vanderbilt was a complete enigma to me, and the only frame of reference I had was that she might have designed blue jeans with a swan logo. This lack of knowledge might stem from me being a 30-something-year-old as Gloria Vanderbilt would have been 60-something years old by the time I was born.
As I began reading, I felt similar to Anderson as someone who barely knew Gloria Vanderbilt and nothing of how the relationship between mother and son worked in their lives. Anderson wrote:
We never had what would be described as a conventional relationship. My mom wasn’t the kind of parent you would go to for practical advice about school or work. What she does know about are hard-earned truths, the kind of things you discover only by living an epic life filled with love and loss, tragedies and triumphs, big dreams, and deep heartaches. When I was growing up, though, my mom rarely talked about her life. Her past was always something of a mystery. . . I didn’t want there to be anything left unsaid between my mother and me, so on her ninety-first birthday I decided to start a new kind of conversation with her, a conversation about her life. Not the mundane details, but the things that really matter, her experiences that I didn’t know about or fully understand.Thus their conversation began, and it prompted an exchange that allowed each one to ask the questions they always wanted to ask but never did. Because Anderson travels extensively for his job as a journalist, their conversation was through e-mail, which Gloria had just started using a few months earlier. Through this medium, it allowed each of them to reflect, craft responses, and cope with the emotions on their own personal timeline. What resulted is a moving picture of what is means to be Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper, a memoir worth reading.
Laura M. Gentry
Southern History Department